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Worst meal at someone's home - Part 1


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What a fun thread. Thanksgiving Dinner is under control and I have had the most amusing break!

First, my Mom hates cooking. She is pretty good at baking and has a couple dishes that are pretty good, but, basically she used a lot of canned soup, little seasonings, etc. One memorable dish was something she got from Weight Watches, back in the '70's called "Skinny Spaghetti". Take several cans of French style green beans, drain a little and place in a 13 X 9 pan. Cover with browned ground beef seasoned with a tiny bit of that dry minced onion and a little pepper dust. Cover with sauce, which is canned tomato sauce, sprinkle with a tiny amount of canned dried oregano, and cover with square slices of imitation or diet American cheese squares. Bake till bubbly and lightly browned.

Luckily, she let me take over a lot of the cooking at a young age. :smile: Although, that was a challenge as Dad didn't like things with much seasoning. That has changed a bit and they both like my cooking. These days, they also eat out a lot.

My worst meal though was a Thanksgiving Dinner. My boss's (and a long time friend) then girlfriend asked me to dinner. I was living in a Southern city and it was the first year I wasn't going home for Thanksgiving. Her Mother cooked most of the meal. I had asked what I could bring and she promptly replied " a congealed salad would be nice". After finding out what it was, I made a Jello cranberry mold my Aunt had always made. It is pretty good and the only Jello dish I like. Raspberry jello, you add some cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to the dry powder, then the boiling water, and when ready to add fruit, you add some chopped fresh cranberries, apple, and orange. And, as I was really into baking then, I offered to bring some rolls.

The meal was awful. The turkey was dry and had a bizarre taste I couldn't figure out. I had never had dry turkey before that. Or not that dry. The dressing was made with some homemade venison sausage. I can't describe how bad it was. The mashed potatoes looked like nothing I had ever seen. They had a very shiny appearance, and were a very strange shade of grey white. They were half potatoes, half cooked mashed turnip. With margarine and skim milk, since that appeared to be the milk of the house. No salt as someone couldn't eat it. No pepper. These were on the table. The famous green bean casserole with canned greenbeans and generic soup. The onion rings on top were actually one of the tastiest parts of the meal. Candied yams which I despise under any circumsances. Iceberg lettuce salad and some add your own bottled (generic) dressings on the table. A rosey pink congealed salad with miniture marshmallows (the half the bag that didn't get used on the yams). I ate a few bites of everything to be polite, played with it and filled up on my Jello and a roll (large, warm and good, even with nothing on them as there was a tub of margarine on the table). I got away as soon as I could decently do so. I have never accepted an invitation to a holiday meal where I haven't tasted the main cook's cooking prior.

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Worst meal: My aunt cooked up some CANNED SALMON PATTIES for me when I was a child, and she forced me to eat every last nasty bite. I was afraid to try real salmon until I was well into my 20's as a result. I don't even remember being served any side dishes--just these stringy, gray-ish/pink-ish, foul-smelling disks that gave me gastro-intestinal issues for days.

This reminds me of what was probably the single nastiest dish my mother used to make, with alarming regularity, when I was young: salmon loaf (made from canned salmon, of course) topped with creamed peas (basically an almost unseasoned roux--which sometimes came out so thick as to be almost solid--with canned peas added). For the curious, it was more or less like a meat loaf, except made with canned salmon. I'm not even much of a fan of canned tuna, but this crap....thirty years ago, at least, it was truly vile (perhaps the process has improved over the years :wacko: ), and they always left in the vertebrae, which my mother, in turn, left in. So I would gamely be trying to choke down this mush, chewing it half-heartedly, when suddenly my teeth would unexpectedly crunch some little chalky discs of salmon vertebrae.....

This dish and several others almost as revolting are the reason I thought I just didn't like most food until I left home to go to college.

My mother wasn't actually a bad cook, either. But most of her efforts admirably reflected her philosophy about food, stated to me years later while discussing her bewilderment at my obsession with good food: "For me, food is just a necessity to be taken care of. I eat only to stop the physical sensation of hunger."

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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So I would gamely be trying to choke down this mush, chewing it half-heartedly, when suddenly my teeth would unexpectedly crunch some little chalky discs of salmon vertebrae.....

This dish and several others almost as revolting are the reason I thought I just didn't like most food until I left home to go to college.

