It’s that time of year again. Time for family and friends to gather around the dining room table admiring an amazing array of gastric creations to delight the senses. Which means it’s also time for my family to discuss some of Sheila G’s finest kitchen disasters!
I like to think I’m not alone in my mess-making, so I hope anyone reading this will add comments to my Facebook page saying things like, “I’m with you. You should have seen my disaster.” A couple of my disasters seem to involve the same Thanksgiving side dish, so I thought I’d share.
Back in 1972, I met a woman named April Saylor. She was one of those friends you meet and instantaneously feel a life-long connection. It was my first Thanksgiving as a married woman, and April introduced me to a recipe that I have now been making for over 40 years. It is my staple. My go-to. My “It ain’t Thanksgiving if I don’t have this,” side dish. It is my favorite. It is Baked Corn.
After years of making that famous Baked Corn recipe (thank you, April), I have had 2 disasters I simply cannot live down. I can’t remember which was first, so these are not necessarily in chronological order, but both happened after having children. Why do I know this? Because my kids, Rachael and Devin, won’t ever let me forget.
First, some ingredients are ok to forget, and some are essential to the whole flavor of the dish. Leave it to me to forget one of those essentials. It was the kind of ingredient that you wouldn’t notice was missing, until you took your first bite. Sheila G’s (ok, April Saylor’s) famous Baked Corn looked beautiful in the classic blue dish I’ve served it in for years. Everyone was anticipating that deliciousness they’ve come to know over the years and look forward to year after year. The anticipation was mouthwatering. Then I looked at their faces. Scowls, screwed up mouths and wrinkled up noses told me something was wrong. Very wrong. SUGAR!! I had forgotten the sugar!!! And once you forget the sugar, you cannot salvage the dish. To the garbage disposal it all went, scraping every bit of it off as quickly as we could. And while entire plates full of food were devoured, that one yellow side dish simply glared at me like a pulsing infection. Mocking me. Sugar. I’m the queen of baking and sugar is my major staple. How could I have forgotten the sugar? I was mortified. And I could blame no one but me.
That would not be my last disaster with that same side dish. Once again, Thanksgiving was held at my house as it usually is. I removed the Baked Corn from the oven and began placing dishes on the dining room table. Only one problem. I had removed the Baked Corn from the oven, but had neglected to remove it from the heat. I had placed the Baked Corn squarely on the top of the stovetop, which was still ON from other dishes I had just been making. This was back in the day before they made those fancy bright red lights to remind you, “Hey, idiot, the range is STILL ON!!!” I believe those were invented for people like me. As the dish sat there getting hotter and hotter, no one noticed. Least of all me. Then, everything changed. Like fireworks exploding, there went my (April’s) Baked Corn. It was absolutely EVERYWHERE and the ceramic bakeware it was in exploded right along with it. And after exploding, it was just searing into the stove top burner with the smell permeating my house. As if pouring salt in an open wound. Lucky for me, no one was hurt. I take that back. No one was PHYSICALLY hurt. My pride, however, was decimated. Once again, there would be no Baked Corn. Sorry guys!
I can say that in over 40 years, those are the only true disasters that kept us from consuming the Baked Corn. That’s a pretty decent record, right? I like to think so.
And while I was recounting my Thanksgiving Baked Corn disasters with some work colleagues, my daughter was kind enough to mention her all-time favorite kitchen disaster of mine. It’s the pinnacle of kitchen disasters. And, thanks to Rachael, I guess I can’t finish this blog without mentioning that biggest all-time kitchen disaster. The dreaded peanut butter catastrophe.
My husband Harry is a big fan of natural peanut butter. The kind that separates the peanut butter from the oil and you have to stir it really well before using it. About 10 years ago, we were trying to use the peanut butter and realized we had to open a fresh jar that hadn’t yet been mixed. Insert Sheila’s brilliant idea. That stuff is hard to mix together. I’ve tried all sorts of things and never had much success with getting it mixed quickly without making at least a bit of a mess. This time would be NO exception. Well, the exception would be the part where I referenced making “a bit” of a mess. That was an understatement that day.
I love my hand mixer (you probably already know where I’m going with this). My brilliant idea that day was to insert one mixing blade into the peanut butter jar and slowly mix the oil and peanuts together in a flash. Seemed brilliant at the time and I wondered why I hadn’t tried it before. The moment I hit the “on” switch, I was doomed. Oil began pouring over the sides. And as I attempted to hold on to that jar, it was like grabbing hold of a greased pig. I was doomed. I lost control of the jar and the mixing blade eventually came out of the jar. The blade was still whirring around like an out-of-control wild animal flying around flinging peanut butter on EVERY uncovered surface above it, below it, and beside it. I was covered, Harry was covered, my kids were covered, and even my kitchen ceiling was COVERED. There wasn’t a surface that had been untouched by peanut butter. It took me hours to clean up, and I still could find spots of flung peanut butter months later despite doing what I thought was a deep clean. And while I wanted to never see a single jar of peanut butter in my house again after that, I have relented. Those jars ought to come with a warning label…Mix by hand ONLY, especially you, Sheila G!
As I head into this Thanksgiving, I guess I should wish you all good luck! Remember that kitchen disasters are part of life. If your turkey or side dish doesn’t come out just so, consider the meal a success if you’re not having to clean peanut butter off of your ceiling. And if you haven’t yet had a memorable kitchen disaster, then I say you just haven’t been cooking long enough!
Happy Thanksgiving from our Brownie Brittle family to yours!