Queen of the Kitchen - Other contest entries

Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:30pm
By: The Citizen

Amy Riesberg of Fayetteville

My story is not so much a horror story, but a stress story! I have 4 little boys, ages 1,2,5 and 9. Every night dinner is an adventure for us! If we go out to eat, we feel like a traveling circus and if we stay home, I am almost too tired after preparing dinner to even eat! Our meals are very simple and usually include macaroni or peanut butter. I would love to have the opportunity to actually cook a delicious dinner-or 12 dinners-with no little helpers and no stress! My husband would love to have a variety of dinners instead of the same old dinners!


Ginger A. Fletcher of Griffin

Where do I start......

The most memorable one was when I first started cooking and wasn't real sure of what I was doing. I had put the frying pan on the stove to get the grease hot for french fries or should I say "french fires". I went about doing things and remembered the oil. Not thinking, I dumped an entire bag of fries with "ice crystals" on them. Needless to say the kitchen went up in flames. My husband saw the fire from the other room and ran in to put it out. The ceiling was burned, the wall and grease every where.

The other was when I was given my first chance to cook a turkey for my family and I had prepared the meal and was getting ready to serve when I noticed there was "extra" inside the turkey. I quickly discarded the neck but didn't realize there was a bag of extra's in there also. Needless to say, everyone got a big laugh.

I try to get in such a hurry to complete meals but good ones and they never turn out. Please help not only me but my family.


Lori Bryant of Tyrone

Here’s my story-

My husband and I went to Mexico and stopped by one of the street markets while we were there to find some bargains.

A friend of ours told us that when in Mexico buy 2 cooking items: pure vanilla and ground chipotle. We did just as instructed and bought both items.

Flash forward- we were home in Atlanta and the first thing I wanted to do was try out our new Mexican ingredients, so we invited some friends over for “Mexican Chicken”.

I cut up some chicken, sautéed it, and added a little of the chipotle powder. Much to my disappointment, my chicken tasted bland to say the least.

So I did what any good inexperienced chef would do- I added more chipotle- a LOT more. And the chicken still wasn’t so tasty, but it was getting there.

We all sat down that evening for our authentic Mexican dinner, and much to everyone’s surprise- the chicken had grown in taste and had become unbearably HOT.

Not just a little hot, but scorching hot! And one of the male guests did not want to be rude, so he ate and tears flowed from his eyes.
I was very embarrassed, but it was also comical and we all had a good laugh.

I learned later from a Hispanic friend that a little chipotle is used as a marinade and the longer it sits, the hotter it gets.

I wish he had been around before the chicken incident. But what a great memory!


Debbi Smith of Newnan

I had a small pan with cooking oil in it sitting on the eye of the stove. Thankfully, it had a lid. The next morning I went downstairs to turn on water for my coffee and then went to take a shower. I was washing my hair when the smoke alarm went off. In a panic, I grabbed a towel to put over my soapy head and ran downstairs to see what was happening.

The pan was on fire and smoke was going everywhere. I was able to get it off the eye and turn the stove off but I had a house full of smoke to deal with. I aired the house out while I was getting ready and then went to work.
Cleaning up the smoke residue would have to wait until I got home.

Needless to say, I pay attention to what I eye turn on!


Merry Bracken of Palmetto

Okay, so here goes. It was last December and my youngest son wanted to make sugar cookies. So we go to the store and buy the Pillsbury sugar cookie stuff in the refrigderated section. It was the kind that is in the round chub (I'm not sure what its called) and you are suppose to just cut into sections, place on cookie sheet and viola. Well he decided he wanted to get some cookie cutters and make christmasy shapes so we got four or five cookie cutters and home we go. We take the dough out of the plastic and use to rolling pin to roll it flat which took some doing. But I wasn't sure how thick or thin to make it and of course the directions on the package got messed up when we cut it open. So we rolled until we got tired and then started to cut out the shapes. By the time we were at this point the dough had gotten a little warm and had become very sticky. So when we cut the shapes out we would then have to peel the dough out of the cookie cutter and put it on the baking sheet. This took a good deal of time and patience. Some of the time we couldn't get it out without just totalling messing up the shape so then we would re-roll the dough and cut it out again. We ended up with 2 baking sheets of cookies. Most looked okay but there were some that we had to piece back together on the baking sheet. All in all it was okay and my son was looking forward to decorating the cookies once they were out of the oven. However, I must have rolled the dough a little too thick because when they were done they had swelled and both sheets had become what I called the sugar cookie puddle. No shapes, no individual cookie just a puddle of baked sugar cookie dough. My son was disappointed that he couldn't decorate the shapes but my husband said they tasted great and he would just come in and break off a hunk of cookie!!


