Lunchtime Poll

Lunchtime Poll: Recipe Disasters

Folks, I had been sitting on a new recipe for pancakes for weeks. It was lemon poppyseed pancakes, with applesauce! And buttermilk! And whole wheat flour! And vanilla and coconut sugar! I was stoked to give it a try this morning when I rolled my lazy ass out of bed around 10 a.m. I was not prepared for the disastrous results, which brings me to today’s Lunchtime Poll: what is your worst recipe disaster?

Picture of young child crying with a clearly distraught face

The problem with these pancakes was that they looked and smelled delicious and had all the outward signs of being amazeballs. I even made a homemade strawberry syrup to go over the top. So there I was, stack of golden deliciousness dribbled with strawberry syrup, and I nearly gag on my first bite. Too much lemon, everything is mushy, and – I swear to goodness – the flour tastes rancid. I promptly disposed of breakfast WHICH TOOK ME AN HOUR TO MAKE and ate yogurt instead. Not satisfying.

Suffice it to say, I need to hear your disasters. The ones you still curl up at night and think about.



By Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller is a twenty-something blogger, cook, freelance writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington. She’s a feminist trying ever-so-hard to embrace her spaces, conventional or not. She looks forward to numerous bad hair days, burnt cremes, a soapbox or two, and maybe (just maybe) a yellow polka-dot bikini in the years ahead.

92 replies on “Lunchtime Poll: Recipe Disasters”

I once started to boil pasta and then got distracted with [insert something shiny] only to race back to the stove and find a pasta glob smoking in a waterless pot. I burned pasta.

I now have a house rule. If the range is on, I am required to stay in the kitchen. No exceptions (except bathroom breaks).

Also, now that I am home I can FINALLY get on to Perseph. I don’t know why but today was the day that Internet Explorer decided to prevent ALL ACCESS to this site. It totally shut me out. Fuckin IE. Internet Cockblock is more appropriate. Everything else worked but I wanted to be here! Stupid loaner laptop. I want my own laptop back! I had to convince the IT kids to give me Firefox. That was work!

Our IT dept has since gone through an overhaul… Thankfully. But my loaner laptop belongs to a different company. Sadly.

I try not to document my shame with photographic evidence. But it did lead me to buying one of the best cookbooks – How To Boil Water. It is a great way to learn simple recipes and apply them to more complicated dishes. I try to memorize the techniques now.

I seriously recommend this book. It shows you how to cook rice without making you feel like an idiot. And it explains how to hard boil eggs to perfection. Any level of perfection you choose.

It’s a very polite cookbook. :)

I don’t really cook enough to have cooking disasters and the times I screw up my baking, I usually end up dumping the batter before it gets to the baking stage.

I do have a fantastic story of the time I thought I could heat up my easter egg in the microwave when I was 10 or so, and upon biting into it, it exploded in my face and gave me third degree burns all over my mouth.


After an evening of drinking wine, a friend and I decided that making croissants from scratch from her new Julia Child cookbook was teh BEST IDEA EVAR. We didn’t think to read through the whole recipe before starting. People, it takes HOURS to make croissants properly … many, many, many hours. We got super tired around four in the morning and decided we had let them rise enough. They hadn’t. We ended up with disappointing, doughy, butter-flavoured (okay, that part was good) crescent-shaped pucks.

We felt shamed.

My comfort food is macaroni and cheese, sometimes even the Kraft Dinner variety. So I made it once, and thought that I should balance it out by adding olives (I love olives!), so in go the sliced black olives. But really, it should ALSO have some veggies, right? right? So I add some peas.

’twas a DISGUSTING combination. Now I don’t try to dress up my comfort food any more.

In Family Consumer Sciences a couple of years ago we had to make apple carrot muffins. Needless to say, when part of your grade is eating the entire muffin that your group made, don’t let someone put a cup and a quarter of baking soda into the batter instead of a teaspoon and a quarter.

Lollipops! Oh god, the memory of it! I tried to make raspberry lollipops a few years ago as part of Elfity’s Christmas Candymaking Extravaganza, but these failed massively. I had a screwy candy thermometer, which contributed largely to the large pool of dark red sugar goo dotted with lollipop sticks that ruined a baking sheet and scared me away from hard candies forever.

As a poor grad student I made like 3 pounds of some healthy pasta + vegetable meal, meant to last me a week of eating.  I had never used okra before, but decided, what the hell.  I quickly learned that okra has something gummy and gelatinous inside (when prepared like I had done).  My week of food was held together in a web of snot.  Who’s hungry now?

When my former roommate and I were preparing to head home for Christmas back in 2008, I thought it would be nice to treat her to an abbreviated version of my traditional Italian family’s “Feast of Seven Fishes” that we have every Christmas Eve.  One dish I was particularly excited to make was baccalà, which is dried salt cod reconstituted and cooked in a tomato-based sauce.  I bought a nice piece of the fish at a specialty market and began soaking it a couple days before the meal.  Despite changing the water like clockwork, I was really disappointed the morning of the dinner to find that the fish had somehow spoiled.  I decided to buy fresh cod at the grocery store and cook it with a salt crust instead.  I still have no idea what I did wrong, but I felt actual pain in my mouth when I took my first bite from the extreme saltiness that permeated from the fish into the sauce.  And then came the tears — both of us crying, hacking, desperately gulping our water in search of relief.  After calming down were were able to enjoy the rest of the meal very much, but we’ve both said we’ll never forget the looks on each other’s face.  Oh god, it makes me shiver just writing this!


I have a pot roast curse. I have tried multiple recipes, many of which I have gotten form other people after trying their pot roast, so I know they should work, but whenever I try, things go badly. I had one come out like an oddly shaped rubber ball, another made a passable soup. Often they come out edible, but in no way resembling pot roast.

The time I left the sugar out of my cupcakes? I think I forgot the sugar. Anyways, whatever I forgot, it was crucial. They didn’t rise and were hard. We threw them out and they clanged (not really, but it sounds funny). They dropped like stones!

Also, the more embarrassing one now is the time I tried to make a Dutch apple pie. But I put so many apples in that the crumble fell off. So I stuck it in the oven anyways. The apples turned kind of baked and dried, and weren’t bad. My boyfriend really liked eating them. He liked eating them so much, that he ate half of them. And then when his mom came to visit the next day, he delightedly told her all about how my apples in my apple pie were dried, because I couldn’t get the crumble on. And then she said I could. And I said, no, I couldn’t, it fell off. And then she said, yes I could. And I said, no, it used to be twice as high and rounded, and the crumble fell off. And then she said I could have made a top coat. But I didn’t want a top layer, I wanted a Dutch apple pie. So now my boyfriend always brings it up and I get upset.

Another embarrassing one, that I laugh over with my friend, is the time we tried to make meringue mushrooms. They were supposed to be meringues that were made in the shape of a stem and the hat, and then stuck together. I have no idea what we did wrong, because we followed the recipe perfectly, but that didn’t happen. We had nice, fluffy egg whites, and then we added the sugar. And then we had soup. No matter how much we mixed, we could not get our fluffy meringue back. So we baked it anyways, and called them puddles, and they tasted like cardboard, so we threw them out and made a chocolate cake and lemon bars. :)

First of all, no cook should criticize another cook about her disasters. That is like rubbing salt into an open wound. FFS.

Second of all, I have had my fair share of meringue disasters. Just recently, I attempted to make chocolate meringues and failed miserably. I almost curled up and cried from all the waste (took me like 12 eggs!). Then I made challah with all the yolks, cuz’ that’s how bakers roll.

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