Thursday, March 19, 2009

Foodie Friday - Trainwrecks In The Kitchen & A 'Catered' Trainwreck On The Rails

If we had remembered to take the camera on our family vacation in the winter of 1995, among the photos tucked into our album would be one that looked something like this...

Yes, we were passengers on a train that was involved in an accident. A real photo of this unfortunate event wouldn't have looked quite this bad, because mercifully, the train we were riding on didn't derail. (My husband 'posed' some of the trains and vehicles on his model train layout so I could take a picture for this post.) It was however, a very serious accident, because it involved a fatality. We were traveling on Via Rail Canada between Quebec City and Montreal when the driver of a car chose to ignore the warnings at a grade crossing. His attempt to beat the train cost the man his life. In a matter of seconds, our vacation took a strange and very distressing turn.

As soon as details were available, train personnel fanned out through the passenger cars and stopped at each seat. In hushed tones, they compassionately explained in French and English what had just occurred, and apologized in advance for the inevitable delay that would ensue. An investigation by authorities would have to be completed, debris needed to be removed from the undercarriage of the train, and inspectors would have to check for damage to the operating systems before we would be allowed to continue on our way. They also told us that food service would commence shortly.

Food service? Now I must explain, that in 1995, even on short journeys like the three hour trip between Quebec and Montreal, Via Rail included meals in the price of the fare. We had already been fed, so we were uncertain as to what 'food service' meant. It became apparent as soon as carts began to roll out of the kitchen.

Following the same instincts that drive us to put on the kettle, and pull out a coffee cake when tragedy strikes at home, the kitchen crew bowed to the fact that food is the great comforter. They must have raided every cabinet and refrigerator quickly, because soon an array of sandwiches, cheese and crackers, fruits, desserts and snacks flowed in a steady stream from the galley. Coffee cups were silently filled and refilled and food was graciously offered, while we sat on an elevated section of track where the train had come to its unscheduled stop. Everyone in our car was unusually quiet, as we watched the emergency vehicles come and go on the streets below us. Sipping hot drinks and nibbling cookies gave some of us time to reflect upon the unfortunate accident. Others used the time to offer silent prayers for the person who had lost his life.

Gradually, the passengers began to break their self imposed silence by sharing stories about where they were from or why they were travelling. We had the opportunity to share the details of our stay at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec.The college girls across the aisle talked about visiting their friends, while others spoke about business meetings or seeing family. The gloomy atmosphere in the train lifted a bit. Food and drink hadn't changed our situation, but it did provide a familiar and comforting touch when it was most needed.

Finally, after a few hours, we were able to resume our journey. When we reached Montreal, we said good bye to the people who had shared our experience. We knew we'd never see each other again, but our brief time together in a stressful situation had connected us in a unique manner.

Looking back on the happy, sad or frightening experiences in our life, it seems that food was always present. It has helped us to celebrate or mourn, and in situations like the train accident, it sooths, but sometimes preparing food can be the source of some pretty weird stories, laughter, and both good and bad memories.

Disasters in my kitchen are not common, but there have been a few. I did drop a pineapple upside down cake upside down on the floor. A road construction project near our home in Connecticut necessitated blasting through some rock, and unfortunately the explosion occurred in mid cake flip. I was so startled, that the pan, the cake dish and the cake flew out of my hands. Our dog, Gretchen, who was the very definition of the term 'chow hound', immediately dove in to the mess on the kitchen floor and badly burned her mouth and tongue on the hot sugary syrup! It took a few buckets of hot soapy water to clean the floor, and I had to keep filling the dog's water bowl with cold water and ice cubes!

There was also the episode of the shrink wrapped banana cake. I baked the cake, left it in the pan and gave it a good layer of frosting. I had to run out, so I covered it with plastic wrap and hid it in the oven so our cat Sullivan wouldn't attack it while I was gone. I forgot about the cake, and at dinner time, I lit the oven. After several minutes at 350 degrees, the cake was hermetically sealed in a Pyrex baking dish. The family cried when I threw it away. I cussed when I tried to get the melted plastic off of the baking dish.

You can read about my biggest kitchen disaster in a post named The Cat And The Griddle that I wrote last July. It's about a breakfast adventure that no one in our household will ever forget. Click here to read the full length version. Once you read it, you probably won't forget it either!