Kathy Nelson of Peachtree City

Dinner A’ Finger

“Welcome to the neighborhood!” Kathy and Brad said in unison as they opened their front door and greeted Glen and Gul. “We’re so glad you moved to our quiet street. You’ll love it here,” Kathy added. After introductions were made to other neighbors, everyone migrated to the deck as Brad poked the sizzling pork roast turning on the rotisserie. Glen said, “Wow, that looks great, Brad.” The group giggled knowing Brad’s cooking extended to the grill only. Kathy bustled inside with last minute cooking details. As she lighted the candles, Brad brought the roast in to the spotless kitchen to be cut. He proudly announced, “Didn’t I do a great job slaving over a hot grill? Plus I’ve sharpened all the knives —they were so-o-o dull!” he exclaimed.

As everyone found their places around the dining room table, Kathy picked up a glistening knife in order to cut the strings from the roast. Forgetting how sharp a knife can be, she sliced into a string as well as her left middle finger. Blood spurted all over the white counter top and into the white sink. As she looked at her finger, she thought, “This doesn’t look good.” Out loud, Kathy called to her husband, “Brad, I think I’ve done something really bad.” Anne called from the dining room, “I doubt it. You never have a failure in the kitchen.” An octave louder, Kathy called more insistently, “Brad, I mean it. Come here NOW!”

Hungry friends poured into the kitchen to see what the fuss was all about. Noticing blood pumping rhythmically from Kathy’s finger, Gul commented, “Hey, this looks like a skit from Saturday Night Live!” Standing over the sink gushing blood down the drain, Kathy laughed and answered, “This is only Friday night live. Welcome to the ‘hood, neighbors!”

Anne grabbed the ice bucket and plunged Kathy’s hand into. “I’m wrapping a tourniquet around your hand because this is serious,” the expert in first aid said. “We flight attendants have to know this kind of stuff,” she said to her hostess.

Gul blew candles out as the host and hostess dashed for the car. On the way to the Fayette Hospital Emergency Room, Brad asked, “Do you think they’ll stay eat the dinner?” With her hand in the ice bucket and wrapped in dish towels, Kathy replied, “No! I wonder if they’ll ever want to have dinner at our house again.”

Miraculously it was a slow evening at the E.R. When the triage nurse routinely asked, “Do you feel safe at home?” Kathy answered seriously, “Not when I’m alone in my kitchen.” Several stitches later, Kathy and Brad returned home. Roasted veggies, green salad, garlic bread and the unappealing blood splattered pork roast were packaged in the refrigerator. “What great neighbors,” Brad said as he read the note awaiting them on the counter. “It says we should come over to Glen and Gul’s for dinner no matter what time we get home. They thawed wings.”

At 10 PM, Kathy and Brad wandered into their new neighbors’ kitchen. “Let’s hear it for frozen food and neighbors with a great sense of humor. I’m starving,” Kathy laughed as she bit into a wing.


Claus Moeller of Peachtree City

One time I was hosting a party and needed to heat a can of mackarel in tomato sauce.

Since the can could not go in the microwave and i was short of time I put it on the stove for just a few min to become warm.

Unfortunately I forgot about the can and it exploded resulting in fish and tomato spots all over the kichen. The smell was in the kitchen for weeks.

The party was a success as everybody had something to laugh about.


Cheryl Parker of Tyrone

Dinner was smelling sooooo good! I had been chopping, sautéing and assembling a delicious dinner for my husband and 2 children. The table was set beautifully and everyone set down to enjoy beef stroganoff with all the trimmings. "Wow, this smells great" my son commented. The blessing was said and they all dug in. Immediately the tone changed. "Oh, this taste awwwful!!!" What is it?" I was puzzled since I hadn't tasted it yet. I hesitantly took a taste and immediately knew the problem. I had trouble while I was thickening the stroganoff so I kept adding more flour - at least I THOUGHT it was flour. Actually, I had mistakenly picked up the container of confectioners sugar and in my rush mistook it for flour. When it didn't thicken properly, I just added more . . . and more . . and more. Stroganoff thickened with sugar still smells great - but my family is still talking about this dinner disaster more than 15 years later.

