Cooking Catastrophe Stories: Wrong Ingredient Ruined Pudding

A personal account of a cooking catastrophe.


Wrong Ingredient Ruined Pudding


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When I got married summer of 1961, I knew very little about cooking. I had two older sisters who helped Mom in the kitchen, but I preferred to help Dad outside. Mom always expressed some doubts as to whether I would be able to cook well enough to keep a husband happy.

I was determined to prove my mom wrong, so the month after my husband and I were married, we invited my parents over to our house for my first company dinner.

Ready, set, action!

Wanting to make a perfect meal, I pulled out my handy cookbook and flipped through the pages, looking for a menu of foods that didn’t look too complicated, yet would be delicious. I opted for fried chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a made-from-scratch chocolate pudding for dessert.

I set about making the pudding first, so it would have plenty of time to set up. I mixed the ingredients, and I stirred and stirred, but it wouldn’t thicken. Finally, I spooned the mixture into custard cups and put them in the refrigerator, sure they would firm and chill in time for dessert.

Then I prepared the rest of the meal.

Dinner’s ready

The meal was pretty good. Nothing was burnt and nothing was undercooked. Pretty good, I thought, for someone with my cooking experience.

Finally, it was time for my big surprise: the homemade chocolate pudding. I brought the dessert cups out proudly.

Dad and my husband took a bite, and then they both made a funny face. They didn’t say anything, but they didn’t have to – their faces said it all.

Mom tasted it and said, “This isn’t quite right. What did you put in it?”

“Milk, sugar, cocoa, cornmeal ...”

“Corn-MEAL?” Mom asked. “Don’t you mean corn-STARCH?”

I got up and ran into the kitchen to grab the cookbook. I opened it and discovered that my mom was right! I had somehow misread that crucial ingredient and had used cornmeal instead of cornstarch. No wonder it wouldn’t get thick!

I tasted it, and it was horrible. It was like eating chocolate-covered sand. I burst into tears. My first company dinner had not gone as well as I had hoped.

My pudding fiasco taught me a very important lesson, though. Always read the recipe carefully and make sure to have all the correct ingredients before you begin.

No more disasters for me after that!

Jordan, Minnesota