A couple of weeks ago, I laughed out loud when I saw the Dairy Queen “Sweeter” Vest on CBS This Morning, and I knew that I had to have one. I immediately went online to order one and they were already sold out. Though disappointed that I couldn’t order this goofy sweater vest (especially when it likely turned out to be more of a marketing ploy than actual merchandise), I was happy for the laugh, especially since it wasn’t at anyone’s expense.
It seems that most things that make us laugh are at the expense of another’s misfortune. We tend to laugh when someone is socially awkward in some way. In silent films, the funniest scenes were when someone slipped on a banana peel, ran into a door, or in some other way did something that would make them feel embarrassed.
People also find it funny when someone does their best but ultimately fails or “falls on their face.” I have fallen on my face in many areas of my life.
For example, I’m a terrible cook. I love cooking, but it is not intuitive for me. Some of my most embarrassing moments have been associated with my cooking.
When our son brought his then-girlfriend (now spouse) home for dinner for the first time, he prepared her for my cooking by telling her, “When Mom cooks, it’s a lab experiment.”
A glutton for punishment and foolhardy at best, when we have guests, I usually try new recipes because I want the meal to be special. Everybody knows not to do this. I can’t resist.
There was the time when I invited a colleague I really wanted to impress to dinner. I was going to roast lamb accompanied by mint jelly, as I had read that mint jelly made the dish extra special. I’d never had lamb before and had no idea how it was supposed to smell as it roasted. As the roasting progressed, I became more and more distressed by the intense and unusual aroma. Luckily, I had a chicken that I could roast.
Upon entering our house, my colleague gleefully exclaimed about the aroma of the roasted lamb and said roasted lamb was her favorite dish. As I placed the roasted chicken on the table, my colleague asked about the lamb that she had smelled. When I told her that I had thrown the lamb in the trash because the aroma made me think there was something wrong with it, the look of shock on her face indicated that I had certainly made an impression…just not the one that for which I had hoped. I can laugh now.
On another occasion I invited a colleague and his family for Sunday dinner. They had two young children who were impatient for dessert because they could see the beautiful pound cake on the sideboard. They were excited when I told them that there would be ice cream, as well. I was excited about this cake because I used the recipe from a dear friend who made the best pound cakes ever. As we grown-ups ate my very, very dry cake in silence, their 5-year-old screamed, “This is the worst cake I ever taste!.” I can laugh now.
Even when we were not having guests, cooking a meal was never routine. I had a library of cookbooks, collected favorite recipes from friends, and even had an onsite tutorial from a friend on how to make the best brown gravy.
My best dishes were by accident. I would make a dish that was praised but would have no idea why the dish turned out the way it did. Invariably, wanting to replicate what was previously praised, I would try to improve on it when I made it again. Apparently, I had been successful in pleasing our son on a simple dish—green beans. Trying something new, I added whole green peppers to the green beans to spice them up. Unfortunately, if one were not paying close attention, one could have both green beans and peppers on the end of one’s fork. When our son got the pepper surprise, he abruptly stood up from the table, threw his napkin down beside his plate and asked accusingly, “Why did you have to ruin them?” I can laugh now.
My husband never wanted to hurt my feelings about my cooking, but I knew when the meal was an ordeal for him. On these occasions, while holding his fork with his right hand to eat, he would have his left forearm on the table with his fist clenched tightly. During one of these fist-clenching times, after taking two bites of one of my “lab experiments,” he looked at me with the saddest expression on his face and in a soft plaintive voice said, “Hon, I just can’t eat this.” I can laugh now.