I hope the win the cooking queen contest - maybe I can finally redeem myself and my cooking nightmare!!


Alexandra Vlachakis of Tyrone

I actually love hosting parties but everyone has their good and bad moments in the kitchen and I have my share of not so good ones but this story I am going to share with you is my worst.

In October my in-laws came to visit my new home in Tyrone, GA for the first time. They were here for 4 days and I knew that I had to plan 3 meals a day for each day they were here. Well, to save my self time one day and to try to show off my new found skills of using a crockpot I decided that I would make a beef stew.

Before I continue I have to tell you a little about my mother-in-law. She is a wonderful Greek woman with amazing cooking skills. We have always joked that if they wanted to do a great cooking show they should make one of her. She cooks all of these incredible Greek dishes and measures with a regular drinking glass and pinches of this and that, no recipes needed. Need I say more?

That being said I wanted to impress her with something she had never used, the crockpot. So to make it more of an affair I went with them to get fresh beef for stew, at a local meat market, and everything else we would need at the store. I had made stew before and it came out wonderful, real easy, so I wasn't worried a bit. After arriving at home I watched her watch me put all the ingredients in the pot with a puzzled look in her face. Like if she was saying, "Can this gadget really do all the cooking?" I assured her it could.

After about 2 hours of cooking I decided that I wanted to add a little extra to the normal recipe and save myself some clean up at the end and more cooking. Remember I was cooking 3 meals a day so I thought instead of making a side I could just add macaroni to the beef stew. I figured it would make it like minestrone and a complete meal. I decided to ask my husband what he thought and he said, “That sounds good.” With his approval I set out to put elbow macaroni into the stew and then I realized I had barely any left in the box. "Bummer," I thought, “What do I use instead?” Good cooks always now how to substitute so I went to the pantry and found a box of Mac & Cheese. I figured they had the same shape macaroni I had just used and added them to the stew too. I also thought, “These will cook faster so that will be even better.”

Next, I got to work on desert and decided to make a chocolate cake, that again I have made and always comes out delicious. I have to add here that before I put the cake in the oven my 3 year old kept interrupting me. At one point I recall he was hanging on my leg like a monkey and would not let go. I had to drag him with me to get the next ingredient. Poor little guy all this cooking had left him thirsty for attention. Anyway, I struggled with him hanging on one leg to finish my cake but all the interuptions left me unsure if I had missed and ingredient. Well, no time to lament now, and I put the cake in the oven and checked on the stew. It looked a little dry so added more water.

2 hours later my stew was done and my cake too. We sat down to a nice salad and then I went to move the stew to a nicer plate.That is when I noticed that the water had been completely consumed by the macaroni and turned into MUSH and the meat had turned a particularly weird shade of red. I tried to cover it up by gathering it nicely on the serving plate but I thought, “YIKES! What I have I done?" The stew looked like the canned dog food I used to feed my dog. I hesitantly brought the stew (or mush) to the table. Everyone had been waiting for dinner extra long since I was using the wonderful crockpot and were all starving. I watched them all serve themselves really big portions and since my in-laws had never eaten from a crockpot they figured it just looked weird. The rest was something out of a movie. I have never seen such looks and faces. All I can do now is laugh but at the time it was horrific! My father-in-law was so nice he ate it but I couldn’t have even fed to it to a dog. It was just awful and it smelled awful too!

I wish I could tell you that the night couldn't get any worse but it did...

After watching everyone’s faces while eating the stew I eventually told everyone they didn't have to eat it and scooped up the rest it and threw it the trash. It made a huge "PLUP!" sound. I then excused myself for messing it up and brought out a crockpot cooking book. I needed to show my in-laws that I wasn’t making it up this gadget really did make good food. Then I made coffee and brought out the cake. “Chocolate cake always makes me feel better,” I thought, so it is time to redeem myself for the bad dinner.

