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Ellen Shapiro

Worst meal at someone's home - Part 1

590 posts in this topic

Steven started a topic about the best meal he's ever had in someone's home (I was there and I have to agree with him on his selection)--I, on the other hand, would like to hear the horror stories of the worst meals people have had in someone's home. No need to name names--but I'm sure we've all been there.


Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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One of my favorite food books is "Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen" by Laurie Colwin. This is one of those books I re-read every few years and it still makes me feel all warm inside. In it she has a chapter titled "Repulsive Diners: a Memoir". The first time I read this chapter I laughed until tears will rolling down my face. I still can't read it without laughing out loud. It starts:

"There is something triumphant about a really disgusting meal. It lingers in the memory with a lurid glow, just as something exalted is remembered with a kind of mellow brilliance. I am not thinking of kitchen disasters – chewy pasta, burnt brownies, curdled sauces: these can happen to anyone. I am thinking about meals that are positively loathsome from soup to nuts, although one is not usually fortunate enough to get either soup or nuts"

And a description of one of the dishes (it was served in London, of course):

"Here is what we had: the casserole contained a layer of partially cooked rice, a layer of pineapple rings and layer of breakfast sausages, all of which was cooked in a liquid of some sort or other. Each person received one pineapple ring, one sausage and a heap of crunchy rice. We ate in perfect silence, first in shock, then in amazement, and then in gratitude that not only was there not enough to go around, but that nothing else was forthcoming. That was the entire meal."

My own worst meal has to be Christmas dinner at my brother's. Costco frozen lasagna, Betty Crocker scalloped potatoes from a box, iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing served on paper plates. Yes I said Christmas dinner. Now that's just depressing :sad:

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I've had some pretty bad meals served by people who made no effort, but my worst meals have all been at the hands of those who tried too hard. Today's Costco lasagna (I just had a free sample the other day) is manna from heaven compared to some of the stuff I got fed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was the time when some of the parents at my self-conscious Upper West Side grammar school were in the grip of a gourmet cooking mania. They actually called themselves gourmet cooks. And they cooked elaborate recipes from European-ish cookbooks but they had no clue about the fundamentals of cooking or of how the dishes were supposed to taste -- and neither did the cookbook authors. At the time my reaction was instinctive -- "Man this tastes nasty!" -- but in retrospect I realize it was legit. I have a specific recollection of a meat pie of some sort that was made with ground meat with all the rendered fat left in. To this was added a gruyere-type cheese and many incompatible spices. It was baked in the oven for maybe a year and served at a friend's birthday party. A birthday party for kids, mind you. One kid actually couldn't keep the stuff down, and I think if I smelled it today mine would come up -- it's definitely still in there.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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the single most miserable meal i've had was with a couple of misers - and they were french!

can you imagine: they served raclette, and the ingredients were chosen at absolute random, and were bad. the potatoes were half rotten, and they didn't seem to mind. all 10 guests but us were french, too, and they were very very quiet. even the wine was horrible. it was an event that went down in history. almost unbelievable. but true.

the host, by the way, was my wife's boss.


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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I also loved Laurie Colwain's book especially the part about the medieval starry gazey pie.

The absolute worst meal I've ever had looked so strange that I had to ask what is was. The reply, ground bologna and pickles! She actually got out a meat grinder and ground together sweet pickles and oscar mayer bologna. It was then placed on cheep hamburger buns, topped off with cheese whiz, and heated under the broiler. I can't begin to describe the taste.

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I've really enjoyed Laurie Colwin's books too and I agree that Home Cooking is the best. I don't remember the chapter you refer too "Repulsive Dinners" -- I'll have to go back and re-read it.


Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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A friend made us baked ziti, that was so dry and was nothing but overcooked ziti and sauce, mixed together and baked. No ricottas or mozzerella, why even bake it? She offered us extra sauce, thankfully. Apparently she is under the impression this is the way her husband liked it. I've been so tempted to make a proper cheesy baked ziti for them.

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I once dated a guy whose idea of a decent meal was adding some thawed, frozen vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) to a plate of rice, then topping it all with a fried egg and a sprinkling of soy sauce.

Strangely, things didn't work out. :rolleyes:

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At a baby shower at a friend's house--meatballs of a questionable quality of meat that had been simmering in a crock pot full of sweet and sour sauce for hours on end. ick...

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For me, it was a meal taken about fifteen years ago in Varengeville in Normandy. In rather a grand house: the chatelaine was well-connected in Paris. Her daughter, near whom I was seated, was chain-smoking and wearing a particularly cloying scent. We were served fillets of plaice 'dieppoise'. The fish was somewhere between stale and decaying, and the mushrooms were maggoty. This was followed by a soft cheese of uncertain provenance which smelt strongly of ammonia.

An olfactory experience which I still dream about sometimes.

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Went to a party recently where the host served pizza (delivered a few hours prior to the party) still in the boxes and

a crock pot of Costco meatballs simmering in bottled ragu sauce. Luckily he had a Shop Rite cheese and fruit

platter, that I stuffed myself on.


