Cooking Calamities


None of us went here.

The launch celebration for ALL FOUR STARS continues, and nothing says “celebrate” like a few good cooking calamities!

In Tara Dairman’s delightful story, 12-year-old Gladys Gatsby knows her way around a kitchen. But even Gladys has the occasional slip-up. Could anything be worse than the unfortunate blowtorch incident?

Several EMUs have been gracious enough to share their own cooking disasters with us. Judge for yourselves, dear readers, if any of our stories stack up.


Gladys, unruffled by crisis

Lindsey Lane:

You think Gladys’s lighting kitchen curtains on fire was bad? This disaster involved trying to drain the pasta while talking on the phone. Pot slipped out of my hands. Scalding water everywhere. Burned leg. No pasta for dinner. The cellphone was fine. Take out was ordered.


Penny Parker Klostermann:

fried rattlesnake

But they do look like chicken wings.

I wasn’t the cook for my cooking disaster, so maybe it’s more of an eating disaster. About twenty years ago (yes this has stuck in my mind) a group of us decided to attend the largest rattlesnake round-up in the US in nearby Sweetwater, Texas. You’ve probably already guessed what I ate. And let me tell you…rattlesnakes don’t look like chickens, they don’t sound like chickens, they don’t move like chickens, AND THEY DON’T TASTE LIKE CHICKEN! They taste like rattlesnake…and that’s disastrous! Yech!

Laurie Ann Thompson:


You had me at “Broccoli cheese taffy.”

When I met Bernie, we were both working in south Florida on an internship. Our friendship gradually grew into something more, and (finally!) he asked me out on our first real date. He invited me to his apartment for dinner, and he decided to make broccoli cheese soup from scratch, which he’d never tried to do before. It turned into something resembling broccoli cheese taffy, and I couldn’t stop laughing! We ended up sharing an apple, the only other food he had in the house. Three years later I married him, and he still cooks for me almost every night… usually with much more edible results!

Jenn Bertman:


Please don’t feed (or slake) the authors.

It was a summer evening: sunset, Jack Johnson tunes, a glass of wine, making fish tacos. I fry the tortillas into shells, so I had just turned the heat on the oil-filled pan when my husband started talking about rearranging our furniture. I poured a second glass of wine (did I mention I rarely drink alcohol?), and soon enough I was on a buzz-fueled furniture arranging mission. Shortly after the second couch configuration, we noticed the flames shooting up from the stove. The relaxing summer evening vibe became a frantic frenzy of my husband and I slapping at the fire with a dish towel, digging for the extinguisher, shouting about whether to throw baking soda or baking powder on it, until finally my husband dropped a lid on the pan and snuffed out the flames. The lesson to learn here, kids, is: “Don’t drink and fry.”

Laurie Crompton:


Next, we’ll grill some Twizzlers.

As a teen I decided to improve on the classic M & M cookie recipe by using Skittles in place of M & Ms. After all, everything’s better with a little taste of rainbow, right? Erm, no. Apparently when those tasty bits of fruit-flavored magic reach a temperature of 350 degrees they melt. And once melted they infuse liquid candy that gives cookies the power to bend spatulas in half. Literally. Several ruined baking utensils later, I packaged up the (admittedly very pretty) cookies and mailed them to a long-distance friend. I figured he would assume the cookies had hardened along the way, although I never did hear from him again.

Tamara Smith:

Knees knocking, arms full with a bag of ice cream, raspberries, sugar, butter, and pie crust dough that I had just spent an hour making at my apartment…I walked into my boyfriend’s kitchen, ready to make him a raspberry pie for his birthday. The very first birthday I had spent with him. No pressure. Nah. Except I wanted the pie to be perfect. I got to it. Washed the table, spread flour, began to roll out the dough. Gorgeous, thick, buttery dough.

“What are those?” asked my boyfriend over my shoulder.

“Hmmmm?” I asked as I pushed the rolling pin.

“Those white bits?  They look like rice?  There–”  He pointed to the dough.

“Those?” I asked.  I hadn’t seen them until now.  I paused.  Broke off a piece of the dough and looked closely at it.  “Oh those…” My heart began to beat fast.  “Those are…”  Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.  “Those are…maggots!”

