by Barbara O'Neal
I have an old stove—a dull cream model with ancient electric rings and a black front. It’s serviceable, but little more than that. I hate it when the sun comes streaming through my kitchen window and illuminates the splatters of grease across the control panel and the aged dust stuck to the inner hood. I’m sure I must have wiped it all down when I cleaned the kitchen last night, but it looks like something out of a hoarder’s episode. Dust from the wings of cat-murdered miller-moths mixed with flutters of dog fur mixed with kosher salt mixed with that creeping cooking sludge I can never quite identify. Thanks to the terror of a grease fire in a long ago, much older stove, I’m pretty methodical about lifting the cooktop to mop up any spills, but unless I bought a new pan for each burner every week, they always look battle scarred, too.
And I cook there.
The oven can be even worse. The window is never less than slightly amber-speckled, scarred by casseroles baked in 1992. I try to be careful, putting pies on cookie sheets and the like, but something always ends up spilling over, burning to a black concrete cinder at the bottom of the oven, staying there, growing harder and blacker until the next time I pull out the heavy-duty cleaners. You know, the kind that require elbow length industrial rubber gloves and a face mask and if any of it touches your skin, it starts to sting immediately. Maybe it’s understandable that I don’t get around to this more than every seven or eight years.
Of course, that leads to the bottom drawer. I used to keep lids in there, but no more. It doesn’t matter how many times I wipe it out—there are always more crumbs littering the drawer like the remains of a picnic.
Now, I am not some monster slob of a housekeeper. I don’t like keeping house, but I like things to be relatively tidy (not counting that one kitchen counter—everybody should have one kitchen counter where things go until you can figure out where they really go), and I was assiduously trained in restaurants to keep food things clean. And still that stove, always, always seems to look like that. There is some little part of my 70’s raised woman-self that berates me, insisting that if I were any kind of woman at all, I’d have a sparkling cooktop. And a much, much cleaner fridge.
Still, I want someone to invent a tiny stove-cleaning robot, armed with suds and polishers and brooms, that I can set on the stove every evening so I will awaken to a shiny, ad-worthy stove every single morning.
Is there some task that defeats you? What would you invent if you could?