Remember the scene in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" when Clark goes to carve cousin Catherine's turkey and it's just a little dry? We've all had mishaps and have been embarrassed by our culinary blunders.
With the holiday season upon us, we asked our staff members: What is the worst cooking or baking fail you've had?
Lorrie Cecil, photographer: The first time I made peanut brittle I started stirring it with one of our plastic spoons when I noticed the spoon was melting. The candy tasted fine but you had to spit out little pieces of plastic.
Andy Resnik, sports copy editor: A couple years ago, I put a baking sheet on top of a hot burner on the stove and the baking sheet started to smoke. I took the fish sticks off the baking sheet -- thank goodness they were on aluminum foil -- grabbed an oven mitt and carried the smoking baking sheet over to the sink to rinse it under the faucet. However, the sink was filled with dishes, so I stood in the kitchen for a second or two, holding a smoking baking sheet and trying to figure out what to do. Then it occurred to me: I took the smoking baking sheet outside and dropped it in the snow. This is what happens when my wife goes out with friends and I have to make dinner for our kid.
Kevin Parks, news reporter: My story is more of a culinary triumph, only I badly misjudged my audience.
In the early 1990s I was living in the Seattle area when my mother became gravely ill back in Steubenville. By the time I could get to Ohio, she’d been transferred to a hospital in Pittsburgh, a very serious hospital, where doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with her. I stayed in my boyhood home and drove to Pittsburgh every morning to be there for her. Eventually, exploratory surgery cleared up the problem, only I was left with another problem: I wanted to get back to Puget Sound but didn’t know who would care for her. When my Aunt Jean, her son Dave and his then-wife offered to take her in, I was so grateful I impulsively said, “Let me make you something special for dinner.”
I settled on beef bourguignon, a dish I enjoy both preparing and eating. I spent lavishly, too, buying a better cut of meat than is strictly necessary and an expensive bottle of red wine. As I walked through the grocery store, my eyes fell upon a can of Durkee’s fried onions, and I thought, “What the hell?” and also got some green beans and a can of mushroom soup.
When I placed the food on the table, I could tell it would not go well. Evidently the concept of cooking with wine was for foreign to my relatives, they thought it was positively French. They ate but little of the entree, and their comments were kind but, at best, half-hearted.
Oh, but they all scarfed up that green bean casserole, and said they’d never tasted anything so good.
Gary Seman, news reporter: It was my first and last attempt to make seafood sausage. I didn't have natural casing so I wrapped the mixture in plastic wrap and then foil and cooked it in simmering water. But the water breached the wrapping and the sausage broke apart. The flavor wasn't bad - the sausage mixture had shrimp, scallops and fish - but it wasn't much to look at.
Frank DiRenna, sports reporter: Last year my wife and I attempted for the first time to make Struffoli, an Italian delicacy from my childhood. Also known as honey balls, they turned out like cement because we didn’t use a food processor. Epic fail!
Marla Kuhlman, news reporter: I think it was in the early 2000 when I was preheating my oven--I don't remember what I was planning to bake. I had a basket of votives on top of a burner that caught fire. I kept putting baking soda on it, but the flames kept coming back. So the Genoa Township Fire Department came to the rescue. And I ended up having to buy a new oven.
Scott Hummel, assistant editor, digital: I've made at least 60 southern corn casseroles -- all of them turning out really well. For our staff Christmas party recently, I used a foil pan to bake it instead of the usual glass, thinking I could just toss the pan after the party. That would have been fine if not for the support pan I placed under the casserole while cooking. I didn't account for that. So even with an additional 10 minutes in the oven, the consistency was creamy when it should have been much thicker. So the first time I bake the one thing I'm really good at for a huge audience, I fail -- miserably. I'll bring another one in soon just to prove I really can make these things and that they're really good. To add insult to injury, I still took the foil pan home and washed it for use one more time.
Lisa Proctor, community editor: The worst fail was last year. My mom and I always make chocolate fudge for the holiday season. In 2016, we cobbled together a couple of recipes because we wanted the amount of one, the better chocolate of the other. It turned out great. We wrote down what we did. Last year, we tried to follow it but somehow we didn't get it to the right boiling point and we had a 9-by-13 pan of chocolate goo that never did set. It was just a heart-breaking waste of ingredients.
Abby Armbruster, social-media strategist/designer: Years ago, I decided to make cookies for a football watch party I was attending with a new boyfriend. I tried a new recipe that was supposed to be for amazing monster cookies (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, M&M's, you name it) and I was so excited about them. When I baked them off, they became flat, thin crispy cookies that looked and tasted terribly. I took them anyway because I felt obligated to, but it wasn't my finest bake.
Shane Flanigan, photographer: Not sure how much of an actual cooking fail this is rather than a fail related to cooking. I was making ham and Swiss pinwheels for the first time which required rolling out pizza dough. I vastly underestimated the difficulty of rolling dough. Even though I read online how to do it without it sticking to the pin, it stuck to it... over and over. I tried to flatten the dough for a good 10 mins before I raged, balled up the dough and threw it. I also didn't take the time to consider dough is pretty heavy, so when it hit the wall it actually cracked it slightly and I was moving out soon. In a desperation move to keep my deposit, I found a bottle of white-out and filled in the crack to camouflage it enough for the apartment walk through. Thankfully, the lighting in the kitchen was awful and the landlord was none the wiser. Also, the pinwheels came out pretty good when I bought more dough and tried again.
Tim Krumlauf, assignment editor: My most recent memorable fail was when two young helpers during the Dublin Irish Festival were using a wheeled serving cart to move pans full of 300-plus bigger-than-bun-sized Polska Kielbasa sausages fresh off the outdoor grill into kitchen. Cart wheel hit an expansion joint between two concrete sections and tipped over dumping them into a pile on the concrete. The poor kids were devastated and I might have uttered an expletive — or seven. I had to throw the sausages into the compost trash — even the ones that never hit the ground and were on top of the ones that did, because when you are cooking for others there is no such thing as the “five second rule” you might invoke in your home kitchen. BUT, before I could get them all collected a large group of entertainers and volunteers waiting for rides to their stages for performances and assignments swarmed like piranhas and were grabbing sausages with both hands once they learned I had to throw them out.