As we were all talking, drinking coffee and eating my cake all of a sudden my mouth went, “CRUNCH!” Holy COW! What was that?" I thought. It couldn't be, but it was, I had just bit into a piece of eggshell. Yes, egg shell! So it was more like “Holy EGG SHELL!” I knew now I didn’t forget and ingredient I added one. “But it must be the only piece,” I thought when I then heard my 3 year old go, “CRUNCH.” I played it off like I hadn’t heard anything and got up to start cleaning up. WHAT A NIGHTMARE STEW THAT LOOKED AND TASTED LIKE DOG FOOD AND CAKE WITH EGG SHELLS! I am sure if my three year old had it everyone had some in theirs. And to top it off my husband offered my father-in-law seconds. Could it get any worse?

DO NOT use Mac & Cheese Noodles in meals that require a lot of water. It sucks up all the water and you end up with MUSH. I think that is why these noodles cook so fast.

Don’t forget to take all the eggshell off the egg before you put it in a cake, even if you have a screaming 3 year old hanging on your leg like a monkey.



Chantel Adams of Peachtree City

So,...you wanted to hear a cooking horror story? Well, have I got a tale for you! I've been married for eleven years, and cooking only about as long. The first year we were married, I enjoyed making meals in the crockpot. Seems easy, right? Well, it is, but what are you going to do with all those leftovers? Instead of doing it the smart way (hours in the crock pot), why not put the crock pot crock directly on the stove's electric burner? Surely that would be easier and faster than transferring the contents to a microwave save bowl or a saucepan. Pop, pop, pop, and then CRASH! There was an explosion of clay and vegetable soup ALL OVER our tiny kitchen. It was like a bomb went off, spraying potatoes, carrots, and green beans two miles in every direction.

Two years later, I decided to get a little more creative with my cooking. I envisioned making these delicate little chocolate bird's nests for a party by drizzling melted chocolate over a round balloon. Little did I know the chocolate needed to cool first. It was de ja vu all over again when the balloons "popped" and two newlyweds were found licking chocolate off of windowsills, door frames, and light fixtures for months to come. Most recently, but still along the same theme, I seem to have the most trouble selecting the appropriate cook pot for my food. Just last month, I was making some brownies for a friend who was having surgery.

"Wouldn't it be great," I thought, "if we could just bake these right up in this scone pan?" Then, we wouldn't have to cut them.

They'd all come out the perfect size and shape and look professional and delicious. Who knew that that they would bubble and rise, and ultimately yes, destroy the inside of yet another oven of mine? Will I ever learn?
Apparently not because in an effort to make a gorgeous, homemade red velvet cake in a tube pan, I endured yet another horror. First, it was the smell. Oh, yum, homemade goodies in the middle of the day. But then, the burning, and then, unfortunately, upon opening the oven door, I found, to my horror, an ominous red drip coming from the bottom of the pan. Panicking, I picked it up (HOT!), then dropped it, half cooked red velvet cake batter all over the oven and dripping down the sides of the pan, and even worse, through the vents that connect the oven window. It literally looked like I murdered someone in my kitchen that day. Naturally, I can prove it, but to this day, I think guests in our home wonder about that stain. It's strangely familiar and blood red, of course. I think they're afraid to ask! Am I mess in the kitchen? Does disaster follow me? I invented it!


