My Culinary Mishaps: Fortuna’s Fault or Mine?

One of my more recent culinary mishaps: Popovers that turned out to be Plopovers.

Mishap: an unfortunate accident, bad luck

So says the Mirriam-Webster dictionary. But when it comes to my culinary mishaps the Merriam-Webster definition may not be telling the whole story. Granted, a culinary mishap such the one Ann is blogging about today (her failed German Apfel Marzipan Kuchen) can easily be attributed to bad luck, so it should be simple for her to “dust herself off and start all over again.” But I’m not Ann. And I seem to have a lock on culinary mishaps in our family. And there’s only so much getting up and dusting off that one can do.

Can Fortuna be responsible for my culinary mishaps?

But what does the “Fortuna” in my title have to do with culinary mishaps? You may recall that I wrote about Fortuna in an earlier Andy’s Corner in regards to my “misfortune” with the military draft. This Roman goddess spins her Rota Fortunae (wheel of fortune) to determine the “fortune and capriciousness” in human affairs. While Fortuna’s spin of the wheel seemed as good of an explanation as any for why I ended up getting drafted, I’m not so sure if evoking Fortuna’s wheel can bail me out of being held personally accountable for the culinary side of my life.

Leave it to a sociologist to offer another way to understand my mishaps. In her fascinating book Misery and Company, Sympathy in Everyday Life, Candice Clark suggests that each of us is allotted a finite amount of “sympathy credit” from others. Once our “credit” is used up, though, misfortune or bad luck no longer cuts the mustard to be sympathy worthy. It’s like an unspoken tipping point at which we become personally responsible for our screw ups, risking unpleasant labels such as careless, irresponsible, incompetent, thoughtless, klutzy, or (shutter) loser – just to name a few.

This gets me back to the central and burning question of this blog – are my culinary mishaps better described as instances of Fortuna interventions in my life or are my culinary mishaps signs of my own personal shortcomings (eg., carelessness, irresponsibility, incompetence, fill in the blank). Here are just a few examples of my mishaps to illustrate why I’m concerned about all of this.

My culinary mishaps began early in life. I’m not in this photo, but all guys in uniform look the same. (photo credit: The State Archives of Florida)

Example #1: Exploding Canned Corn
My culinary mishaps began quite early in my life. One notable mishap occurred on a campout with my Boy Scout troop at the Los Angeles County Fair. We were there to demonstrate campfire cooking to fairgoers. My job was to heat up the canned creamed corn. It never occurred to me that one should open the can before placing it on the fire. To this day I thank my lucky stars (or maybe Fortuna?) that no one was maimed by the searing corn when the can literally exploded.

We still have the pot that we brewed our almost lethal batch of Swedish Glögg. The pot was Ann’s Swedish grandmother Annie’s (after whom Ann was named)

Example #2: Holiday Glögg (aka Napalm?).
While in grad school in Colorado Ann and I threw an a old-fashioned Swedish glögg party for the the other grad students in the small basement of our house (glögg it similar to a hot mulled wine – here is how it’s made). While preparing a very large pot of glögg for the party I thought it would be fun (and dramatic) to save the last step of the preparations for all to see, which involves pouring rum into the drink through a strainer filled with sugar and igniting the rum as it flows through. I even turned off the lights for an enhanced effect. It was a spectacular display until I realized that the stainer was beginning to melt with the burning rum/sugar goop threatening to fall into the pot and splash burning rum all over the basement. Through some quick maneuvering this worst case scenario didn’t happen (thank Fortuna!). I was never sure how many of the guests were aware of their near demise.

Example #3: Lookalikes That Aren’t Alike
Probably more times than I can recall I’ve used the wrong product or ingredient when cooking. Take for instance the time I made Emeril Lagasse’s Belgian Waffles for special houseguests and used 1/4 cup of salt instead of the called-for sugar. Of course, this could have been an honest mistake. After all, salt looks a heck of a lot like sugar and the canisters were next to each other. [Note: following that mishap I planted a “SALT!” sign in the salt canister).

Then there were the leaden Ginger Scones when I used a tablespoon of baking soda instead of baking powder. It seems that the fact that they both begin with “baking” should absolve me from some of the blame.

And I should include the time I “accidentally” used waxed paper instead of parchment paper when baking what would have been a delicious batch of Acorn Lace Cookies. I discovered that Acorn Lace Cookies embedded with melted wax paper are not only unattractive but inedible.

Example #4: It’s All in the Wrist (or Not!)
Even my signature breakfast dish, Swedish Pancakes, is plagued with mishaps. In an early Andy’s Corner (Making Swedish Pancakes is Not for Sissies) I claim that flipping the pancakes is a special skill that I have honed over the years. I even published an Instagram demonstrating my technique. But, as the below exclusive self-revealing video reveals, what you see on Instagram isn’t always the whole story.

My Swedish Pancake Technique Revealed

With my confessions on the table, so to speak, the verdict is in your hands. Will I be considered a victim of repeated ill-fated spins of the Rota Fortunae? Or will I be held personally responsible for my mishaps and be sentenced to a lifetime of being perceived as a culinary loser, my worst nightmare. I’m hoping for a hung jury. Then I can dust myself off and start all over again with a clear conscience – and undoubtedly continue cooking up more mishaps.


  1. Janeene says:

    My most recent failure was substituting (not on purpose) curry for same amount of chili powder and the correct amount of cumin while making stuffed green peppers. When I discovered the booboo I realized I thought the chili powder was next to the cumin. We ate the peppers but the taste was unusual.


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