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Dolly Merritt: Cooking catastrophes

Turkey and ham and mashed potatoes, oh my! From Thanksgiving table to Christmas buffet, holiday feasts are characteristic of love, family and plenty of work -- not that I haven't enjoyed creating a memorable dish or two through the years.

Still, despite decades of golden brown turkeys and perfectly seasoned stuffing, it's the cooking catastrophes that seem to stand out the most.

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There was the time I had baked my usual pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving that was served but not savored.

My daughter's new in-laws were invited to her home for a holiday meal and I made the dessert.

The father-in-law and mother-in-law began eating their pie politely -- though quietly -- as my husband took his first bite. It was his last after blurting out, "What's wrong with this pie?"

At first, my daughter was embarrassed and pretended there was nothing wrong with the taste.

But I soon realized I had somehow put in multiple tablespoons of ground cloves. Yuk. Apparently, I had been distracted while cooking. I never was a multitasker.

So much for impressing the in-laws.

My daughter still likes to tell about the "potato mixer-aster." I was making whipped potatoes at her house using her new luxury mixer -- unlike my portable standby -- when the spuds spun out of control, landing on the walls, ceiling, and my face and hair.

Unfortunately, I had lifted the moving beaters from the bowl, creating my own whipped potato wonderland.

Another time, I was preparing the turkey with all its trimmings while my family looked forward to enjoying their favorite foods. Ultimately, they were hovering like hawks around the kitchen while I kept checking the oven. The turkey had shown no signs of being done. Too many hours later, I discovered the problem. The oven's temperature gauge was broken.

The turkey was sliced, microwaved and served with the overcooked vegetables. No matter; we were starved after the long wait.

A few years ago, a "disaster" of a different kind developed. Since my daughter and I alternate holiday meals at each of our homes, it was her turn to host and I was to bring the traditional stuffing.

It took me the usual couple of hours to cook the vegetables and mix the ingredients. The finished dish was stored in the refrigerator until the next day when we would leave for our 2½-hour trip.

In the morning, my husband and I packed the car and drove about an hour away from our home when I realized, much to my horror, I had left the stuffing in the fridge. All my moaning and groaning would not coax my husband into turning the car around.

After notifying our daughter, I could sense her disappointment.

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"What!" she exclaimed. "No dressing?"

So what's a mother to do?

We stopped at a grocery store on the way to her house and picked up all the ingredients we needed.

When we arrived, everyone pitched in to peel and slice, yielding the "perfect" stuffing in record time.

With a long string of such mishaps, I know not the fate of this year's Christmas feast.

What I do know is this:

There will be love, joy and lots of laughs about cooking catastrophes of Christmases past. May there be many more memorable celebrations.

I wish each of you the same.

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