Michelle Garrett of Fayetteville

My Horror story begins on my birthday. It was a lovely birthday and my husband offered to make dinner for myself, my sister and her husband. He made his specialty, spaghetti! Partially through or meal my sister asks about the cake, she was pregnant and desert was very important. My dear sweet husband replies, while having a look on his face as if he knew all along that he was supposed to have a cake for my birthday, " I have something else planned." We all knew that the 'something else' had not been planned yet. He quickly scrambled to finish his meal and made his way in to the kitchen opening cabinets and moving things around while trying to act like he knew what he was looking for. After finding a box of brownie mix ,that I bought weeks ago, he turned around with a proud look on his face and says "We are having birthday brownies!" My husband begins to work on his brownie master piece while myself and children move into the family room to visit with my sister and her husband. A few minutes later my sister asks " How long until the "Birthday Brownies'?" "About 30 minutes" he replies. I can hear him set the timer and he walks proudly into the room to join us with a look on his face of having just concurred an Iron Chef. We are laughing and playing with the children not keeping up with the time. The anticipation of warm brownies is almost to much and we begin to ask my husband repeated questions. "How much longer?", "Are they almost done?", "Hasn't it been 30 minutes?", "Do you smell something burning?", "Are you sure you set the timer?", to all my husband replied calmly " I have this under control." We believed him and went back to playing. When smoke began to come out of the kitchen and our noses burning from the smell, I went into the kitchen to find out what was going on. When I opened the oven I was almost knocked down by the smoke cloud and I pulled out black and charred brownies. Here is what I found when I surveyed what my husband had done. The timer had not been set properly and was still at 30 minutes. The brownies were supposed to be set at bake on 350. They had been set at broil on 400. And as charred on top as they were they were completely uncooked on the bottom. Needless to say my dear sweet husband will never cook brownies again!


Marilyn Weigle of Peachtree City

Years ago, I lived in a small town in Virginia with my husband and two cats. There wasn’t much to do, so everybody entertained at home. The men’s most popular recreation was hunting.

One night I invited a girlfriend from work and a man I thought she would like over for dinner. I was serving venison. We had just sat down to the table when my cat, Friskie, came flying through the air! She landed on the dining room table and dove straight for the platter of venison. I grabbed her and snatched her up just before she got to our dinner.

Unfortunately, Friskie hooked her claws into the lace tablecloth and it came up with her. My friend grabbed two wine glasses before they tipped over and her date grabbed the lighted candles. I chased the cat down the hall to put her out. My (former) husband yelled at me!

That was my worst cooking disaster. But my friend and her date ended up getting married, so it wasn’t such a bad evening after all!


Ginger Reeves of Fayetteville

World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake

As a newly wed my first Valentine’s Day was approaching, and I wanted to make something special for my man-- the chocolate lover.

I found a recipe in the Journal for the World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake. It sounded fabulous. Now I had never baked a cake. I didn’t even own cake pans. However, I felt invincible. My mother was renowned for her coconut cake, and I had observed her on many occasions bake cakes. It did not look difficult. She never even used measuring cups!

Off to the grocery store I went with the long list of ingredients to make the World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake. This was a little more expensive than I had calculated because I owned nothing on the list. I made the purchase anyway and hid the items so that they would not give away the surprise.

The next afternoon after a quick exit from the school where I taught, I began mixing together the World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake. I carefully measured each ingredient precisely. I even checked and rechecked the instructions to ensure that I did not make a mistake. The batter was divine! The layers rose perfectly! The smell signaled that I was indeed on my way to baking the World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake!

The icing was also a masterpiece. It could have won a prize all on its own. The more I tasted, the more excited I was that I had done this for my sweetheart. I decorated the top of the cake with red M&M candies in the shape of a heart. I was so proud of my accomplishment that I could already see the gleam in his eye as tasted the first bite.

Because he was still in college and had an evening class, it was late before he arrived home. I had placed the World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake on the stove with the light on just above it to act like a spotlight on the prize. With all of the other lights off, it almost sparkled.

Finally he arrived and was greeted by one very proud wife who was anxious to hear him tell her accolades and renew how blessed he was to have married so well.

Of course he immediately saw the World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake waiting as he entered the door. A huge smile spread across his face, and I sat him down and cut him a piece.

Naturally I wanted to feed him this treat, so I slowly and seductively placed the first bite into by man’s mouth……….

The look on his face did not show that he had just tasted a bite of the World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake! I gasped, “It’s not good?”

Kindly, he responded that the icing was good.

I quickly took my own bite…….

It was like eating White Lily with icing!

I never figured out what went wrong, and I never renewed my subscription to the Journal. I decided that it must be a Communist paper anyway to fool us poor southern gals into thinking we were baking the World Famous Chocolate Fudge Cake.

I have learned to bake in spite of this dark day. My mother would be proud.


Lorraine Loop of Tyrone

From the maker of a 'seafood risotto' turned peppery fishy oatmeal (as bad as that sounds), here is the better story: My sister had a recipe to unveil for Thanksgiving a few years ago as we had lots of family in from abroad.