How had that happened?  How could that happen?  What would happen now?

My boyfriend laughed.  He hugged me.  Soon, I was laughing too.  Hard.  What else was there to do?

One more thing.  Celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday…with ice cream and raspberries.

Jeanne Ryan:


Poulet de bottes mouillées

Since “cooking” and “disaster” have often proved interchangeable in my culinary experience, I try to avoid both. However, one day, buoyed by the freedom of no deadlines, I decided to roast a chicken. Only minutes after pre-heating the oven, a foul, rubbery stench filled the kitchen. Apparently, the rarity of my cooking led someone to believe they could dry their hiking boots in the oven. See, I don’t even need to touch food for disaster to occur.

Megan Morrison:

Nobody in my family will let me forget the blueberry burgers, even though I was pregnant. I was trying to be healthy, so I assembled a recipe out of Fit Pregnancy and brought the result to a family party. Everyone expected to bite into delicious, greasy burgers; instead, they found their mouths full of a sinister fruit-meat cocktail. They have never forgiven me.

Jeannie Mobley:


Later that night, this baby became a Transformer.

One of the first meals I cooked for my fiancé from scratch was my mom’s famous and delicious homemade spaghetti sauce recipe. The recipe calls for you to layer meat and garlic and tie the stack together with string, then slow cook it in the sauce. I didn’t have string, so I rubber banded them together. Then I simmered them in the sauce for four hours before serving up something that took me all day to make and looked absolutely perfect. And tasted like boiled rubber. Depending on how you look at it, that meal may or may not have been worthy of a Michelin Star.

Donna Bowman Bratton:

Picture this: It was was a dark and stormy night… Seriously, it was! When I was about ten years old, my family temporarily lived in a mobile home near the construction site that would become our ranch house. On this particular night, my father was out of town, and our community was under a tornado watch. Of course! My mother, brother, and I tried to act like nothing was wrong. Mom was preparing a hot dog feast. Pork-n-beans were simmering on the stove. Suddenly, the lights went out. Somebody fumbled to light a candle, causing eerie shadows to haunt the walls while the mobile home rattled, and creaked, and threatened to careen to somewhere over the distant rainbow. I’m not certain of the events that followed except that one of us dished up a bowl of beans, one of us had the bright idea to tell a scary story, and lighting decided to strike nearby at the precise moment of the story’s terrifying climax. All I know is there was a scream, a flailing of hands, and a bowl of beans on the ceiling. And that, my friends, is why I don’t write horror and I cringe whenever I see pork-n-beans.

So, what’s your best (worst?) cooking calamity? Share with us in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of ALL FOUR STARS!

And remember, you can get your own copy from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as PenguinPowell’sB&Nor Amazon.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch, Writing and Life

9 responses to “Cooking Calamities

  1. I can’t wait for the next EMUs potluck. Just sayin’.


  2. Ha! These are fantastic, guys! Thanks so much for sharing!


  3. Lindsey Lane

    sinister fruit meat cocktail…beans on the ceiling…I’m with you, Jeanie. EMU potluck.


  4. Mmm. Thick, buttery, maggoty dough. We are culinary superstars, ’round here.


  5. I forgot to mention the Thanksgiving when I was about Gladys’ age when my grandma served a huge platter of one of my favorite foods–deviled eggs–as an appetizer. I grabbed one and was about to pop it in my mouth when I saw something strange. “What’s the orange stuff?” I asked. “Paprika,” my mom said, “a spice.” “Oh. Why is it moving?” I said. Everyone rushed to inspect the eggs. Tiny bugs had infested the paprika container, and every single deviled egg was nicely dusted with them. No one ate much that year, but it has made for a great family story.


  6. Pingback: And a few more links | tara dairman

  7. OMG, it’s a good thing EMU’s don’t have cooking contests at the annual retreat.


  8. leandrajwallace

    These were so funny! I totally laughed out loud at the first captioned pic ‘None of us went here’. & ‘Next we’ll grill some Twizzlers’. And I just have to say- Skittles in cookies? Lol!


  9. bn100

    don’t have any; don’t really cook


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