You may think I was cute at two, but look at that tea party next to me. It’s a harbinger of things to come. Clearly, from the very beginning I wasn’t cut out for a career in the kitchen. I couldn’t even set up a simple child’s tea party. No wonder I’ve set the kitchen on fire.
The first time (yes, yes, there was a second time—and a third) I was just a teenager. I was making cookies and I forgot about them. I was watching TV when I whiffed the air--sniff, sniff—shoot, I thought. They might be a little crispier than I like. So I went into the kitchen, getting a little more nervous when I saw the smoke. When I pulled open the oven door and flame shot out over the top of the stove, plus up the back of it along the wall, well, I kind of froze. Well, not completely. I remember quite vividly blowing a couple of times, like one would at candles on a birthday cake. And well, to be honest, that did absolutely nothing.
So I buckled down and invited my mom to join me in the kitchen. And maybe my voice inspired my three siblings to come in too. Just for fun. To see what was up. That of course just made things worse. A bit of chaos broke out about then.
“Should I go get Daddy?” I asked my mom.
“YES!” Her tone told me I might want to hurry. She also had the sense to shut the oven door, which was open and feeding the flames with oxygen.
My dad was in his music studio practicing his violin. When I opened the door and kind of mentioned there might be a fire in the kitchen, man, did he jump to it. His violin flew into the case, he dashed out—probably prompted to believe I wasn’t kidding by the black smoke billowing in through the doorway around me—and he flew into the kitchen. He knew what to do because he’d been building the house for a couple of years (yes, it was a brand new house) and knew every nook and cranny of his masterpiece, and how that stove had just recently been installed. Under his wise guidance, we all grabbed oven mitts or towels and heaved the offending appliance up and out of its place, through the dining room, over to the French doors, and outside on the deck to let it burn itself out.
After it was all over, when the smoke had cleared, the insurance agent called, and the heap of steel cooled down, out of the oven we pulled what used to be a cookie sheet, now a black slab of charred metal. Where each of the cookies had been there now was a carbonized lump of ash. Much like the ruins of Pompeii after Vesuvius rained down and fossilized everything in perfectly formed soot. And that had been a favorite cookie sheet. It always made the best cookies. Well, until that day. My nose knew. The cookies would be a little overdone that day.
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