The family was visiting from Sweden, so this would be an introduction to the traditional American Thanksgiving Feast. My guess is that it was probably supposed to be a delicious sweet potato au gratin- simple right?- but after shredding the sweet potatoes, adding some unknown spices, and placing it in the oven, it never seemed to cook. The potatoes were hard and seemed still raw. Table set, members sitting at the table, and enough stalling, we checked the would-be casserole for the fourth time and it still looked exactly the same as when we started. Needless to say it never made it to the table. Something in our gut said, "Don't even serve it- even to anyone who wouldn't know about a good sweet potato casserole." It remained on the kitchen counter Thanksgiving evening and then we wrapped it and placed it in the refrigerator with the other leftovers. We'd deal with that issue tomorrow. Here's where it gets worse: I tried the next day to add liquid to it- broth, cream, more spices, stir it up, make it look different, cook it some more. It didn't pass the taste test. Back in the fridge. How could someone mess up sweet potatoes?! Third time could be a charm. This time I drained the liquid from the now chunky stuff and put everything through a strainer. More mashing, stirring, tasting. I couldn't distinguish any particular taste to this anymore. It was just texture. I finally put the glob out of its misery and pitched it. I'm embarrassed to think now that I tried to recycle the same dish three times. Thankfully I still like sweet potatoes.


Sue Memmer of Peachtree City

I only thought leaving the inerts in the back end of the first turkey I ever cooked was bad. Fast forward some 35 years or so (not many days of those spent in the kitchen).

I invited a friend over for dinner. This friend was still recuperating from an almost three month stint in the hospital. I prepared most of the meal (pecan coated salmon, corn casserole and green beans) ahead of time so I could just pop it in the oven after my guest arrived. After catching up over a couple of glasses of wine, we sat down to dinner. After dessert and more conversation, it was time to say goodnight. The cook received “kudos” (was my friend just being polite?) and the evening seemed quite pleasant until I started the clean up. Now here is the horror.

When I started to clean the salmon pan, it had a tough film on the sides of the pan. Oh! Oh! I searched high and low (inside and outside garbage cans) and didn’t find the plastic wrap I had used to cover the dishes when they were in the fridge. A horrible thought went through my mind - had I poisoned my friend? Will we have to have our stomach pumped? My fun evening was quickly turning into a nightmare. I called the nurse hotline for my insurance company. She told me to call poison control. I was now in shear panic! A call to poison control put my nightmare to rest. No poison, no stomach pumping, NO PROBLEM! WHEW!!!

But now I have a fear of any entertaining that includes food. PLEASE HELP!


Kristina L. Adams of Newnan

How to pick the perfect Daughter in law:
Oh yes this is gong to be a nice wife for my son, all was well. Every one
was gathered in the kitchen sipping wine, and getting to know one another.

spaghetti was on the menu. As she watched me putting the noodles into the boiling water, little bugs came to the top of the water. Bless her heart she didn't utter a word but her eyes said every thing. Wondering if I would be serving this for dinner.

To her relief I started over. To this day she's has never ask for my
spaghetti recipe but has turned out to be the perfect daughter in law.

Pie Any One?
Company coming to dinner: BBQ was in order; my husband could handle that
My contribution was a pecan pie (frozen pie crust of course) nothing to good for my guest. Baked and on the counter to cool, not pretty but maybe some whipped cream would help dress it up a bit. Of course there is always the possibility that they would be to full after dinner and pass on the dessert.

One can only hope.

So it's off to the golf course for a Sunday after noon 4 some. Upon returning we noticed the pie was moving OH NO!! It was covered with
ants. I was right they were to full for dessert. More wine any one?

When the newly wed was a young chick.

Once upon a time in the land of newly weds, when I didn't know the
difference between fresh and frozen. I purchased a nice fresh plump chicken and promptly put it into the refrigerator for safe keeping, wanting to keep it fresh for the week! The next week end upon opening it I ask my new husband if the thought the bird smelled funny, he assured me it would be fine. After cooking it and the smell hadn't gotten any better we knew it was spoiled, our taste buds wouldn't lie. I'm no longer a young chick but my rooster has stuck by me for 36 year and I've yet to cook him another spoiled chicken.


