Every now and then I pat myself on the back about my cooking abilities. Immediately, my Italian guilt takes over and reminds me of some of my cringeworthy kitchen debacles. I managed to set my toast on fire just this past weekend. I have had many "I Love Lucy" moments. I'm not perfect. If Julia Child could laugh off cooking mistakes on national TV, so can I. I prefer to think of them as "Learning Experiences.” And if you never make a mistake, you’re not trying anything new.
Probably the first publicly dumb thing I ever did in the kitchen had to do with a New York Style Cheesecake. My husband arrived home with a typewritten recipe from a coworker for cheesecake that he said was the best he’d ever tasted. This was back in the day when people typed things out on typewriters. Yep. Ancient history. Anyway, I plowed along, up to my elbows in cream cheese and eggs and finally managed to get the batter into my spring form pan, and into the oven. The recipe had you bake the cheesecake, and then let it cool in the turned-off oven. Which I did. Then chilled it. The next evening my Dad was coming for dinner and I planned a nice surprise for dessert. I grandly carried the cheesecake in its pan to the table, and popped open the spring. Nice surprise. Half-cooked cheesecake batter oozed all over the tablecloth. Dad and Bill laughed until they practically cried. I did cry. Then we scraped it up with spoons and ate it. Lesson: read everything through at least twice. The recipe said to bake 1 hr 45 min, but the 45 minute part was on the line below and I neglected to notice.
A few years later, I was sure my cooking prowess was able to meet the challenge of cooking a wild goose. Boy, was I wrong. A client had gifted me with one he’d shot, and had simply told me when he’d dropped it off that I should singe off any remaining pin feathers, and to watch out for any buckshot he’d missed. So I blithely put my goose in a roasting pan in the kitchen sink and poured a half bottle of 151 proof rum over the bird and lit it. 6 foot flames. Blue flames. After they kept going for a minute I realized that they’d probably light my curtains on fire before the alcohol burned off. I knew that water would put out an alcohol fire, but I couldn’t reach through the flames to turn on the water tap. I was canning tomatoes at the time, and there was a huge pot of boiling water on the stove. I had to bail out the boiling water with a bowl, run across the kitchen to the sink, and dump the water on my burning goose. Lesson: Keep a properly rated fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Oh, and the goose was delicious.
Then there was carrot juice. Lots of it. Juicing is so popular now, but it also big back in the mid 1980’s My Uncle Lou loaned me his juicer one weekend and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I bought a couple of gigantic 5 pound bags of carrots. I cranked it up and made a vat of lovely, sweet deep orange carrot juice. I shut off the juicer. What I didn’t notice was that the pulp-filled extractor was still spinning when I removed the lid, and at quite a high rate of speed. Immediately, in the blink of an eye, that damn thing launched a couple of quarts of juicy carrot pulp completely around the ceiling, right at the top of the walls. There is nothing much more horrifying than watching carrot pulp dripping down your kitchen walls, leaving a nasty yellow stain behind them. You can’t get around the room fast enough on a ladder to clean it up, lemme tell you. I smelled of Clorox for DAYS. Lesson: Make sure EVERYTHING is stopped inside kitchen appliances before opening.