Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hot Flash

Published in the Miami News-Record on January 31, 2016 

I have a lot of confidence in my cooking and baking abilities and know my way around a kitchen quite well, thank you very much. But last week, I was a hot mess in the kitchen. Kind of literally.

I had decided to boil a chicken for a few meals over the next few days. I wanted a lot of broth so I used my big pot and filled it kind of full. Once the hen got to boiling in her hot tub full of onions and celery, the broth would occasionally splash out a little. I tried to keep things cleaned up on the stove as she boiled, but apparently, I missed some. Okay, like, a whole lot of it.

Since Paul works evening shift now, we eat our biggest meal of the day at noon when the four of us are home together. It has taken some adjusting to and even still I find myself busy with laundry or school or housework, will look up and realize it’s nearly time for Sam to be home from vo-tech and I haven’t started a thing. I guess I’m a slow learner.

And that was the case last week when I looked up from taking down that last Christmas tree. Oh, who am I kidding. That tree’s still up. Anyway, when I looked up from my crossword puzzle, I realized it was way past when I needed to start the chicken pot pie for lunch. I peeled my potatoes and put them on to give boil a little to soften them up before putting them in the pie. I was rolling out my pie crust, my back to the stove, when I heard this “WHOOSH!” sound – you know, that unmistakable sound of something catching fire. Apparently, while I did a great job cleaning the stovetop the night before, I kind of forgot about checking the drip pan underneath the burner and chicken broth has just enough fat in it to be dramatically combustible.

I turned to see my lovely red Guy Fieri saucepan engulfed in flames. You know when you see something you can’t believe you’re seeing and you just stand there in a state of stupefaction and incomprehension as chaos just kind of happens? Yeah. I did that. And suddenly I was transported back to the Home Ec kitchen at Wyandotte High, standing there in my tight-rolled, acid-washed jeans, my bangs reaching to the heavens, while the stove flamed right before my eyes. And in that memory I saw Mrs. Johnson calmly reach for the baking soda and smother the flames like it happened every day of her life. (Truth be told, it probably did. She was a Home Ec teacher, after all.)
My brain kind of did a mental face-slap and I came back from 1988. As I bolted to the cabinet with the baking soda I hollered, “Pauly? Uhm….fire. My stove is on fire. Fire! FIRE! PAUL. MY. STOVE. IS. ON. FIRE.” I don’t think that man ever came up out of a recliner so fast in his life. And as he hit the kitchen he, too, did the whole deer-in-the-headlights freeze. I brushed past him, tossed baking soda at the flames, and we both just stood there staring at the powdery disaster that was now my stove.

 Once the mess was cleaned up I went ahead and continued on with the pot-pie-making. And it would’ve been Paula Deen perfect had I not opened the scoop-y part instead of the shake-y part of the paprika.

At lunch, while poking at it with his fork, Paul asked, “Why is the pot pie goop pink instead of the usual kind of…. yellow-ish color?”

It’s funny how one raised eyebrow can say so much and a query about pink pot pie goop suddenly becomes a non-issue.  It was a very quiet and peaceful lunch that day. 

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