Karen Duncan of Tyrone

It's a miracle my kitchen hasn't been surrounded w/ crime scene tape!
Here are a few of my favorite tales from my cooking dark side:

If you can read, you can cook.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

My 5 yr. old neighbor can read the fur off ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear’ but I’m not going to hand her a crock pot and a roast and ask her to have Sunday dinner ready before she goes out to play!!!

Cooking is a talent, a skill, a gift but, unfortunately, a mystery to me.
Oh believe me, it’s not that I haven’t given it my all.

There was that time in college when I was trying to impress by boyfriend de jour who (was majoring in Russian) by preparing Chicken Kiev for him. No one ever mentioned to me that oil doesn’t boil…and if it does, you’ve gone a bit too far.

At least he didn’t go running out the door till AFTER the fireman left.

The next culinary adventure came when I met my husband (do we see a pattern here: love/food) and I decided that if a way to a man’ hear was thru his stomach then by gosh I was going to put the ‘Kiev’ incident behind me and go for it.

Once again I quote : if you can read, you can cook. So you tell me where on the lasagna noodle box it says cook noodles BEFORE laying them into the casserole, huh???


Uh oh…
He was kind enough to pretend to savor a few bites. That was 22 years ago.

My cooking has improved tremendously, so he says. Oh sure, we’ve had a few unfortunate food poisoning incidents, a round or two of overcooking and a couple of good, honest tries w/ new and exciting ways to prepare eggplant. But overall, my family does not starve.

Now, there was that one time when I was preparing for others…..

Let me fast forward to the point that drove me here today.
I want to share w/ other women who spend countless hours sitting at the nail salon to achieve the perfect manicure this fact: Whether your choice is tips or acrylic, there is a price to pay…and it isn’t always pretty.

Those 10 shiny, American manicured nails looked breathtaking the first time I went for a full set and I was in heaven. For a woman who bit her nails all her life, I was looking down at fingers that were girlie- a slight downward curve, even and just long enough to tap on the counter top.

Then it happened. Within hours, actually. So fast I hadn’t prepared my self for an out- a fix- an answer.

I lost one.

Where, I’m not exactly sure and that’s what concerned me more than anything.

This pattern continued for days. I’d be preparing dinner, look down and one would be gone. I waited to see if anyone that night at the dinner table would choke or make that ‘gak’ noise like a cat with a hairball as the lost nail would make it’s reappearance.

I’d created a lovely brunch for my friends, was emptying ice into the bucket to chill the Chardonnay and ‘pop’ –one went flying off…in the ice bucket …I think ,but never knew for sure. I key one eye on the artichoke dip just in case someone did. Choke that is.

I also suspect a loss in the pool. I felt that familiar ‘pop’ when squeezing my hair into the swim cap.

And so began ‘The Trail of Nails’. From one end of Atlanta to another I left small tokens of my attempt at femininity.

That nails are just a memory now.
They were getting in the way of my blooming confidence I now find in the kitchen.


Mary Prather of Sharpsburg

My cooking horror story took place 10 years ago. I had just moved to Atlanta to be with my then boyfriend (now husband). I had moved into my own apartment and was anxious to have his parents over for a wonderful, home cooked meal. (Keep in mind my husband is SOUTHERN and his mother was an excellent cook - no stress there for me!). My tried and true sherried chicken breasts were the main course that evening. They were made with chicken breasts, sherry, sour cream, and cream of mushroom soup. Everyone said the meal was very good, but my husband's father, who normally always had seconds, just ate one serving and they left fairly quickly after dinner.

Later that evening I received a call from my future husband, asking me if there had been anything with mushrooms in the dinner. I told him of course, the sherried chicken! "Oh", he replied "You didn't know my dad was allergic to mushrooms?" No, I didn't know this fact!! Thank goodness his reaction was mild and he just felt slightly ill that evening. Thank goodness that my future father-in-law also had impeccable southern manners and didn't say anything to me during the meal. I was horrified enough as it was!

I learned a valuable entertaining/cooking lesson that evening: always ask your guests if they have any food allergies! I also came up with a good Christmas present for my father-in-law: a can of cream of mushroom soup!!