I clearly recall that when I was a child, we had a cat that would carefully set aside the bones of the salmon in its dish, eating the rest. I don't recall what happened to the bones in the people salmon.

After I left home, I recall coming back and opening a can of salmon. After I had been picking it apart for a few minutes, my mother told me not to throw away the bones, to give them to her. I was, oops, sorry, I ate them already. :laugh:

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I've enjoyed this thread so much, even down to the queasiness that came with reading some of the MIL posts. My own bad food experiences aren't so extreme, but they haunt me just the same.

- "boiled dinner" at my childhood best friend's house: stringy chunk of beef, half a carrot, many potatoes, no salt or other seasonings; salad of iceberg lettuce and sliced bananas. It was the first time in my life that I thought to myself, "I'd rather be hungry". (My friend went to university and said of the residence cafeteria: "I've never eaten so well in my life.")

- dinner at the house of the prof for whom I was a TA: she called us 15 minutes before we were due to arrive and asked us to bring a salad. No problem: we arrived with a green salad and bottle of wine. She had prepared enough ratatouille and rice for two delicate eaters and proceeded to serve most of it to one person, while the remaining five of us had a little spoonful of each. She stashed our nice bottle of wine away in a cupboard and offered us the dregs of a bottle of "El Toro" red that was sitting on top of her fridge. It was rancid and warm, but my partner drank it anyway, hoping that once it was gone she'd open up our bottle. She didn't. She also didn't serve our salad, and kept my salad bowl until the end of term, when after I got my final paycheque I finally asked for it back.

- I didn't have to eat his food, but I knew a guy who got sick EVERY TIME he cooked. I finally understood when I saw him "marinate" chicken in plain vegetable oil, then lick his fingers ("mmm, magnifico!"). I also once saw him make "bolognese sauce" with some ground beef of dubious age, one button mushroom and a bottle of red table wine. That's it: no salt, no tomatoes, no onions or garlic. Mind you, he was the English boarding school type.

- also, now that my mother has gone crazy, any recipe she picks up from her church lady friends: sweet-and-sour casseroles that start with a can of tomato soup (we're CHINESE, for chrissake, and she's a very competent Chinese cook), underbaked bread puddings made with hot dog buns and margarine, napa cabbage salads with canned mandarin oranges and broken ramen noodles on top... Am I the only one whose childhood memories can't be replicated because of an actual decline in the cooking, rather than the power of nostalgia?

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I am not sure if this would qualify as the worst meal I ever had, but my mother used to make this absolutely disgusting stew thing with alarming regularity. It consisted of canned tomatoes, sliced zucchini and summer squash, and chunks of ground beef--no additional seasoning, all dumped into an electric frying pan and cooked until the beef chunks turned grey-brown. I believe american cheese was added at the end. It was truly awful--watery, greasy, and bland. Funnily enough, my co-worker also lists this dish as the worst thing her mother cooked too, so the recipe for it must have appeared on the back of the can of tomatoes or something. I am happy to report that my mother's cooking has gotten much better over the years.

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Am I the only one whose childhood memories can't be replicated because of an actual decline in the cooking, rather than the power of nostalgia?

My own mother's cooking took a huge slide after I went away to college. She switched from cooking everything from scratch from the best quality ingredients she could buy to incomprehensible shortcuts (canned mixed vegetables?) and fat-free substitutions, like whipped unsweetened fat-free evaporated milk for whipped topping. (It tastes just as good, but it's fat-free! No, it doesn't, it tastes like dishwater.]

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When I first moved to New Hampshire I got invited to a co-worker's new trailer for dinner. We watched WWF before the meal, then sat down to a microwaved jar of Ragu sauce put through a strainer to remove the chunks, over spaghetti (not pasta). It was served with parmesan out of the green shaker can, along with a BIG glass of milk. Vanilla ice cream for dessert. That was it.

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My worst was about 20 years ago, when I was living in Boston. Some friends of a friend had recently moved to town, and invited me to dinner. When it started blizzarding I called to beg off -- since I didn't have a car, and getting to their place would involve a good half-hour's slog through the snow -- but they were clearly offended, so I wimped, and said I would come. Got there to find their boiler was broken -- no heat. We sat in the freezing-cold kitchen, all wearing our parkas and scarves and mittens.