Life is too important to be taken seriously.[br]Oscar Wilde

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The meatloaf, in a standard loaf pan, had a boiled egg in the middle. It had been in the oven THREE hours when the "cook" announced that she was giving it a few more minutes to be sure it was done. It was DONE all right

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Any of the meals I've prepared.


Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Remember 'Soup Starter' from the 70's? Our hosts served us this and some canned asparagus for dinner. The next day, she graciously offered to reheat the soup for lunch. We offered to buy pizza and made it out alive.


Stop Family Violence

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My father managed to overcook the meaty mansize frozen dinners he prepared for me and my sister on divorce weekends in the 70s. Boy were those inedible. I lived during the week with my mother, who was a brilliant cook, so I guess I do consider it someone's else's home. Which raises an interesting question: was the increasing use of frozen and canned foods a good or bad thing for American cuisine? On the one hand, I imagine nutrition improved over the 50s and 60s, but did people eat any better prior to this or was the food equally horrible? I guess if your Mom or grandmother was fresh off the boat, or you grew up with servants and a cook there was some probability pre 1940 that you could concieve of food as potentially sensual.

Also, I will chock up my worst meals at another's home to a few summers spent in the Isle of Wight with my best friend's family. But there was not just one bad meal but multiple ones. Cadbury's dairy milk choclate was my savior in a world of overcooked "homemade" kidney pies, and brussel sprouts boiled for several hours and served saltless.

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We once had a completely salt-free dinner at a college friend’s house. I can only remember the boiled potatoes. Absolutely disgusting.

Said friend later appeared on numerous talk shows as a recovering pornography addict. But I’d known he was a wanker long before.

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Not sure about a single meal, but the worst dish I had, (and I had it a lot) was a babysitter's english muffins, which she buttered in advance of putting into the toaster.

absolutely disgusting.

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My mother-in-law, hoping to make Christmas dinner extra special, served shrimp as an appetizer. She was so excited since she had never served shrimp before. Trouble was, she didn't know the shrimp had to be cooked! We all stared at a plate of raw shrimp with cocktail sauce!

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Does having it in your own home (me as a kid) count?

Because if so, then it had to be the time Mom made chicken feet with "medicinal Chinese leaves" (don't remember the real name, maybe Jin or someone else can help me out here). It was soooooo bad, we ended up throwing the entire pot out.

It was also the first time I had ever had chicken feet...at the tender age of fourteen.

SA

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How uncool :( If you cannot say something good about your hosts, don't even bring it up ................................ that's how I was taught in my preteen days :wink:


anil

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This is the silver lining of the "bad" meal experience--the whole point of "living to tell the tale" -- is that you actually get to tell the tale! That's how I've made it through more than one bad meal--as well as countless other events in life too--like being on two broken down busses in Africa with lots of people and chickens and I can't remember what else . . . in the same day. It's like a mantra--think of the story value, think of the story value.


Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Any of the meals I've prepared.

Amen to that comment. That's #1:

1) I tried to cook something relatively simple, the easiest recipe in the book Cooking for Bachelors, or something like that. Dijon chicken. It came out of the oven looking exactly the same way it did when it went into the oven. Part raw, part Michelin (the tire, not the guide). Followed by ice cream that had been in the freezer too long and had become crystalized. This is why I let other people do the cooking.

2)Aunt Sarah's lasagna, brought to the table with great ceremony. It had a curious chewiness to it. We found a few seconds later, before we had all poisoned ourselves, that the sheets of paper that had separated the slices of cheese (from the plastic pouch) had been left on and baked in.

3) Aunt Sarah's famous saline soup. Originally French onion. At least she remembered to take the paper off this time.

4) Weekend trip to the beach at a friend's house. The entire contents of a huge vat, drained and then emptied on to newpaper on the kitchen table: crabs, shrimp, crawfish, boiled potatoes and old corn-on-the-cob, together in a huge pile, heads and tails and shell still attached, and the victim diners left to fend for themselves. We still refer to the "infamous seafood incident."

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A cook who made a "Chicken Supreme Casserole," but forgot to pre-thaw the frozen chicken pieces (legs, thighs, breasts, etc.), comes immediately to mind.

She started the evening with what she called "Cheese Surprises." The "surprise" was that they became lodged in the roof of your mouth and stayed there. There was no removing them without sticking your fingers into your mouth to pry the things off. My erstwhile hostess said, by way of explanation, "Well, that's why I called them 'Cheese Surprises.' They were originally called, 'Cheese Delights,' and I don't know what I did wrong, but I tried one before you came and it wasn't delightful at all. I had to serve them anyway, because I didn't have anything else to put out."

Now, I submit to you that I received the far richer experience this way than had she offered us a sublime paté. (And, by the way, we never DID eat the Chicken Supreme. At 11:00pm, the sauce was as dry and cracked as a desert riverbed, and the chicken was still not done. It was supposed to be "finished" by flaming with brandy, but instead, we all just ate the rice and vegetables, drank the brandy, laughed our butts off, and then went home.)

:laugh:

PS - I lifted this from my post in the "bad cook coming for dinner" thread. It seemed more appropriate here.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Jaymes, that's a laugh-out-loud riot. Good for your hostess for having the chutzpah to serve the cheese thing anyway, and the grace to laugh about her chicken.

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