I always love to read those "man-on-the-street" columns in my local newspaper. It seems that frivolous questions rather than weighty ones inspire far livelier and intriguing responses. In the same spirit, I collar friends, relatives, and total strangers to ask them inconsequential questions on culinary matters.

Q:What was your most memorable cooking disaster?

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Pam: Well, it wasn't a disaster but it almost was. Jenny (her daughter) and I made a wedding cake. Even though it turned out fine, the whole process was a heart-thumping experience. We had baked cakes before. But not a wedding cake. It was the scale of the thing and the pressure that made it so hard. We ran out of white chocolate for the frosting on the morning of the wedding. There was only one place where we could get the right kind. Steve (her husband) had to go to get some more. The store wasn't open yet and he had to plead with them to open. When we put the layers of the cake together they were on the verge of collapsing. I don't know how, but by God's will the cake held up through the wedding and the reception. It looked great and we got tons compliments. My kitchen was a disaster area. I spent the whole next day cleaning up and getting white-chocolate frosting off the floor.

Jean: I've never had a real major disaster. The worst I've had is exploding egg yolks in the microwave. That happens sometimes when I cook egg yolks for my dog. Come to think of it, every now and then I have exploding burritos in the microwave, too. If you don't smash the beans, they'll explode. When you hear this popping sound you dread opening the microwave becase you know it's going to be a real mess.  I actually own a book about cooking disasters called How to Repair Food. I've never had to use it; it's more like insurance.