For reasons that were never made clear, they had recently opted to strip all fat from their diet -- a fact they had neglected to mention ahead of time. Dinner was a large bowl of steamed and completely unseasoned broccoli, which rapidly chilled in the sub-zero temperature of the kitchen. With this I was given a small spoonful of undercooked and still crunchy brown rice and an unfortunately large spoonful of a truly unpleasant condiment with the texture of phlegm. (I have since realized it was natto.) As a salad, there was a bowl of canned, undrained beansprouts. I had brought a bottle of wine, but it went unopened in favor of blessedly hot green tea, which all of us swilled compulsively both for the warmth and to choke down the meal.

For ambience, they played a recording they had made -- during a recent sojurn of do-goodery on a reservation -- of Native American chants. It was a very long recording. :huh: It was a very, very long dinner. And I never saw them again. :smile:

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Does anything beat being invited over to a friends house for brunch on a Sunday and he forgets to tell his wife? They have two kids, a new business and lots of pressures and time restraints. My wife and I brought a bottle of Veuve....

He spent ten minutes (in the bedroom) calming his wife down while we drank coffee (brewed in a really cool Starbucks percolator). The scrambled eggs and sausage with toast were good (four eggs, eight sausage and five pieces of toast)...

The Champagne helped a bit. He is still one of my best friends and they are stilled married.

Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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These are hilarious.

My father tells about how he went to eat at an army buddy's house and the wife was a horrible cook. He said everything was either burnt or raw, the only thing edible was a plate of sliced tomatoes with salt on them. Then, she brings out dessert which was 'fudge'. He was afraid to try it, but says he did and it was pretty good so he asked her how she made it. She said she just melted a bunch of hershey bars and poured them into a pan and cut them when they solidified again. Ahhhh

My mother went to a peruvian friend's house and they served cow lungs to her and my stepfather. She says the worst thing was that the hosts were eating steak because they didn't have more than 2 cow lungs and since they are a delicacy, they decided to let the guests have them. ICKKK

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Sibling rivalry at its best – Mom ALWAYS (had to) work, long before it was en vogue. I learned to cook so that she wouldn’t come in the door at 5:30 after a long day’s work and Daddy asking, “What’s for supper?” So, I decided right then – what can be so hard. I can do this. So, I started cooking.

Decades later, and an untold fortune on cookbooks and magazines, I’m a pretty good cook. I go home on weekends when I can and cook Sunday dinner.

My sister, who is a “home-maker” who doesn’t cook, clean, or whatever. She decided to cook gumbo. and told me not to worry about Sunday dinner. She put on the chicken and vegetables before we left for church (not a hen or anything, plain old chicken that doesn’t take long to cook). She boiled the damn thing 2 hours. After church, she took great relish to serve us. You should have seen the look on my Daddy’s face when he was served. :blink: (It did make a “plop” noise when it hit the plate.)

We tried to eat it the catfood, and she thought it was delicious. She actually shared her secret to the recipe with me, “Just boil your chicken 2 or 3 hours” (which means until it is in stringy threads) to get a good rich broth." :unsure:

Daddy, not known for his diplomacy, said, “Do us a favor and don't cook this for us again,” as he made himself a sandwich. :laugh:

Edited by NolaFoodie (log)
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Many of the worst meals that I've ever been served have been at the hands of my father. In his defense, he's usually an OK cook. Everyone other than me is entitled to their off days.

I remember sitting down to a steaming bowl of chili. He had spiced it so heavily with lord knows what that one bite immediately left me without the use of my taste buds. I'm not exagerating even a little bit.

I also remember once, as a child asking for spaghetti. He was missing serveral key ingredients but, rather than admit defeat, my father cooked up a very special dish. Pasta & tuna fish in a provocative sauce composed of tomato soup and ketchup.

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Oh! How all of you shame me--how can I possibly compete? One of my favorite consistently "worst meals" is at the home of a beloved cousin. She just doesn't know how to cook--no matter what she does--and the whole non-fat/low-fat thing doesn't help either (we must start another thread on that!). Favorites include: ice block coffee cake, freezer burned brownies with internal ice crystals (lest there was any question), frozen challah, frozen cookies (I've acquired a taste for these) and salad with glutinous non-fat Italian dressing (you know the kind--it's yellow and there are flecks of red and gray stuff suspended in the yellow stuff and it makes noises when you squeeze it from the bottle). There are other specialties of the house -- the meat is always overcooked beyond recognition -- and those fresh baked products most usually are too (perhaps it's better that we get to eat the others frozen?) but the saving grace is that we get to see the cousins and it’s never inconsistent -- so we always know to eat something before--and after each visit. :wink:

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Oy. That sounds horrible. I guess I've been lucky in this regard. I don't have any relatives outside my immediate family (my parents are both only children) and my friends who do entertain (which are precious few) can generally cook pretty well.

