With the Holidays approaching, I bring you first hand advice on how to handle dinner catastrophes with grace and poise, from personal experience.


A classic situation. You only turned your back on the stove for five minutes , and all of the sudden, there are flames and smoke where dinner were supposed to be. The hardest and most important thing is to take a quick second to think. This is no time to react without thinking, trust me. My sophmore year, when my pot roast caught on fire (long story short, I was trying to brown it), my roommate impulsively grabbed the pot and shoved it in the sink, and when she turned on the cold water…yeah, you guessed it. Flames shot up to the ceiling (and left burn marks to prove it!). Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Moral of the story: DO NOT POUR WATER OVER AN OIL FIRE. Instead, cover the pan with its lid, or a baking sheet. If the fire is large, I would go straight for the fire extinguisher. If you can’t put it out yourself, it’s okay. Call the fire fighters. If the fire is electrical, cover with salt or baking soda. NOT LIQUIDS! It’s good to keep a spare pack of salt and baking soda in an easy-to-access spot in the kitchen, just in case. Consider it a very cheap kitchen accident insurance.


Either you just realized you don’t have enough chicken to go around, or the green beans for the nicoise are moldy, or your pot roast turned into boeuf flambe (see above). I’m not a big fan of the scouts, but I do agree with the motto: be prepared!

That’s why I always have a backup plan. At all times, you can find in my kitchen:

  • one or two boxes of pasta – served hot with chopped garlic, olive oil and parsley as a side dish. Or squash, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil, and call it “pasta primavera.”
  • some kind of rice – it takes a while to cook, but a little rice goes a long way. Goes with most any meat, fish, veggie and sauce.
  • homemade broth – not enough meat to go around? Toss it in a big pot of hot broth, cook briefly and call it soup. Add pasta!
  • canned tomato – last minute pasta sauce, or salsa, or bruschetta topping, these life savers will never go bad!

Of course, it never hurts to think of a back up plan the day before dinner, and maybe spring for a few extra ingredients, just in case.


Oh boy. We’ve all done that one. Unfortunate gas passing, spilling drinks, dropping dishes, you name it. One that sticks in my head is the first “real” dinner I hosted in my college apartment. Fancy japanese crackers and reisling were provided before the food was ready, and everyone was enjoying the evening so far. I was elated that everything was going so well. When I pulled the chicken out of the oven, everyone oohed and aahed. I was gleaming with pride, until I presented the bird neatly on the table, lifted the knife, and…nothing. I’d never carved a bird before, and had no clue how to do so.

I stood frozen, staring at the bird, knife in hand, perhaps wishing it’d just carve itself. Thankfully, after a couple awkwardly quiet minutes, a guest stood up and said: “Here: I’ll do it.” We all joked that he got to be the “father” for the evening. My boyfriend looked up chicken carving videos on youtube, and we all had a good laugh over the whole thing.

For the record: when you have done something embarrassing, excuse yourself. Then, if your guests found your blunder funny, laugh along. You may not see the humor in it right away, but if anything, you might have broken the ice! If your guests are as mortified as you, show them that you’re in control. Mop up the drink, quickly throw the ruined food in the trash, sweep up the broken plate before they can help you. Smile, joke that no one was severely harmed, wink, and carry on like it wasn’t a big deal. The bigger fuss you make over an accident, the more awkward.

There you have it! I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions about kitchen disasters, I’m your girl! Just leave a comment or send me an e-mail at violainthekitchen@gmail.com.  Happy Holiday planning!

With love,

– Viola –