Michele L. Mason of Fayetteville

The Thanksgiving that Wasn’t

Things began to unravel a few days before Thanksgiving 2003. It was during our third year of living in Belgium, enjoying my husband Brad’s thirteenth Army assignment. The weather was typically cold and rainy, but we were looking forward to sharing a cozy Thanksgiving holiday with our dear friends the Koch family, who had moved to Belgium that summer from an Army assignment in Germany. Especially during overseas military assignments, friends become family, and we had known Ken, Kelly, Heather, and Hanna for about seven years. We had spent many holidays together at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, Brandon, Florida, and Hanau, Germany, not to mention plenty of camping, boating, and cabin adventures together.

The "Thanksgiving that Wasn’t" started first with my son Lanny getting sick and then me. It was one of those aching, coughing, feverish, don’t-even-want-to-lift-your-arms kind of illnesses. Expecting that it would be short-lived, since Lanny was getting better, I little-by-little began preparing to have the feast at my house (even though Kelly offered to have it at her house if we did not have to cancel it altogether). Surely I would be better in time. I meticulously washed my hands and took care not to even breathe over any food preparation. I made my sweet potato souffle and pumpkin pies on Wednesday. I had a large laundry/storage room which was a great place to cool the pies since I did not keep it heated. By Wednesday night, I was feeling better and figured that I would be much better in the morning. Brad returned from a trip Wednesday evening and lo and behold, he was also feeling sick! He still made his famous sausage dressing before climbing into bed hoping that a good night's rest was all he needed. NOT!

After consulting with the Kochs Thanksgiving morning and not wanting to expose them to what was ailing us, we cancelled our Thanksgiving feast. Brad and I still baked the thawed turkey, sweet potatoes, and dressing and prepared some green beans. That way we would have some nourishment, the food would not go to waste, and we could at least give a heaping plate of American Thanksgiving food to our German/Belgian neighbor Rudi, who was also to be our guest that day. We still had hopes of getting together with the Kochs later in the weekend and enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers. on Friday, I decided to freeze the pies, dressing, turkey and sweet potato souffle. Lanny was feeling well and just thought it was just about the worst Thanksgiving ever.

As we had done many times before for holidays and birthdays, and as all military families must do, we adapted! We made plans to see the Kochs the next weekend at their house. Kelly made plans for dinner, and I offered to bring my pies. We enjoyed catching up and having a nice meal-minus Heather and our daughter Emily who were both in the States attending University. They were spared "The Thanksgiving that Wasn’t" and the related “kitchen horror story.” But they would miss out on yet another Koch/Mason memory! We lazily digested our delicious meal and watched a movie until we were ready for a dessert break. As I often do, I presented my creation with a disclaimer. I said it might not taste good since the pie had been frozen and the consistency might have changed, and as I often say, “If you don’t like it, it is OK, my feelings won’t be hurt.” I REALLY don’t want someone to eat something of mine just to be polite even if they don’t like it. My feelings REALLY won’t be hurt! Kelly sliced the pumpkin pie, and I served. She commented that the bottom looked different, but we surmised that it was a metallic residue from my great Grandmother's pie plate. Someone else mentioned something about the bottom crust as well. I was in the kitchen, and I think I heard Kenny say it tasted funny. As I sat down, Kelly politely tasted a small bite of her slice, everyone started looking at their bottom pie crust, and then–-------I heard the word MOLD! First Kenny excused himself and “lost his pie”, then Lanny. We all were grossed out, though laughing at my having served tainted pie! Oh my gosh! Thank goodness it was with good friends and not at one of our parties of NATO friends (all non-American). We actually wanted to do a traditional Thanksgiving feast for them but did not want to give up our “family holiday” that year. As we talked about the sequence of events, it was doubly funny when we realized that I was the only one who did not taste my pumpkin pie. I had been the last one to sit down right when my “guinea pigs” started dropping like flies. We laughed about it , and still do, and no one really got sick since the freezing apparently killed any food borne diseases.

This is a story I should be too embarrassed to share, but it is funny, and maybe someone will learn from my mistake. I lost track of time while I was sick and I should have found space in the refrigerator even if I had a cold storage room, especially by the next day when there was some uncertainty about whether the feast was on or off. Lessons learned!

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