My one golden rule about eating at someone else's house is that I will at least make a show of eating a little of whatever they're serving -- even if it's something I absolutely despise, like eggplant. When I was a little gigantic eyeball, I used to spend the night at my best friend's house fairly frequently. Breakfast was always very wet, runny scrambled eggs. Yuck! I can remember my friend's mother remarking to mine that I was such a light eater. My mother kept her mouth shut... but just barely.

--

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OMG: I just realized that I WAS THE ONE who cooked the worst meal I ever ate at someone else's house. (Not counting the one I describe on the new worst-low-fat-meal thread.)

When my mother died unexpectedly, my sister came east from California. She stayed at Mom's apartment, and I came over every day to work with her on cleaning out the place, and to cook dinner for the 2 of us (and sometimes also HWOE). One night, after thawing out the 2 (kosher) hamburger patties that had been frozen wrapped in waxed paper only, I had to stretch them into enough for three; I suppose I did the sort of horrible "individual meatloaf" thing we grew up on, and probably used canned mushrooms for a gravy. I know I made baked potatoes -- except I forgot to puncture one of them. So while we were eating our (mostly iceberg) salad as a first course, we all heard a muffled thud. Just the sound of a potato exploding all over the inside of the oven, as we found out when it was time to serve the next course.

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I was a young lad, very recently in the US, in my first year of college, when an article I wrote for the college newspaper attracted the attention of a professor. The article had something to do with my experiences in the erstwhile USSR, and this professor found me one day at the newspaper office, and invited me to dinner at his home. He said he was fascinated by my experiences, and wanted to hear all about them.

I'm tempted at this point to write that the professor turned out to be a cannibal, and I was slotted as the main course -- or better yet, a side dish -- but that would be a lie. It was actually far worse.

His house was cavernous, sternly decorated with a degree of neatness that can only be achieved through a lack of things to strew about. The rooms were dark and gloomy, and echoed slightly. Nothing looked sat-on. The man himself was tall and wan, with a slight quaver in his voice. His wife was the same, as I recall. Their daughter was pretty, and her unexpected presence made me severely self-conscious. I don't recall sitting down anywhere but at the dining table.

As we ate, we took turns speaking. There was much throat-clearing and coughing. There were protracted silences during which I could hear food being chewed. About half-way through the meal, there was a deciding moment, after which the evening coalesced into an unmitigated disaster. That moment occurred after the professor revealed the true purpose behind his invitation: he was hoping to recruit me as a speaker at some upcoming Amnesty International meetings.

I had to ask him to explain what Amnesty International was -- as I mentioned, I was pretty fresh off the old boat, and AI was not exactly on every Soviet's lips back then. He explained, adding, "We're particularly interested in any insight you may have, as a first-hand observer, into the Soviets' use of torture to intimidate incarcerated dissidents," or something to that effect.

I looked at him uncomprehendingly, and said, "We don't jail or torture dissidents. That's Western propaganda."

That was the deciding moment I spoke of earlier.

Anyway, when we sat down at the table (a large black polished slab more suitable for a board room), before each of us was a small heap of iceberg lettuce leaves on plates. Bottled dressing was passed. After the salad was dispensed with, "Daddy" excused himself to "cook the steaks". Some time later, the "steaks" arrived. They were thin and cooked to the point of curling into small leathery bowls. There was nothing else on the plate. Evidently, the potato or pea had not been born that was worthy of sharing the limelight with "Daddy's" "steaks".

My politics have become more informed since those days, and I concede I may have been a tad inaccurate on that "we don't jail or torture dissidents" bit, but my assessment of that meal has not changed. It sucked bad.

--

ID

--

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In-laws seems to be a common theme here, so I might as well chime in. A quite recent meal that I somehow can't forget:

Heart-shaped slices of seriously overcooked ham topped with maraschino cherry sauce (I think there was a good dose of cough medicine in there too).

