I consider myself to be a pretty good cook. It didn't used to be that way, though. When I got married the first time I was 17 years old (young?) and didn't know my way around a kitchen very well.
One of my first disasters was making gravy. All I remembered was that I needed bacon grease, this was from my southern upbringing, and flour. So that's all I used. I stirred flour into the bacon grease. Yum yum yum. Bless my first husband's heart for eating it.
Another disaster came quite a few years later. It was right after microwave ovens came into popularity. I thought I'd nuke me up a batch of brownies. I used a regular brownie recipe and didn't adjust down the cooking time as much as I should have. What resulted wasn't brownies. It was more like.. um.. chocolate looking bricks. The dog wouldn't even eat them. (My kids still joke about those brownies.)
I'm glad to say my finesse in the kitchen did improve. In fact I finally got to the point where I could brag, "I cook like your mother wanted to, and your grandmother did."
It was all about not using recipes. Using common sense. Cooking up old "stick to your rib" type meals like chicken and dumplings with a side of cornbread loaded with so much butter it dripped down to your elbows. I cringe now, sure, but man oh man was it good!
And I never used cisco oil. Oops.. Crisco Oil. (See how clever I am with working in those links?) It was all about the bacon grease.