Entertaining Mistakes

It's your worst nightmare: intimate dinner or big splashy event, and something goes horribly wrong. The causes can be legion. The only known antidote: humor & quick thinking.

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Bragg sets bar low, then fails to get over it
Photo: Yasu & Junko

Bragg sets bar low, then fails to get over it

Who: Rick Bragg, author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and University of Alabama writing professor. His most recent book is The Prince of Frogtown.

Result: Spitting peas

I invited company over once for Hamburger Helper. That might not seem like the kind of thing you’d feed company, but setting the bar low has been my culinary strategy for a very long time. I had a skillet. I had a spoon. I had hamburger, and I had Hamburger Helper. Everything was going right until I decided I needed a green vegetable. So I went and got a can of Le Sueur peas and got to thinking, “If you just opened the can and set it on the stove, would the peas not heat?” Bad things happen when you do that. First, the paper label caught on fire. I’m not altogether clear on what happened next—whether the seam opened or the peas just boiled out. But peas and pea juice ran down into the electric eye and began to spit at me.

What now: To turn the burner off on the stove, I had to reach over spitting peas. I didn’t impress anybody that day.

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