The Twilight Zone of the Holiday Kitchen
By Kathy Reschini Sweeney, who believes
Let's start by setting forth some simple truths: I don't cook. Sure, I prepare food, I order food, I serve food and heaven knows I truly enjoy food. I even watch Food Network. But I don't like to cook. I make a significant exception - at the holidays, I spend a lot of time creating edible things. I shop (I am very picky), I prep, I sift, slice, mince, zest, simmer, boil, and bake. I have a special affinity for all things cranberry as well as sweet or savory breads - zucchini, ginger, pumpkin, corn. I have kitchen tools made especially to complete these recipes. I don't like other people to touch them. I also don't like when people don't put the knives in the correct knife block. But that is a set of neuroses for another day.
To me, one cannot claim to be a real cook unless one combines several ingredients and uses an electronic device other than a grill, microwave, or open fire (see, s'mores).
So much for the preamble. Every year, I take over the kitchen for Thanksgiving. I have a very ambitious schedule because I have three different Thanksgivings which call for my participation. Deviations from the schedule are not welcome, and usually involve some kind of liquid fortification.
Merrily, I rolled along on Tuesday and Wednesday, making the cranberry sauce and the cranberry butter. I baked the pumpkin bread and ginger bread - some with a new twist of dried cranberries (I would like to say this was driven by some health-related epiphany, but the truth is when you buy dried cranberries at Costco, you get about forty pounds and no one should eat that many of anything.)
The second batch of pumpkin bread was baking quietly, when suddenly, it was a holiday mash-up. The 4th of July was taking place in my oven. No kidding - it started out as something that looked like a sparkler, then morphed into a multi-colored display of shooting sparks. Lovely, but not what one expects. I turned off the oven, opened it (hey - I had to save the bread) - performed a standing high jump of Olympic caliber in order to avoid burning my face off - and then whisked the bread out and slammed the thing shut.
Did I care what happened to the appliance? I did not. I called my bf Robin to see if she had a free oven, packed up the partially-baked bread and hustled over to her house to finish baking it. (That worked, by the way - but I wouldn't try it with yeast breads just saying).
When I returned with fragrant loaves in hand, I took a look in the oven. For some reason, a piece of the protective coating had fallen off the heating element (that is that wiry thing at the bottom of the oven that glows red when the oven is hot) and the fibrous part of the element was exposed. One need not be an electrical engineer to determine in very short order that there would be no baking until it was repaired. Now, I know people - lots of people - but no way in hell was I calling anyone at 10 pm on Thanksgiving eve to repair a stove. Honestly, I feared the stove had a reaction to me touching it - a rare thing indeed unless there are cookies involved.
Then Ty and I started to finish the cranberry butter, which involves putting the cooked mixture in a blender. Not 60 seconds later, we picked up a smell that did not belong in the room. The blender was smoking. Not weed- that's illegal- just regular smoke. We only had a couple more minutes to go, so we skated on that thin ice and just kept going. We laugh in the face of danger here, do we not?
We were able to finish liquifying the cranberries, but the blender, she didn't make it. I'm not an arc welder, but I don't think there is a way to straighten out metal gear-like parts once they are melted into a blob.
And because things come in threes - I am not making this up - the microwave, haven for the hungry who have neither skill nor patience - stopped making the beeps. It worked, but did so in silence, as if in tribute to its fallen comrades.
There is a happy ending, thankfully. We found George from Same Day Repair, and he fixed the oven on Friday morning. We were grating the zucchini before he was even out of the driveway. Ty and I were a virtual ballet of baking - four hours later, we had six loaves done. Hallelujah!
As a post script, in between the zucchini breads, I was melting butter for another recipe, and - brace yourself - the microwave suddenly recovered its voice - beeping jauntily when the butter was done.
Cue the music from the Twilight Zone.
Is it just me - or do any of you have kitchen disaster stories?