Blogiversary Week: The Gag Reel

If you missed it the first two days of this week, it’s Cooking Up Romance’s first blogiversary! I’m celebrating by giving away a $50 Amazon Giftcard, which you can enter to win here.

If you’ve ever looked at one of my photos and thought, “Aw, how come my food doesn’t look that good?!?” this post is for you. Because not everything works for me either. I just tend not to publish my failures. Although if you follow me on Twitter, you probably have a sense of how often I burn myself doing something stupid. It’s…a lot.

Not every oops involves injury though and there has been a bloggy learning curve. For instance, whenever I open up the folder where I store all my Cooking Up Romance photos, right in the upper right hand corner–the first thing I see–is a folder entitled “all the f*cking tarts”. You can probably guess how I was feeling by the time I finally published my review of Laura Florand’s book The Chocolate Thief. Those sexy French pastry chefs sure set a high standard! But the main problem was that I hadn’t figured out the settings on my camera yet and got, well, this.

In case you can’t tell, that’s out of focus, the color balance is wrong, the composition is terrible and the wrinkled placemat was a particularly nice touch, I thought. But I didn’t look at the photos until we’d eaten all the tarts. I had to make them all over again in order to get better photos. I’ve gotten better, thank goodness! And lesson learned. Look at the photos BEFORE eating the food.

Then there are the recipes I love and everyone else hates.

Aren’t those adorable little petit fours? When Alexis Hall’s Liberty and Other Stories came out at the beginning of the year, I made three batches of what I thought were going to be the perfect quirky petit fours. Unfortunately, I sent them to work with my husband and they were…well…just a little too quirky. Turns out nobody else liked the combination of Lapsang Souchong (a smoky flavored tea) and vanilla buttercream as much as I did.

Still pretty though.

Here’s a fun one. I was super inspired by Jackie Ashenden’s hero in Living in Shadow. He’s from West Africa originally and I thought it might be interesting to try making some traditional West African cuisine. I was drawn to a recipe on an ex-pat site that suggested making pepper sauce for plantain fritters out of 20 Scotch bonnet peppers. Not 2, but 20. Two. Zero. That’s a shit ton of EXTREMELY HOT PEPPERS.

Um. I thought I was going to die. Or permanently kill off all my taste buds or something. I’ve got a pretty good tolerance for spice, but that one? Well, let’s just say it exceeded it. The final recipe ended up with ONE Scotch bonnet pepper. And it was still pretty hot. OUCH.

Then there are the recipes that are delicious and perfect…and resemble a scene from Sweeney Todd. There have actually been several of these, the most egregious of which was the duck with citrus cherry port sauce I made for my review of 1960s romance Nurse Janice Calling. Once you see the bloody pulp and blood splatters, you can’t unsee it. Go ahead, thank me.

*insert horror movie sound effects here*

Finally, there was the time I dropped my phone onto a tray of just-piped meringue dessert cups. I didn’t take a photo of that one though. You’ll just have to take my word for it. My vast and creative vocabulary of four-letter and other not-for-polite-company words.

What about your impressive kitchen disasters? Come on–tell me about the time you set the stove on fire. (I’ve totally done it, just not in the past year.)

Confession time!


  1. When I was a teenager, I decided to make my mom a treat of banana bread one day before I headed off to my part-time job, a recipe I'd made a couple of times. There were two unlabelled bags of brown sugar in the cupboard—one was rock-hard, the other soft, so I used the soft one. I pulled the bread out of the oven and headed off to work without sampling it. When I got home, I asked Mom how she enjoyed her treat. "Um, well…how much salt did you put in it?" What? Just what the recipe called for! "You should taste it." So I did. It was like eating a salt lick. Disgusting! That's when we discovered the nice, soft brown sugar I'd used was actually beef bouillon powder. Yeah…

  2. I'm pretty sure I've managed to set several kitchen towels and wooden spoons on fire and possibly burn a chicken, but it's actually achieving kitchen mediocrity that was the most embarrassing (uncomfortable?).

    I had just started dating my boyfriend, and some crazy part of me suggested that he come over so that we could cook dinner together. On a week night. When I had an hour commute home and nothing in my fridge. Thankfully he offered to pick up ingredients for coq au vin (he text messaged me from the store which is one of the many reasons that I adore him).

    We wound up cooking together. I was incredibly nervous and he's not a cook and it was just kind of a mess. The dish turned out edible but not… good. It was just kind of boring. Bland. Blah. Not at all the coq au vin I usually make.

    Last week he reminded me of that while we were having dinner. I think the direct quote was, "I've loved everything you've made me… except for that first dish." I cringed but agreed.

    One of these days, I'm going to make him coq au vin again and take that recipe back. So if you ever have the urge to post a recipe for that dish, I'll be forever grateful.

  3. Oh! I totally set a kitchen towel on fire when I was 8. I was making oatmeal. Good times.

    And I'm sorry to hear about your coq au vin. I mean, at least with a complete disaster, you can shrug and order pizza. I guess the biggest thing is probably that I tend to regard coq au vin as a dish that takes all day? In a pot or in the crock pot, either way. But yeah, like 8 hours of low and slow cooking time. I'd try this one maybe? Love Alton Brown.

  4. Oh dear. Yeah, that would be…really bad. But funny, regardless. I just love hearing about kitchen disasters. We've all had them.

  5. I once made an angel food cake and then put it in the oven on broil intead of bake. (It was an old oven with dials–you set the temp on one and the mode on the other). Didn't notice until it was "done." And by "done" I mean scorched black on the outside and raw on the inside.

  6. The first dinner I ever made for my husband was an absolute disaster. (I was 15 and made herbed halibut en papillote and steamed veg. WAY too much herb; forgot the salt.) What's worse, he went on to culinary school and still not-so-fondly remembers that disastrous meal. I turned into a halfway decent (ish) cook in the intervening 19 years, but he still reminds me to be careful about seasoning. Pesky man.

  7. Thank you! I'll try this (and try to convince him that my coq au vin game really is on point).

  8. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

  9. Oh, that's a good one! My parents' oven is like that and it's brand new. You have to press "cook" like it's a microwave or something. Who designs these things?

  10. Oh, that is too funny. Though mostly I'm impressed that a) you were making halibut en papillote at 15 and b) you've been with your husband almost 20 years!

    And I know all about STILL being teased for something you did years ago. My husband's favorite tattle-tale cooking story about me is over-salting some eggplant. By…like…a really lot. Totally inedible. I still don't know how it happened because I was following an America's Test Kitchen recipe. Undoubtedly user error, but it put me off eggplant. Probably forever.

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