ANN BAILEY: Kitchen calamities

One of the first cooking lessons that I learned from my mom is that potatoes used for baking should be pierced or they will explode in the oven. My mom was right. I unintentionally tested the theory a few weeks ago when I missed taking fork tines...

Ann Bailey
Ann Bailey

One of the first cooking lessons that I learned from my mom is that potatoes used for baking should be pierced or they will explode in the oven.

My mom was right. I unintentionally tested the theory a few weeks ago when I missed taking fork tines to one of the potatoes I put in the oven for supper. When I opened the oven door to get the potatoes and put them in a bowl, there were white bits of potato spattered over the entire inside of the oven.

I showed my sons the interior of the oven and explained that the blizzard of white was the result of forgetting to pierce a potato before I baked it. They were duly impressed, not as much by my words as the amount of surface area that the inside of one medium-sized potato can cover.

I was busy getting the rest of supper made, so after I retrieved the rest of the potatoes, I shut the oven door, figuring I'd deal with the mess later. Unfortunately, I promptly forgot about it and the explosion remnants remained there until I was pre-heating the oven and wondered why it smelled like something was burning.

I opened the oven door and saw the white potato pieces had turned to a charred brown. This time I decided not to put off clean up and the result was that I now have an oven that is cleaner than it was before the potato incident.


My latest cooking disaster got me to wondering whether other people had similar experiences or if I was the only one who had mishaps in the kitchen. I decided to e-mail some of my Herald co-workers who are excellent cooks and ask them if they were willing to share experiences, either anonymously or by name.

Kitchen tales

Here are a few of their stories, in their own words:

n Anonymous: I did not know that when you put hot stuff in the blender, you need to really hold tightly onto the lid to keep it on. Apparently, heat boosts the pressure, and the thing will actually explode the contents and the lid when you flip the switch to blend it.

I phoned a few people, who had a good laugh about it, but told me what I'd just learned. I cleaned the enchilada sauce off the kitchen walls, cabinets, counter and floor and kept hearing their laughter as I was doing it.

All that was lesson enough -- but fast forward to the next week or so -- on Food Network, what do I hear from Emeril Legasse's mouth, but something about using caution when blending, hot liquids... and the other person on their show shortly after that said the same thing. As much as I like to watch the channel, why had I never heard it before?

• Paulette Tobin, Herald Arts and Entertainment writer: A few years ago, some good friends invited us for Thanksgiving, which was wonderful. Mark (Paulette's husband), however, really missed having turkey leftovers. So I decided to make a turkey at our house. Because of our crazy work schedules, I had to fix the turkey on a work day because it was the only day that week we could have dinner together. I had to go home from work to stuff the turkey and put it in the oven, and I told Mark he would have to help me.

As I got the stuffing ready, Mark rinsed the defrosted turkey inside and out and patted it dry with a clean dishtowel inside and out. Then I hurriedly stuffed the turkey, put it in the oven and went back to work. When I got home that night the kitchen smelled so good and the turkey was ready to eat. I put it on a platter and started to cut it. When I began to pull out the stuffing, what did I find? The kitchen towel.


I said: "Mark, why on earth did you leave the towel in the turkey?"

He said: "You didn't tell me to take it."

How can you argue with logic like that?

&bull: Naomi Dunavan, Herald columnist: When son Dean was in high school one day after school he decided to start the dishwasher that was full of dirty dishes. Guess I hadn't done a good job telling him you use a special soap for the dishwasher. Instead of the right soap, he used the liquid soap you use for hand washing. I'm not sure how much he poured in there, but the dishwasher overflowed and filled half the kitchen with suds.

He was so scared he called the next-door neighbor boy over to help him decide what needed to be done with those suds pouring all over the floor.

I came home from work in the middle of the process and we literally carried the suds out to the backyard in buckets. It was quite the day and we still laugh about it.

• Tu-Uyen Tran, Higher education and city hall reporter: I forgot to turn off the slow cooker; it was on high for 12 hours. I think it might have been chili I was making. I distinctly remember the half-charred glob at the bottom of the pot with beans stuck to it. The rest of the chili was still edible with a little water stirred in it, so it wasn't a total disaster.

The real story is getting the glob off. Basically, the rule seems to be the way you made the mess is the way you clean up the mess. I slow-cooked water and dish detergent for six hours and it all came off.


Experience is the best teacher

After reading these stories, I decided that most cooks probably have had some kitchen calamities along the way. That makes sense because the more time you spend in the kitchen, the greater the odds of something happening

Meanwhile, the experiences can be good lessons. Now I know that it's OK to eat a turkey that's been cooked with a dishtowel inside it, that hand soap is not a substitute for dishwasher soap and that slow-cooking dish detergent and water will remove food from slow cookers.

Finally, while the mishaps may not seem funny at the time, they make for good tale-telling and some laughs, later.

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