Hopefully I've whet your appetite for strange food related stories and disasters. If you'd like to read more, pop over to Designs by Gollum. Michael Lee is the special lady who hosts Foodie Friday, and she's got Mr. Linky up and running to direct you to participating bloggers.

(Photo of the Chateau Frontenac was taken by Bernard Gagnon and is subject to the GNU Free Document License per Wikimedia Commons.)


  1. What a fabulous post Nancy Jane!! Great stories!

  2. Nancy jane what a touching story and you are so right we do eat for comfort alot of the cake in the bowl had me laughing girl..I have done things like that..too funny thanks for sharing and HAPPY FOODIE FRIDAY to you dear friend...hugs and smiles Gl♥ria

  3. Oh, this was fabulous in every way! What a super post! It truly captures how food is part of the human experience.

  4. Hahahaaa;....just loved all of this!
    Great post..

  5. what an ordeal! wow. you tell a great story girl...felt like we were there!
    funny how food always gets itself in there some how!

  6. What a great story! I loved it all. Thanks for sharing.

  7. It was a fun read! My dad was an engineer and endured his share of wrecks which did not have a happy ending and none with food.

    Food does bring us closer together and is a great comfort.
    Great upside down cake story on the flip:)!!!

  8. Great post.... my grandmothers were both of the mindset "if something is wrong or bad or"...yet they were both slim!


  9. Hello! I love that most of us can easily relate to each others' struggle with cooking and the outside influences that add to the mishaps!

    Happy Friday!

  10. Food is our comfort . . . . what an experience.

  11. That poor banana sad! Oh, love the bunny plates in the previous post....what a deal - so beautiful! Linda

  12. Oh my! I bet none of us expected a real "train wreck" story! Thanks for the share!

  13. Okay, I didn't realize we would be sharing a real train wreck, but food is a great comforter. I had the "leaving food in the oven experience" one to many times. I went back to your "Cat" story and that is hilarious - I was feeling your pain! I peeked back at your bunny dishes. I hope they have some at our Homegoods or Marshall's - our TJ's moved away :(. I hope you have a great day! ~ Robyn

  14. Fantastic post! It's true, food does seem to be the comfort of choice during a tragedy. I keep picturing the really upside down pinapple upside down cake - can't help it, I'm cracking up. And the cat story - oh my goodness, what a morning. Thanks for the big giggle this morning. Kathy

  15. What an amazing experience you had and one that certainly included every emotion. You retold it so well!

  16. Thank you for sharing this story, Nancy Jane. You're obviously a good storyteller!

    It's always amazing to see how people react during stressful circumstances -- and how food really is a great comfort!

  17. Great's amazing how a tragedy brings people together. As far as starting the oven and forgetting you have something inside is one I have done too many times!!

  18. Nancy - Just read your Cat and the Griddle lol You must be a saint, I'm not sure I would have been as composed and I KNOW there would not have been more pancakes made!!
    (EVER) Thanks for the great story!!

  19. What a great story. I too believe that food is of great comfort sometimes. It would be fun to know what everyone's idea of comfort food is? Mine? A jar of peanut butter and a spoon!

  20. What a story, and as far as I know, the only one of us to post a REAL train wreck. A sad and scary experience, but you are right -- we do turn to food for comfort, for social interaction, for showing love and concern for one another.

    When guests are coming, what do we think of first? "What will we serve?"

    It's an ancient ritual; I can imagine a hospitable cave woman wondering which massive joint of meat to serve her visitors!

    Thanks for visiting and commenting; I like your writing style too! Best ... Cass

  21. Oh boy I enjoyed this post!! Reading about the train trip was interesting because I've never experienced that.

    However, I just had a good laugh about your pineapple upside down cake...partly because my husband is in the commercial explosives business. Your dog diving in made me laugh because that would most definitely happen here at our house.

    I'm off now to read about your biggest misadventure. Thanks for the laughs.

  22. Hi Nancy Jane...You know how to tell a GREAT story! I just returned from reading about poor Sully & pancakes...You should submit some of your stories to Reader's Digest or some ladies' magazines...your writing is that GOOD!
    Oh, btw...if we ever get to go back to Quebec City...I must stay at the Chateau is beautiful...we did walk through the lobby...LOL ;-) Bo


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