When Holidays Go Wrong

It's always fun to hear tales of kitchen disasters, strange illnesses and family flaps—even when they happen to you. Garlic-Peppermint Ice Cream, anyone?

Turkey go boom

One of my favorite tales of holiday disaster came some years ago from the pages of Cook's Country magazine, which runs a regular write-in feature called "When Things Go Wrong in the Kitchen."

The story—I still can't tell it without laughing—involved a single mom, her teenaged son and an apartment with a small wall-oven in which she was basting a turkey with brandy.

As she told it, they had no idea anything was amiss until the brandy exploded into a fireball that blew open the appliance door and issued forth into the kitchen, before being sucked back into the oven by the vacuum it had created—banging the door closed again on its way.

"Cool, Mom!" quoth the teen.

Unique dessert

That was a particularly spectacular example of how things can go wrong over the holidays, but we've all had our fails.

One Christmas meal at my sister's (I won't say which sister) concluded with a home-made treat: vanilla ice cream mixed with peppermint sticks.

To help make it, the children had carefully crushed their candy canes before the meal, using plastic bags to keep the colorful minty shards from getting all over the kitchen.

The single flaw in the plan was that my sustainability-minded sister likes to rinse, save and reuse her plastic bags.

The ones used for the peppermint sticks, we discovered during dessert, had previously contained garlic.

Reverse-peristalsis diet

And so we come to Thanksgiving, 2011.

I had high hopes for this year. Again, the hosting duties fell upon my sister's family; all Paul and I had to do was bring ourselves and his home-made cranberry sauce.

But the day before the holiday, I contracted some sort of bug that played havoc with my digestion in ways I think we can all agree don't need to be described in further detail.

Thanksgiving dawned, after a very long night, and my stomach appeared willing to give me a reprieve. So off to Sisterville we went, with a bottle of wine and two dishes of ruby-red cranberry sauce.

All was well until the food came forth. Smiling, I served myself a token amount of each steaming dish that passed my way; then looked at the plate, whispered "I can't," and quietly slithered away to a nearby bedroom until it was all gone.

(I did eat one thing: the place tag, a tangerine the kids had inscribed with my name.)

The rest of the holiday week was more of the same, a queasy no-fun-ride familiar to anyone who's had a lingering upset tummy.

One or two days I felt well enough to venture forth into Napa: We watched the skaters downtown and even went out to lunch once without mishap. But that night ... another relapse. 

And so it went, until every shred of holiday was gone. 

Today, thanks to a steady diet of saltines, I have hopes of making it through an entire work day, instead of posting one item and then collapsing as I did Monday. 

I also weigh about nine pounds less than I did at the beginning of the month—but this is not a diet strategy I'd recommend, even if I knew how I'd caught the bug in the first place!

Aileen Carroll November 29, 2011 at 06:35 PM
Yikes! No fun. Feel better soon.
Tom Emmons November 29, 2011 at 06:35 PM
You know I want to try that brandy and turkey thing now, don't you? Get well soon!
Tot Balay November 29, 2011 at 08:25 PM
You charitably left out the time I (Other Sister) managed to ignite the Christmas roast and we all had Chinese food on December 25...or the time I made a fabulous "handmade" cranberry pie, using a clandestine store-bought crust from which I had neglected to remove the circular waxed-paper protector. Boy, was I busted when I tried to ceremoniously cut the thing at the festive table, and it resisted all attempts until I had to lift the waxed-paper circle, dripping red juice, from the innards of the pie.
Louisa Hufstader November 29, 2011 at 09:14 PM
LOL Tot! And this just in by email from a certain non-sister: "this Thanksgiving was better than last when the car broke down on my way to Connecticut and I ended up back at our house, by myself, foraging in the fridge for something to eat. I did have turkey -- a thawed out turkey burger! I should have basted it with brandy to get that exploding oven effect. Now that you mention it, our Aunt Janis blew up her turkey not once but three times (she was using bourbon to ignite it) this year, our cousins had PTSD when we arrived for dinner."
Tot Balay November 30, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Too funny!


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