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The Kitchen Virgin dishes!
Author and humor columnist Susan Reinhardts latest book explores years of kitchen mishaps
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Susan Reinhardt discusses her kitchen mishaps and gives a few tips on how to survive the kitchen in her latest book, "Dishing with the Kitchen Virgin."

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Susan Reinhardt talks about her mother's cooking antics through the years.

Now, most Southern women pride themselves on what masterpieces they can create in the kitchen - secret recipes abound and "the way grandma did it" is always the law of the land.

But for author Susan Reinhardt, her Southern cooking heritage has always needed more help than what grandma could give.

For example, at the tender age of 15, Reinhardt and sister Sandy decided to try their hand at an anniversary cake for their parents.

"Growing up, my mother would always try to get my sister and I in the kitchen to teach us to cook, but we didn't want to learn; we would rather play outside," Reinhardt said. "My first attempt as a cook was when I was 15 and it was their anniversary, and we decided to make them a cake."

And when the duo tackled the icing, that's when things went very wrong.

"Once it got to the icing, we were going to do it from scratch and it called for egg whites," Reinhardt said. "We thought, the only thing white is the shell, so we boiled the eggs and we chopped up the white part and put it in the cake. Naturally the cake didn't look too good, chocolate with little egglettes coming out of it. We scrapped that cake."

And from these atrocities is where the inspiration for "Dishing with the Kitchen Virgin" was born. The book, which was released in May, is a collection of stories, culinary nightmares and dining disasters.

"Dishing with the Kitchen Virgin" has chapters with titles such as "There Are No Pot Holders in Heaven," "If the Baby Comes Early, Blame it on the Ham" and "When Road Kill Meet Mikasa."

"I had written two other books and I knew I needed to write something really funny to lift me and other people who need a good laugh out of the blues," Reinhardt said. "Crazy things have happened to me in cafeterias and with cooking and I have a chapter on ‘dude food,' because guys will eat anything."

Reinhardt is also the author of "Not Tonight Honey, Wait 'til I'm a Size 6" and "Don't Sleep with Bubba."

In Chapter 1, "There Are No Pot Holders in Heaven," Reinhardt explains why her mama is so excited to walk into those pearly gates.

"Well, my mother, she can't wait to die for two reasons: one, she'll get to meet Elvis and Jesus in that order," she said. "And two, and she'll get to hang up her pot holders forever.

"Even though she cooked, she didn't like it either; and growing up we had a small-town newspaper in LaGrange, and there was always a cook of the week. And for 11 years we lived there, my mother was never asked to be the cook of the week. She says it didn't bother her but we think it did."

So, as Reinhardt grew up, got married and "popped out a couple kids," the cooking torch, as she called it, was passed to her.

"When you are young you get to eat without doing much but bring the rolls," she said. "I got stuck with Thanksgiving, Lord knows, like all virgin cooks I cooked the turkey with all the junk in it. But here's what I decided - I decided that nobody would know, and you try to get the house real clean."

For Reinhardt's first experiment, she prepared a roast in a Crock-Pot and headed to work.

"The first time I had to cook for my in-laws was a few months after I got married," she said. "What can go wrong in a Crock-Pot? It's the one thing, other than the microwave, I use the most.

"I was at work and had a panic attack. I got to thinking as they were hooking me up to all the little EKG devices, ‘Oh my gosh, I've got a roast in the Crock-Pot and my in-laws are coming for their first dinner. If I have a heart attack they will think I just made it up to get out of cooking.'"

Reinhardt then quickly refused services from the hospital and served a dry roast to her in-laws. Not too long after that, she was tapped for Easter lunch.

"When you have a mother-in-law like mine, look, she expects you to deliver that ham," she said. "She doesn't care if you deliver that baby. So I was sitting there in labor, hauling out spiral hams and all the fixin's, while she brought over the rolls. I had to even cook through labor."

Don't worry - several hours later Reinhardt delivered her baby girl.

But Reinhardt said her 10-point code of ethics will always ensure your guests think you are the hostess with the mostest.

"The first thing when they ring the door bell, you hand them a glass of wine," she said. "So they think everything tastes good and you take their glasses, so that they can't see any left over dirt in the house. Keep them slightly buzzed so that when they eat their turkey and dressing they just exclaim how wonderful it is."

But not every recipe has come out bad for her, and she has included in the book a few that worked out well. For example, there's Tuna Helper on Life Support along with Dusty's Chicken, named after former LaGrange football coach Dusty Mills.

Dusty's Chicken, a recipe made famous by Reinhardt's mother, made a real impression at a church potluck supper.

"My mother, she puts her dish at the front of the line so it will get eaten," Reinhardt said. "But one time she made this chicken and it was dark, dark, dark black; it looked like it had been in an inferno, and nobody was eating it.

"It wasn't burned chicken, it was the sauce they used; and that is actually the best recipe in the book."

Tuna Helper on Life Support was created from Reinhardt's ability to cheat while cooking.

"My best cheating recipe is to take Tuna Helper and put it on life support," she said. "Once you've cooked it, you throw in some broccoli florets and then you coat it with a lot of mozzarella cheese and nobody will even know it's Tuna Helper."

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