A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“Lawyers talk how doctors write” (5/28)
“Find someone who makes you feel the same way music does” (5/28)
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Entry from October 31, 2014
“I could burn water” (i.e., I can’t cook)

A bad cook burns the food, but an epically bad cook “can burn water.” “Cpl. Agarn (on the television comedy F-Troop—ed.), who can burn water, becomes the troop cook, with hilarious results, for the benefit of O’Rourke enterprises” was cited in print in 1966. “"He said I was the only person he knew who could burn water when we married, but now I love to cook” was cited in print in 1968.


19 March 1966, Leader-Times (Kittanning, PA), “TV Log: Tuesday Television Program,” pg. 3, col. 2:
9:00 (4) F Troop
Cpl. Agarn, who can burn water, becomes the troop cook, with hilarious results, for the benefit of O’Rourke enterprises.

Google News Archive
20 March 1968, Miami (FL) News, “Famous Last Words: ‘I Won’t Marry An Actor’” by Joan Nielsen McHale, pg. 2-B, col. 7:
“He said I was the only person he knew who could burn water when we married, but now I love to cook.”
(Kamala Devi, wife of actor Chuck Connors.—ed.)

Google Books
This Is a Recording
By Barbara Corcoran
New York, NY: Atheneum
1971
Pg. 133:
When he came in, I was fooling around with Katherine’s Melitta coffee pot, which makes marvelous coffee and is really quite simple except that I am not very adept in the kitchen. My father says I am the only person he knows who can burn water. (That’s a family joke.)

Google Books
Her Man Friday
By Marie Ferrarella
New York, NY: Silhouette Books
1993
Pg. 89:
Her mother had once commented that she was the only person Rita knew who could burn water. “You were right, I can’t really cook.”

Google Books
Down the Rocky Road
By Jra Sablotna
New York, NY: Vantage Press
1993
Pg. 271:
Cindy was the typical modern wife — she could burn water.

Google Books
Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles:
Confessions of a Rainforest Biologist

By William Laurance
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
2000
Pg. 35:
Her only real deficiency was cooking; she seemingly could burn water, and her carbonized sandwiches were fast becoming legendary.

Google Books
Front and Center
By Catherine Gilbert Murdock
New York, NY: Graphia
2009
Pg. 91:
“Just when you thought you’d recovered from Schwenk cooking.”

Brian laughed. “Oh, please. You have no idea. I would eat here every night— seriously. My mom could burn water. And my dad. . .”

Google Books
In the Time of Bobby Cox:
The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me

By Lang Whitaker
New York, NY: Scribner
2011
Pg. ?:
Put her in a kitchen, she could burn water, undercook cereal, blacken air.

Google Books
Where Petals Fall
By Melissa Foster
World Literary Press
2013
Pg. ?:
“Gosh, I wish I could cook. I could burn water.”

Mercury 24 (Weston, Worle & Somerset, UK)
Is Carl the UK’s worst cook?
Thursday, October 23, 2014
8:40 AM
COOKS so hopeless they could burn water are being celebrated, with one Weston househusband aiming to take home the national award of being the country’s worst chef.

Twitter
Phil Matthews
‏@MPhilmcfc
My wife’s legendary inability to cook has manifested itself yet again with inedibly burnt cheese on toast! She could burn water!😊
6:57 AM - 25 Oct 2014

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, October 31, 2014 • Permalink