Wednesday, December 30, 2020

HOLIDAY COOKING DISASTERS: Who hasn't had one?

by Chris Goff

This year on Thanksgiving, we celebrated the birth of our third grandchild—a very bright spot in an otherwise difficult year. Ten days before the holiday, we’d gotten a late-night phone call from a couple of kids, laughing because her water broke and they had to leave for the hospital, but the bed was wet, and the dog was a bit anxious, and they weren’t sure what to do. Fortunately, we did, and told them to leave for the hospital. Then we collected the bedding, the towels, Pickles, the dog, and the dog food, while they had a baby. Little Grady!

A couple of days later, we took Pickles home and met the tiny bean—Covid-style! Clean coverups, hand sanitizer, masks.... Thanksgiving was quickly approaching, and we’d promised to make dinner. Except, we were living in a house without a kitchen. The refrigerator was hooked up in the garage, and periodically blew the breakers. We had no stove, just a microwave set up on sawhorses in the living room. No sink! And our counter consisted of a piece of construction grade plywood laid over the top of uninstalled kitchen counters.

Not to be deterred, we donned our PPE, and in a covert Covid operation (CCO) transported all ingredients, and sneaked into their kitchen through the breezeway. (This makes for a great scene in my new book: The Spy Who Worked from Home.)

But I jest. We actually just went over to the kids' house, donned clean coverups, prepped the meal, and put it in the oven. Four hours later, we returned, carved the turkey, and ate, with Grady upstairs in his crib.

During dinner, my son-in-law had his phone propped up on the table. Thinking he was watching football, I made a snide comment as mothers-in-law are wont to do, and my daughter laughed. “Mom (drag it out sarcastically), he’s watching the baby cam.” Sure enough. Nick turned the phone around, and there was little Grady sleeping in the crib.

About that time, the baby twitched (barely!), and the phone lit up, and a warning scrolled across the screen. Movement has been detected! Apparently, off mute, Computer Lady blurts out the warnings. The temperature has dropped one-tenth of a degree!

Dang! The baby cam works better than our home security system. (Perfect for The Spy Who Worked from Home.) It's more expensive, but highly effective! Makes me wonders how I ever raised six kids to adulthood without one?!

But I digress. We're talking about holiday disasters, and I have them that go back years. It turned out, so did my fellow Rogues.

Karna Small Bodman had a similar story of remodeling.

Several years ago, I was redoing a DC house–kitchen completely torn up, fridge and microwave in the living room—and my son wanted to host a Super Bowl. What to do? So, I baked a huge batch of chicken in my next-door neighbor’s stove, made a big salad, and then fixed a whole slew of little red potatoes in the microwave because I wanted to serve “Redskins.”

Which she topped with the story of a dream date.

I went to a holiday dinner hosted by a bachelor who admitted he didn’t cook much. On the kitchen counter sat a bowl of what looked like turkey stuffing with bits of something weird in it. I asked what it was. He shrugged and said, “Well, I was looking around for things I could put in the stuffing I bought. Thinking about how my mom always added things to hers. I saw a package of microwave popcorn and mixed the kernels into the stuffing, figuring that when it got hot, they would pop. They didn’t.”

Lisa Black shared a similar theme.

My mother’s birthday was in January, so as a young newlywed I decided to host a dinner for 12 in her honor. I don’t remember the entree, but I made homemade sourdough bread—completing the long process of creating the starter, letting it ferment, moving it to the refrigerator, etc.

The day before the party, our hot water heater died. I had no qualms that my trained mechanic husband could fix it. We had to go buy one (a whole nother story) then, as he finished installing the heater, I baked my bread. To keep it warm, I wrapped the slices in a towel, placed them in a wicker basket, then put the entire thing in the still-mildly-warm oven.

The doorbell rang. People were seated. Then I opened the oven only to discover the wicker basket had not been real wicker. The plastic had melted into globules, and the small wires stuck out like barbed wire tines, only longer, and more dramatic. Luckily, the towel had protected my labor-intensive bread. Plucking out the slices, I plopped them into another container, tossed the evidence, and figured what the diners didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. Meanwhile, I had learned a valuable lesson about the low melting point of synthetics!
 

Valerie Constantine’s story can only be labeled Comedic Horror.

These Greek Christmas cookies are called Kourambiedes and everyone in our family looks forward to them at the holidays. Making them is labor intensive with all of the mixing done by hand until the dough is ready to be shaped into these sort-of crescents. Every year I “helped” my mother make these special treats that always came out perfect. One year, however, when we began to shape the cookies, we were puzzled to see tiny red dots throughout the dough. My mother shrugged and continued to bake them anyway. After all, they would be covered with confectioner’s sugar to make them pure white. It wasn’t until later that she noticed the little chips in her red fingernail polish. Her polish had rubbed off into the dough! Moral of the story: Nail polish in small doses is safe to ingest!

Of course, judging by the pictures Lynne Constantine shared, nail polish in the cookies doesn't do much for one's fashion sense.

An abundance of stories. 

There was the time Wes stuffed the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner for 21 people, put the bird in the oven, then checked it two hours later to discover he’d forgotten to turn on the oven.

And the time I was tasked with cooking a roast for Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s. My sister-in-law arrived and immediately turned down the oven. When I noticed, I turned it back up. Kay immediately turned it back down. Up, down. Up, down. Needless to say, dinner was delayed while the roast finished cooking and Kay and I sat in timeout.

Then there was the Christmas Eve we drove the 1914 Model T (top up) to dinner. My father-in-law had suffered a series of strokes and couldn’t talk at that point, but when offered a ride in the Model T, his face lit up. After dinner, we stepped outside to find it was snowing. Hard! We foundered on the side of the road about a half mile from the farmhouse. Wes and I waded through the deepening snow—Wes for the tractor, me for the car. It created a few tense moments with my mother-in-law and our kids, but Dad just chucked and laughed. He refused a car ride and insisted on staying in the Model T as it was towed back to the barn. Best Christmas Eve ever!

This year, with the threat of Covid-19, many of us are celebrating alone. Still, the Rogues hope you've had a chance to make some fun memories this holiday season. We wish you the merriest!

Do you have any favorite holiday disaster stories?

5 comments:

  1. What a great collection of cooking mishaps! I particularly love the story of the new baby monitor that detects a tenth of a degree drop in temperature as well as movement in its line of sight. Definitely use that in your next thriller, Chris! Thanks for some good laughs (especially right now!)....Karna Small Bodman

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  2. I'm telling you, The Spy Who Works from Home

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  3. Almost had one this Christmas as I had to rediscover driving in heavy snow without four wheel drive!!

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  4. In good company here! I neglected to set the timer on the apple pie at Thanksgiving not once but twice and got busy building a puzzle...

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  5. In good company here! I neglected to set the timer on the apple pie at Thanksgiving not once but twice and got busy building a puzzle...

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