We asked readers to share their stories about spice disasters. Any of them ring a bell?
From Christie Findlay: "I went through a soap-making phase a while ago. I used incredible oils, organic herbs, spices and essential oils. I quickly had so many people asking for my soap, and so many new varieties I kept trying, that my entire kitchen was suddenly filled with racks and racks of drying soap. Which probably made it NOT the best time to throw a poolside spring soiree. But I did, and was quite proud of myself for making a gourmet luncheon in a kitchen that had ZERO counter space (thanks to the soap). Until my friend Rachel asked, very sweetly, 'Christie, I love the pasta salad. I can't believe you made it with lavender!' Whoops. I'd grabbed my big stainless-steel soap pot when it was time to boil the bow-tie pasta. My girlfriends all thought I was quite creative but I couldn't eat the stuff. Tasted like soap."
From Laura Trevino: "My first year of college, my roommate (who was from a small town in North Carolina) and I decided to make lasagna to impress some guy she was dating. Since I was 'ethnic' and had a vowel at the end of my name, she figured I would know how to make a good tomato sauce. The recipe I used called for a small amount of cinnamon along with the expected oregano and basil. Unfortunately, the plastic top to the ground cinnamon must've been loose because we wound up dumping in a couple of tablespoons of the stuff, and despite our efforts to scoop it out, the sauce was dominated by cinnamon. Being students we were broke, so there was no question of starting over. So she bravely soldiered on and prepared the lasagna with the cinnamon tomato sauce for her guy that night. They broke up not long after. Not sure if there was a connection, but he barely made it through one serving."
From Elizabeth Kricfalusi: "I was living in Japan and decided to make my Japanese co-workers a traditional Christmas dinner -- turkey and all. I went to Tokyo and spent a fortune on foodstuffs for the feast, including a big bag of sugar. Except it was a big bag of salt. Which I didn't discover until AFTER I'd made the pickled beets, cranberry sauce and ... oh, yes... SUGAR cookies."
From Sherri Eisenberg: "A few years ago, I e-mailed my little brother (who was at Virginia Tech at the time and now lives in Northern Virginia) my chicken chili recipe. He decided to make it for his roommates, but he hadn't done much cooking at that point in his life and so he put in three heads of garlic instead of three cloves because he didn't know the terminology! Anyway, it was apparently disgusting and quite pungent."
From Roz Cummins: "A friend of mine who hates spicy food made a quiche for dinner and she thought she was sprinkling the top with paprika, but it was really cayenne. It was so hot that none of us could eat it."
From Rachel Perlow: "I was trying a new recipe for Passover: Butternut Squash Matzo Ball Soup. Tarragon was called for in another recipe. Since I had extra fresh tarragon on hand, I threw some into the soup at the end, thinking it would lend a fresh herbiness, akin to adding parsley as a garnish. Suffice it to say that the licorice note of tarragon does not go well in Butternut Squash Soup (which, by the way, is fine on its own, but does not work with matzo balls for Passover)."
From Kara Newman: "In high school, my best friend and I got it into our heads that it would be a great idea to cook dinner for our boyfriends. So she found a recipe for tarragon chicken. We thought the chicken looked a little pasty and boring, so we added HANDFULS of tarragon to the chicken and popped it in the oven. When it was done, it was BRIGHT GREEN! Really, truly unappetizing. And, of course, by then the guys had arrived ... hungry. So we hollered upstairs to my friend's mom for advice, and she recommended we tuck it under the broiler, so we did. When we took it out, the leaves had burned and blackened! And we thought the green chicken was disgusting -- black chicken was even worse. But we served it, and to their credit, the boyfriends ate it all. It was a good lesson that with herbs, a little goes a long way."
From Amy Rea: "When I was first married, I decided to learn to cook. I knew how to do a few basic things, but I wanted to learn more. I got a book of pasta sauces as a wedding gift and decided to tackle shrimp scampi. The recipe called for two cloves of garlic, chopped. So I chopped. And chopped. And chopped and chopped and chopped. Finally, halfway through the second 'clove' (surely you can see where this is going!), I got tired of it and said, 'Enough, this will have to do.' It was brutal. Nasty. Awful. And I couldn't figure out why. A few weeks later, I took a cooking class at a local Byerly's (gourmet supermarket) store. The teacher was demonstrating how to peel and chop garlic. Imagine my shock when she explained that what I'd thought was a clove was actually a full bulb, with multiple cloves. No wonder the scampi was so bad.