Sunday, May 15, 2011

True Confession: Panicide

I confess.  I did it.  It was my fault.  I did not act out of anger or hate.  It was neglect and I am sorry.   A photo of the victim is below.  It is graphic and if these types of things bother you perhaps you should stop reading right here.

Give us the facts, Ma'am.  Just the facts.  I had a few raw peeled potatoes sitting around in water in the refrigerator.  I had a made a venison stew a day or two before, and had not used all the potatoes I peeled.  So I decided to chunk up the spuds and boil them.  My plan - innocent enough -  was to mash them in their cooking water and use them to bake some yeast bread.  (Mashed potato adds moisture to bread dough and helps with keeping qualities.  I may be careless, but at least I am frugal.)  I put a few inches of water in the pan, added the potatoes and brought it to a boil.  Turned down to a simmer or at least I thought I did.  Covered the pot. And then -- this was where I went wrong -- I strayed.  Stopped paying attention.  Started a load of laundry.  Opened the snail mail.  Swept the floor.  I just forgot all about the potatoes.  Until I smelled the acrid smoke.

OH NO.  Not again.  How bad was it?  This bad.
I will miss my two quart pan with the copper bottom. 

This is not the first time I have committed culinary incineration.  In the past I have managed to scour away the stuck on carbon.  Sometimes my husband has helped.  He has tools in his shop that can rehab the destroyed inside of a stainless steel pan.  But not this time.  This poor pan had come back from Frank's pan hospital just a week or two before.  It was not fair to the pan to attempt heroic measures and to put it through such suffering again.  So I declared it dead.

I am still grieving but I am moving on.  I will work hard to prevent panicide from ever happening again in my house.  But I can't promise it won't.  That's the way it is in a busy home kitchen.  Stuff happens.  Food burns.  Sauces curdle.  Roasts dry out.  Pots boil over.  Knuckles get grated.  Cakes fall.  That's what makes it so exciting when everything turns out fine or even great.  If it was so easy to get perfect results every time, being a good cook wouldn't count for much now, would it?

So if you are on the cooking road and disaster happens,  don't get discouraged.  Press on.  Say you are sorry and learn from your mistakes.  Enjoy the daily opportunities for small triumphs.  A bowl of perfect oatmeal.  A fresh salad glistening with a simple vinaigrette.  A plate of pasta with sauteed asparagus and green garlic from your CSA box.  A poached egg on toast with creamed spinach on top.  A chunk of corn bread with melted butter and honey.  The possibilities for success are truly unlimited.  So honor those dead pans and fallen cakes by staying in the game.  You'll be glad you did.


  1. Make cranberry sauce in it. That has save my pans in similar situations.

  2. Cover the bottom in a layer of baking soda. Add a little water and bring to a boil. Continue to cook at a rolling simmer and then scrub with steel wool. Repeat. Sometimes several times. Has never failed me!