Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You Burned Whose Nuts?

I nearly burned down my friend's kitchen today. She said she's been wanting a complete makeover, with new cabinets, and countertops, but lacks the funds to do so. I had joked with her awhile back, that I would try to have a cooking fire in the kitchen to aid her cause, since she pays a handsome price for homeowners insurance.

One night she had told me, she was miffed that they raised her insurance policy premium substantially, because she had been robbed a few years ago and filed a claim. (It wasn't me, I don't do robberies.)

I had heard the idea from a friend that told me how embarrassed and horrified he was, when on day one of a house sitting job, he burned down the owner's kitchen while they were overseas on an exotic vacation. When he explained to the owners what happened, instead of being mad, they were delighted because they had been kicking around ideas for renovating the kitchen anyhow. This simply forced them to get on with the project right away.

Early this evening, I was cooking dinner for four people in their kitchen. The homeowner was still at work. She loves coming home to relax, while I prepare and serve dinner, plus, I do all the cleaning up afterwards.

I had tossed a handful of pecans into an iron fry pan, to lightly toast them, on her electric stove. Because the nuts have oils, I had not used any cooking oil in the well seasoned iron fry pan. Once toasted, I wanted them to have time to cool, before adding them to a salad. Meanwhile, I was assembling my other ingredients and herbs on the counter.

Her electric stove has a red light to indicate when it's on or when it's hot. So even if you turn the stove off, the red light is on, until the stove cools off. I am used to propane cooking, so it's been a tad hard for me to convert to electric stoves. A nanosecond glance at a propane stove top, and you instantly know if it is on or off. Not true with electric stoves. You must read those tiny dials.

My cell phone rang. I was expecting a call I needed to take. I turned the stove off, walked outside, then around the house to the side garden to take my phone call in private, leaving one adult in the dining room and another on the back deck.

About 15-20 minutes later, I went back to their house to resume cooking. Imagine my horror, when I was greeted at the front door with the acrid odor of burnt nuts.

The owner was now home, sitting in her easy chair, sipping a cocktail, as she hurriedly explained how she parked in the garage, opened up the kitchen door and it was full of smoke! She was hollering "The kitchen is on fire!" but apparently, no one heard her.

One person was babbling on the phone in the dining room about 6 feet away with her back to the kitchen. Incredibly, she claimed not to smell the stench, nor see the smoke wafting around the dining room. Worst of all, she didn't hear the panicked owner screaming "The kitchen is on fire!"  (Rumor is, that person was into the liquor cabinet since breakfast. )

I didn't hear anything, because I was at the far end of the yard,in the side garden, on the opposite side of the house, which had no doors or windows open, so I didn't smell anything either. The person on the deck sometimes oscillates between realities, not always cognizant of immediate current events. They chose to say nothing at all about the whole scenario, but appeared extremely grateful, albeit surprised, when dinner later showed up at the table.

The owner, upon seeing her kitchen drenched in stinky smoke, ran to the sink, turned on the water, then ran for the stove, saw the nuts burning up, tossed the iron pan in the sink, smothering it with water. Then she dashed around opening up windows, setting up fans and trying to clear out the smoke. Someone made her a cocktail, then I arrived, having finished my phone call.

I entered the closed front door, standing there, smelling the stench, feeling like an idiot, and apologized profusely. I felt sorrier than a two dollar watch. I sure thought I had turned the electric stove off, but I must have turned the knob the wrong way or just dreamed I turned it off. I have no idea. I felt about 2 inches tall.

Since the owner appeared in a good mood, despite the fiasco, I continued with "Honestly, I don't know WHY you put the fire out, I thought you told me you needed money to renovate the kitchen! If you keep putting out my fires, we'll never get insurance to pay for your new cabinets."

She got a good laugh out of this (or else the cocktail was awfully good.)

I tried to collect myself, enter the kitchen and resume cooking with about as much confidence as a 20 foot snake crossing an 8 foot road during rush hour.

Searching her cabinets, I found some vinegar, poured that in a large bowl, setting it in the middle of the kitchen. The vinegar eats the burnt odors.

Rattled from my gaffe, I often use plain old water to calm myself down again. So I opened up the cabinet, to get a glass, to fill with water to drink while soothing myself back to the task at hand. Out of nowhere, popped a tiny shot glass, which shattered quite loudly on the counter and floor in a zillion pieces.

I poked my head around the corner, to where the owner was still reclining with her cocktail, only now she was rolling her eyes heavenward. I cheerfully announced, "I'm trying a new method of cooking, just ignore that little bit of noise."

I swept up the mess, washed the counter, threw the wash rag in the dirty bin. I drank the water, trying to get myself centered again to resume cooking.

Eventually dinner was served, by a nut, with a nutless salad, only 3 minutes late, without anymore disasters.

Why no, I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every moment of it...

Mango Chicken Pineapple Salad (minus the nuts)
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