Expat Foodie: Stupid in the Kitchen

by Miss Footloose

As an ( expat ) foodie, have you ever done something so dangerous, that afterward you’re stunned by the stupidity of what you’ve done?

I like to think of myself as a person of normal intelligence, but unfortunately a few humbling events proved this conviction  to be wrong. One such an occasion took place in Indonesia where for a couple of years I lived the happy expat life with my man and our two daughters: I was stupid in the kitchen. Very stupid. And it involved pumpkin bread, I kid you not. Let me serve up the story of what I did:

Very Expensive Pumpkin Bread

The food in Indonesia is scrumptious, and we enjoy lovely seafood and luscious tropical fruits all year around. But as every expat knows, sometimes you hanker after something you can’t buy or cook in your new expat environment.

So when the holiday season comes around, I want pumpkin bread, which is a traditional American confection I have come to adore. There are many such breads in the USA with fruits and vegetables as part of their ingredients: Applesauce bread, banana bread, zucchini bread, date bread, cranberry bread, and so on. These breads are not actually bread as we normally think of bread — the yeasty variety. They are sweet loaves and have a cake-like texture. In my native Holland we would call them koek.

My own pumpkin bread with raisins

Locating the ingredients

I manage to obtain a can of pureed pumpkin from the American commissary in Jakarta. This was easier said than done since we don’t live in Jakarta, but in the provincial town of Semarang, sometimes referred to as the armpit of Java (because of the sweaty tropical weather). The canned pumpkin and my precious whole wheat flour arrived by plane, carried by my loving husband who on occasion visits the capital for business reasons and then goes shopping for me.

All the above is just a set-up to prepare you for the drama of the story to follow, and possibly as a psychological excuse for my bird-brain stupidity.

So here goes:

In a joyful Christmassy mood (in spite of the tropical weather), I put together the batter for my pumpkin bread. I add ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves — spices that always put me in a holiday high. Who needs drugs, really?

I pour the finished batter in the buttered baking pan, put it in the pre-heated oven and set the timer for the requisite 1 hour baking time. So far, so good. Soon the house smells heavenly, the air fragrant with the scent of spices. About half-way through the baking time I go back to the kitchen to get an even better sniff up my nostrils and to peek through the oven window at how beautiful it’s starting to look. If you are a baker, you will know what I mean. You will know the satisfaction of creating a masterpiece.

So I go down on my haunches and look in the oven. The bread is rising energetically, but horrors of horrors, the gas flames have gone out. This cannot be!  The gas tank has only recently been replaced. I know it is not empty.

I panic!

My precious pumpkin bread is going to perish, collapse from lack of heat. I grab the matches, open the door and relight the oven.

Which explodes in my face.

I’m left with no eyelashes and no eyebrows and I have burned cheeks, hands and shins.

I slam the door closed. The oven goes merrily on burning, saving my pumpkin bread.

Me? Well, I’m spending a sleepless night with ice packs on my shins and hands. The god of gas had mercy and I have no serious burns, but I sure look funny without eyebrows and eyelashes.

NOTE: The shame of it is that I grew up with gas, was lectured by my mother and the entire nation of the Netherlands about the proper way to handle gas. And still I did this utterly brainless thing. Scariest of all is the thought that if I can be this idiotic, what other dangerous things might I do in a moment of insanity?

PS: And here’s another stove crisis, set in Ghana.

* * *

Have you ever been stupid in the kitchen? Do you have the guts to fess up to a brainless deed you’ve committed? No? You’ve never done anything idiotic or dangerous? I am so impressed, but I’m not sure we can be friends now.

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I am sorry about the incident!! That is scary! The pumpkin bread sounds lovely, though!

Perfectly understandable mistake when caught up in the holiday spirit! Thinking of you as I’ve found my first can of Pumpkin Pie filling abroad (after 30 years) and am delighted to look up pumpkin pie recipes. (Maybe I should try pumpkin bread. Ever try making fresh pumpkin pie? I have. Many times. And I’d created many disastrous pumpkin pies because of it!) Bon app!

guyana gyal

I know someone who did that :-O

I can’t top this one, honest.

You have to stop making me laugh so much. So are your eyebrows the “bushy” kind?
Just had to ask.

Scary! You’re lucky that you’re able to make us laugh with that story 😉 About two years ago I thought I smelled gas in our larder, which adjoins the kitchen. But I could only smell it (very faintly) in the larder. Not in the kitchen. I asked hubs if he could smell it too. He couldn’t. But I kept smelling it. The next day and the day after that and the day after that and so on. So after a week I still smelled gas. And hubs didn’t. A couple of weeks later, hubs removed the cooker – I can’t… Read more »

We can be friends! I’m pretty sure I’ve told you about the time I accidentally dropped the foil top of a packet of sour cream into a blender, then hurriedly scooped blended cheese, sugar, eggs, fruit, etc. into a graham cracker pie shell and baked it. Guests were pulling little shards of aluminum out of their pie for ages. I had an oven-proof gas lid on a casserole once and picked it up by its boiling-hot glass handle just seconds after I’d taken it out of the oven, resulting in blistered fingers. Burning the bottoms off pots is another of… Read more »

And….the pumpkin bread looks scrumptious! Is there a recipe?

How nice to find you and your blog again – it is looking great so i imagine the changeover went well. Scary thing to do! I’d worry about losing all. But, talking about scary things I am so glad you are ok after this accident – I once tried to relight the gas grill at the same time as looking inside and was blown backwards with the blast – but not burnt. It was quite frightening enough so I hate to think what you went through. Talking of stupid things to do – I once decided to photocopy my face… Read more »


What? No I’ve never done anything stupid in the kitchen. No, you can’t double-check this with my husband…

OMG!! this is a rather scary story. I am glad that you did not hurt yourself badly..Kitchens are always dangerous places arent they. Lots of cuts, burns, head bumps etc during our life time..It never ends..

Sorry, can’t top this one…
Still shaking with laughter imagining you without facial hair (very efficient).
Though hang on… maybe my sister can:
When I come home after a lovely two weeks in El Andalus I immediately smell smth has burnt in my house. I get on the phone with my sister who stayed there, though AT THE BEGINNING of my absence. She reacts startled: how can I still smell she tried to finish off pre-baked croissants in my micro-wave? Oh well. If that wouldn’t have been the case, my neighbours couldn’t wait to tell me either.

Laural Out Loud

I don’t have any crazy kitchen stories about ME cooking, but I did end up in someone’s kitchen in a rather stupid move on my part. Pisa, Italy, age 18. Made some friends on the lawn in front of the Leaning Tower and WENT HOME WITH THEM to watch a World Cup game. Where they cooked dinner for me and we had a grand time drinking wine. Luckily I was returned in one piece. This is why I will never let my daughter travel alone, lol.

I have learned to use a timer whenever I am cooking. Once upon a time (when I didn’t use one obviously) I was only going to heat up the meat, let it cool and then put it in the cellar. So, I turned up the gas (again this gas), lit it and set the pan on top. About an hour later someone is ringing my doorbell as if the house is on fire. As soon as I opened the living room door I realised he wasn’t far off: I couldn’t see a thing anymore. I had forgotten to set the… Read more »

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