A friend of mine wrote to me over Christmas, and described her year in review as the year that she broke up with her boyfriend, her dog died, and she’d had a root canal. But, she added, if she was looking at it through my eyes, she’d say she now had the opportunity for unfettered dating, she could travel without worrying about finding a kennel, and she still had all her original teeth.
I laughed. Who wouldn’t!
I confess to a certain relentless optimism at difficult times. Often life hands you awful situations where you can either laugh or cry. I’d rather laugh, pretty much every time! Which is why, after a certain recent kitchen incident, I like to say that I learned two things that evening. One is that the batteries in the smoke detectors are still working. The other is that baking soda really DOES put out small fires on the kitchen stove.
I’ve been juggling quite a few simultaneous disasters lately involving family members more than a hundred miles away, and between all the driving and the worrying and the shopping and the hard labor, my brain hasn’t been as sharp as a tack all the time. And so I think I can be forgiven for forgetting to clean up right away after a pot of something boiled over on the stove a couple of weeks ago when I was home briefly for a pit stop.
The spill was totally forgotten until two nights ago, when I set the electric coil of the near front burner on “high” to boil up some water to start a stew. The coil started to smoke, so I removed the pot and turned on the hood fan, thinking the smoke would dissipate quicker. A few seconds later, I noticed a flame the size of a match start up in the drip pan.
Again I “took the long view”–no need to panic, it was sure to burn out in an instant. But it didn’t…and a few seconds later the flame was bigger.
I turned off the burner. The flame grew to lick three inches above the burner. And I finally started to ponder my options, at about the same time that one, and then another, smoke detector went off with ear-piercing urgency. Water, I knew, was surely a bad mix for an electric burner and grease. I could use the fire extinguisher around the corner for the first time in my life, but I was pretty sure I’d end up with a bigger mess to clean up. But eureka, I’d read years ago somewhere that baking soda was good to dump on a small fire.
I grabbed the box of baking soda from the cabinet next to the flour and the sugar, tossed a handful toward the flames, and pfffffffft, they were gone instantly, as though I’d waved a magic wand. Well, don’t you learn something new every day!
The distant emergencies have quieted down for the moment, I’m starting to regain my groove at work and at home, and I’m looking forward to the arrival of a card table full of teenage boys at my house in a few days to watch the Superbowl over chili and Swedish meatballs. I’ve already started to scrub all the drip pans on the stove. And when I get to the grocery store later today, I’m buying a bigger box of baking soda.