Posted by: literallydelicious | April 14, 2010

Cooking Mistakes

Our second Thanksgiving. We were living in Mobile, and my husband couldn’t get leave so we could go home, so I was determined to have the traditional dinner. The turkey was great; the stuffing and yams and pecan pie were good. The pumpkin pie, though . . . Bob took a bite and made an oh-God face but gamely tried to get it down. I couldn’t understand what went wrong. I’d been so careful to follow the directions; I’d carefully measured out all the spices . . . where they still sat on the kitchen counter.

Not long after we moved back to Oklahoma, I volunteered to make a birthday cake for my mom. She loved butter pecan ice cream, so I made a butter pecan cake from scratch. The layers turned out pretty good, though I’m not a great from-scratch cake baker. I set them on a rack to cool and made the butter pecan frosting. (Yeah, I was going all the way with the theme, with butter pecan ice cream, too.) I heard a rustling in the kitchen, went in and found our pupper, Duc, standing on his back legs at the counter and eating my cake.

The first time I made gravy, it rolled into a big gelatinous ball that stuck to the skillet like Superglue. I once made biscuits — and not that long ago! — that truly could have been used as hockey pucks.

Everyone makes mistakes, and mine almost always involve cooking for someone else. If I screw up our meal, no big deal. But when people who think I can cook well are supposed to eat that food . . . big deal.

I know a couple people who gave up trying to cook after a few bad outcomes. But I’m seriously convinced that anyone can cook. Maybe we can’t all create our own recipes, or identify the different ingredients in a dish with one taste, but good recipes are so easy. If you do this, this and that, you’ll have a dish that tastes like that. And the more you cook, the more comfortable you feel with tweaking, adjusting and substituting to your own tastes.

Besides, who needs to make biscuits? I’d rather have Texas toast any day.



  1. LOL on the biscuits! I believe Don used mine as skeet. I’m pretty sure that not even the birds ate the crumbs. 🙂

    I’ve made tons of mistakes. Zoey the black Dobe once lifted a bone-in ham out of the dish. Poor thing couldn’t run away with her prize though.

    • Around here, when you make something even the dogs won’t eat, you know it’s bad, because they eat all food and plenty of non-food items, as well. None of them would touch my biscuits. And it just amazes me because I know people — Susan and my aunt Mary come to mind instantly — who can make the most amazing biscuits without even thinking about it. Me, I just buy mine from Church’s Chicken.

      LOL about Zoey and the ham. Back in NC, I baked bread one day just before Brandon got home from school. He went to the kitchen in search of a snack, and a moment later Duc came flying through the office and up the stairs, with Brandon on his heels. A moment later, here they came back again. The second time I got enough of a look to see that Duc had that fresh warm loaf of bread in his mouth and was frantically trying to eat what he could without dropping the rest.

  2. Oh, Marilyn!! What memories you’ve reminded me of. My mother is one of those people who will put things in containers labeled something else. My new SIL came to visit and wanted to impress the inlaws with her outstanding cooking (she really IS the best cook in the family) so she knocked together a gorgeous cherry pie from scratch. It looked like something off the cover of Southern Living magazine. Too bad my mom stored salt in the sugar canister… it was a total loss. spw

    • That must make it interesting for visitors in your mom’s kitchen. How funny about the pie — and your poor SIL. But it makes for a great story.

      My other pie experience: my son’s MIL makes a gorgeous delicious meringue that stands about 6″ above the pie. She passed on the recipe, so one day I decided to make a coconut cream pie with her meringue. It was beautiful — high and light and beautifully browned. I set it on the counter and went to get my cell phone so I could send a picture to Bob (see if it got him home from work on time, lol). When I came back, Lucky was finishing off the front half of the meringue and working his way around to the back. {{Grrr}}

  3. My first attempt with gravy went as well as yours. I had fried chicken and decided to make gravy for the mashed potatoes. I wasn’t too sure of the recipe, but thought it was one cup of flour added to the drippings, then add milk until you get the consistancy you want. Everything went well; the flour mixed smoothly and smelled delicious, but it was taking a lot more mile than I anticipated. I ran out of milk after a quart and started adding water. When I ran out of skillet (it was a ten inch cast iron), I declared it ready to eat. My “foster” father cut a wedge of it out, placed it on his potatoes, and gallently ate it. It tasted good, but was the consistancy of mud. Pop convinced me to put the rest out in the yard for the birds…and they loved it!

    • A wedge of gravy on his potatoes. LOLOL!

      At least yours was edible. Mine was like a super-sticky rubber ball. We were lucky to get it out of the pan, and no one was brave enough to risk their teeth tasting it.

  4. Speaking of mistakes . . . I made spaetzle the other night with my brand-new honkin’ big potato ricer. Correction: I made a doughy mess that tasted like spaetzle and kinda looked like it, if it was magnified to 20X its usual size.

    This is about the fourth batch of spaetzle I’ve screwed up. From now on I’m getting mine at German restaurants.

  5. Some cooking mistakes just can’t be conquered. Every time my mom made fudge, my dad headed out to buy vanilla ice cream. He knew when she was finished, we’d be having hot fudge sundaes with the results. She never could get it to set up!

    • How funny! I’m like that with pie crusts. It doesn’t matter how many times I try, or how many times I watch someoneelse doing it, my crusts are tough. After about a hundred yucky ones, I gave up and began buying the refrigerated crusts. The funny thing is, I don’t really like pie crust!! It’s kind of like the lettuce in a salad — just there to hold the good stuff.

  6. Cooking is really scientific. Follow the recipe and it usually works.
    I once tried to make strawberry jam without pectin. (I used apple peel instead, I think. Or apple juice.) It never did thicken, but we had great strawberry syrup for our pancakes.
    Once I tried to whip cream #4 brought all the way from Wichita. Did you know that if cream isn’t cold, and you beat it, you’ll make it into really sweet butter?

    • I did know that! But I love sweetened whipped cream too much to ever give the butter a shot.

      Cooking is really a science, but it’s cool that you can make substitutes a lot of the time that don’t make a big difference.

      I love America’s Test Kitchen on PBS and Cook’s Country magazine because they get into the science and chemistry. They explain exactly what happens when you try this in place of that and why. Like ckicken wings are best for making broth because they have the best ratio of meat to skin to bone. I’m starting to have a better understanding of what I can change in recipes or why something doesn’t work for me, and for a non-science person, that’s pretty cool.

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