"Cheesy potatoes": shredded potato baked with velveeta (I didn't even know they still made that stuff) and a whole lot of Miracle Whip

Apricot "salad": mile-high fluff colored a shocking hue of peach-orange, studded with tiny marshmallows and hard little nubs of dried apricot

the piece de resistance, what will always be known to myself and my husband as (I hope this doesn't offend anyone) "Apples in Jiz Sauce" .... bec. it looked like apples chunks floating in, well.... :wacko:

Have you ever wondered if it's possible to screw up a fruit salad? Affirmative. My brother-in-law, tucking into his third helping with a sigh of contentment, asked his mom for the recipe, and here the secret is revealed: apple chunks in a "dressing" of sugar, water, flour, and cornstarch." "It's an Amish recipe," she said. Well, correct me if I'm wrong but the Amish were never known for their way with fruit salads.

The in-laws are very good people. But they serve very very VERY bad food.

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This thread has to be one of the most entertaining things I've read in a long, long time...

I made my own worst meal. Was trying to impress the man I was dating with a salt-encased roast. Neither my own cooking skills nor the power of my oven were up to the job and, well, I don't have to describe to this crowd what it was like.

He actually put some in his mouth, chewed, and (some minutes later) swallowed and called it good.

Of course I married him. :wub:

Been trying hard to make up for it ever since, but haven't had the nerve to try that dish again. "Salt Meat" is still a family joke. :raz:

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On a third or fourth date, a new romantic interest decided to cook dinner in her tiny studio apartment. I should point out that I'm a bit of a food snob.... She made a stir fry, though, so I wasn't too worried.

But the stir fry consisted of: waaaaay overcooked vegetables, close to half a bottle of soy sauce, oregano, curry powder, and worcestershire sauce!!! I made up some excuse about having stomach problems and choked down a mouthful.

Turns out she was a big proponent of chaos theory and anarchy. (I won't get political here except to say that these ideas have no place in the kitchen.)

Although I should have known better, it turned into a four-year relationship with two cross-country moves. The cooking issue was always a big one; she was offended that I didn't like her cooking.

Gawd, I'm glad that's over.

amanda

Googlista

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This thread has to be one of the most entertaining things I've read in a long, long time...

I made my own worst meal.  Was trying to impress the man I was dating with a salt-encased roast.  Neither my own cooking skills nor the power of my oven were up to the job and, well, I don't have to describe to this crowd what it was like.

He actually put some in his mouth, chewed, and (some minutes later) swallowed and called it good.

Of course I married him.  :wub:

Been trying hard to make up for it ever since, but haven't had the nerve to try that dish again.  "Salt Meat" is still a family joke.  :raz:

:laugh:

Welcome, HollyB!

 

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Tim Oliver

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Wow, I can only add a small anecdote to those that have come before. My worst meal was at my aunt's house, which had a serious aroma that presumably came from never being cleaned. Dinner was pot roast, made without seasoning. No salt, no pepper, and none provided. Vegetables were potatoes and carrots, both unpeeled. The carrots were absolutely inedible and had infused the rest of the dish with serious bitter, yucky flavor. As this was a birthday party, we were served cupcakes that were fine on top but had almost totally uncooked bottoms. Scary.

Walt

Walt Nissen -- Livermore, CA
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  • 2 weeks later...

Do you ever see those "bon-vivant" chefs with a glass of intoxicant in their hand while they cook? Well, back when I was a student and was away from home the couple with whom I was boarding with decided to invite me to a meal. I was told to return after work with an appetite.

The food was interesting in that the theme was alcohol. It seems that there was a need to splash whatever they were drinking into whatever they were preparing at the time. It went from white wine in the ceasar salad, red in the soup, scotch on the roast and brandy in the dessert.

It may have worked, except that they would switch drinks after having had finished off (or just about) the resepective bottles. Naturally, the attention to detail decreased with each subsequent course.

I had a great time, since with the great wine and the added EtOH I really didn't care.

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This just happened to a friend of mine. Someone came to visit, statyed a few days and offered to cook a meal. Said he would cook his 'specialty' fettucine alfredo. His version included no cream, and instead took a thrify approach and made a huge amount of roux with flour--and oil. Added a little milk and some canned parmesean cheese. Tossed in to make it primavera style were canned mushrooms, canned corn and canned green beans. The resulting mix of wall flour paste and canned vegetable became... voila! fettucinin alfredo al primavera... My friend said it was literally difficult to eat while trying at the same time to stifle a gag reflex with each bite...

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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