The tale of little burnt cabbage

After laughing my way through Po’s tale of how she nearly burnt down her house with a loaf of wholewheat bread, my own little story of arson popped into my mind like one of those annoying but persistent door to door salespeople who wants you to buy a pile of socks that you don’t need and will never wear anyway.

My culinary skills are legendary for being non-existent. Yes – they are on a par with my sewing efforts. And you all know how that ended, right? I mean: you’re looking at someone who has a milk splatter … on the living room ceiling! (I won’t go into that right now…)


Anyway, back to my tale of woe and thick smoke…

When I was about 18, my parents found themselves back in the UK and we actually went home from boarding school at the weekends. During that time, I was active in the local drama club and was rushing to go out to rehearsals. My parents were out that particular afternoon, and my mother had left some sausages on a plate and some cabbage in a saucepan.

The sausages were black and one lick told me that they were inedible, so I promptly put them into the bin. (Sorry, mum!) It turns out later that they were supposed to be black as they were blood sausages – some kind of weird Scottish delicacy made out of the innards of animals. (Is it any wonder I became vegetarian?)

soypups_both_wAnyway … next to the saucepan, my mum had left cooking instructions. As you might have guessed, I was unaccustomed to the foreign art of cooking as at boarding school, everything was served up to us.

I followed those instructions to the letter.

1. Turn the stove on to medium heat.

2. Boil cabbage for ten minutes.

3. Eat.

Well, I have a confession to make: I never did  manage to obey that third instruction. Yes, I turned on the hob and then left the cabbage boiling for ten minutes. As I hopped out of the shower, I was faintly alarmed by the acrid smell of burning.

When I entered the kitchen a few minutes later, I was shocked to see clouds of thick, vile black smoke coming out of the saucepan! And were those actually flames?!

I whipped the pan off the hob and put it down on the side – promptly causing the formica work top to buckle and crease up like a deflating souffle. (We had to hide that deformity when we sold the house by covering it up with a rather large kettle…)

I then moved the pan into the stainless steel sink where I averted any further danger by turning on the tap. The smell of burnt cabbage and burnt saucepan were indescribably awful. Then, I did what any dutiful daughter would have done: left the mess in the sink and waltzed off to drama rehearsal!

Would it surprise you to know that my mum was furious when she got home? So furious, that she just couldn’t talk to me when I returned. I don’t think that my explanation helped things either.

You see: I did – quite literally – follow those instructions. Nowhere on that piece of paper did it say that the cabbage actually had to boil in water. Nowhere did it tell me that I had to “add water to cabbage before boiling”. And if you try to boil cabbage in a dry saucepan, then guess what? It catches fire and burns!

That’s what happens when you go to a school that offers you the choice between Latin or cookery.

No guessing which subject I chose!

18 thoughts on “The tale of little burnt cabbage

  1. You’ve inspired me! I need to work on my story of kitchen disasters – much like yours there was smoke and a lack of water. Unlike yours it also included toxic fumes and a sequel. *sigh*


  2. HEE,HEE…
    I would’ve presumed to boil you would need water…
    I guess you now have that smae presumtion!
    Well as My Son regularly reminds me aftera misdemenour…
    Like eggs in my handbag!
    You gotta make mistakes to learn.


  3. Mwahahahahaha! Classic. Eeeuw the smell of any cabbage is foul, never mind burned cabbage!

    So really, the milk splatter on the ceiling…?


  4. YUP! Who knew that you need water to boil things in, eh?

    Yes, I know Mum is reading every blog… Does she read the comments too though? Hi Mum – just in case you’re reading!


  5. OH PaddyK: this site is INSPIRED! It tells you that you have to take labels off tins if you are going to put the tin into boiling water and even to make a hole in the tin so it doesn’t explode. Just the kind of step by step guidance that I need… It takes it for granted that I have zilch knowledge… Wonderful!


  6. HAHAHAHAHA…uff, I am really trying hard to laugh with you and not at you here but it’s a bit difficult…boiling usually does require water yes…hahahaha….bet you have never forgotten that since? Guess I won’t be stopping in with you for dinner… hahahahaha….


  7. ha ha! I didn’t remember that story either.
    As for your comment about Latin- my beef (!) with you ladyFi is that I chose to do cooking at school, but got dragged out of it after a few weeks and made to do Latin because you were showing signs of promise in that language.
    And you know what they say about Latin- Latin is a language as dead as dead can be. First it killed the Romans and now it’s killing me!

    The fact that I ended up doing Latin ‘A’ level is highly irrelevant (I hated geography more). Where would my life had been if I had stayed with cookery?!!!!


  8. Hahaha…good story. I too have similar incidents like yours, was distracted from cooking by a phonecall and when I was so engrossed with the phonecall, I smelled something burning. Arghh, there goes my dinner, so I have to call hubby to buy takeaway food back.


  9. Ha! I have a similar talent level when it comes to cooking. When I asked my mom for her lasagna recipe, I told her to make it extremely detailed – like, start out with “open the fridge and take out the cheese” etc.


  10. I won’t go there. I mean the disasters in the kitchen, mine and others. You know how in the theater – at least here in the Colonies – one cannot say “John Barrymore” without risking the author to leave in mass even if the play is in the middle? Well, we just don’t talk about cooking misses around here. I was teaching cooking in a past life and we were doing a charitable dinner to raise funds. It was a small dinner party, 16 people. 5 courses with appropriate wines and so forth. So I spent about a entire day making stock, and another half clarifying it. Google it. To clarify stock you need an amount of patience I lack in my DNA, but I struggled and did it. It was gorgeous. Clear as a clean piece of glass, it was a work of art.

    To save time I had set to the side of the stove a bit of cornstarch and water already diluted to add to a sauce that was to be served with the second course. As I was prompting the plates with the corner of my eye I could see one of the people who were “helping” dump the entire container of cornstarch and water into the clarified stock. Nothing you can do at that point except either kill her or pretend the soup was supposed to be a mess of incomprehensible color with bits of lobster floating on top.
    It tasted great but I never clarified stock again since.


  11. Sounds like you and I should attend a remedial cooking class together! I took Latin too..but I did struggle through Home Economics without so much as charring anything. Charred is good isn’t it..I seem to make a lot of it:)


  12. LadyFi, you will need to ask Mum about her similar story with burnt potatoes when she was a child and got engrossed in a book. She went round to a neighbour for help and ended up mashing them to disguise it! (her parents were out).
    P.S Fi- happy birthday!!


  13. I remember that about a week before my wedding I was making dinner for my family and my fiance. I was exhausted from all the wedding prep and sat in the recliner while the meatloaf was baking. Next thing I knew it was burnt. I cried and cried–clearly being overwhelmed and overly emotional.

    My mom, ever the optimist, said, “Honey, don’t worry. No one will even notice. Just call it Cajun Meatloaf.”

    I think that solution works for a lot of thing. If at first you don’t succeed, rename the project to fit the results! LOL!

    (visiting from BPOTW!)


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