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Gill was complaining recently about what passes for an oven in her flat. It was, from the way she describes it, an appliance left over after the Roman conquests. Funny, it has not won the battle for Gill’s heart. The only redeeming feature is that it is gas.

Two years ago, after much niggling from Crazy D and Gill, I purchased a new gas stove for my kitchen…stainless steel, all the bells and whistles, fancy hood. I had used an electric stove for years but decided it was time to upgrade. Oddly, my acquisition of good equipment was in direct contrast to my interest in cooking. But it will be a good selling feature down the road.

The two were thrilled. Crazy D works on film crews that do reality cooking shows. Cooking shows, Gorilla shows, Japanese Snow Monkeys — a man of many talents– so he’s picked up some culinary tips. I venture to say that he could probably stare down a gorilla while cuddling up to a monkey while making a nice Bearnaise sauce, should he be required to do so. So at least he uses the stove. Gill gets to be envious from afar as she hurls invectives at her flat relic.

The scorn my poor electric stovetop was getting from those two was pitiful. Never have I been so embarrassed on behalf of an inanimate object. I felt Martha’s pain. (I took to calling the stove ‘Martha’ after a certain domestic diva was incarcerated and her reputation did a nosedive. I thought the name was fitting as the stove was not as bright and shiny as it used to be either. The star quality had worn off each and both were getting cranky and finicky in their dotage.) Although Gill and Crazy D were thrilled when I converted to gas, L’il Sis was not. She hates my new gas superstar. In fact, she often reverts (when nobody is looking) to using the old cooktop that I still have.

She is, in fact, afraid of the gas. Putting aside the recent spate of gasoline explosions in the news, I cannot for the life of me understand why L’il Sis thinks an electric stove is safer. She once lived in a small apartment in Toronto that had electric heating. It was, on her tight budget, an expensive form of heating. Occasionally she turned the heaters off and relied on whatever heat was generated from her electric stove to warm up the place. It worked well until one morning when she was making breakfast. (I applaud her effort to eat nutritionally, but she came close to killing herself with brown rice and kamut pancakes.) As her robe sleeve flapped over the hot elements, it caught fire. Since it was synthetic, it melted. L’il Sis managed to get out of the robe with no skin damage, but it was what we referred to thereafter as ‘the miracle on Baldwin St.’

“So tell us again why gas is so dangerous?” we asked her.

Since she has been living with me, she approaches the stove tentatively, as if she’s afraid it will explode in flames the minute she touches the dials. I can understand that reaction since I was somewhat leery myself at first. But I come by my fear honestly. It  stems from a gas stove we had years ago in Berkeley. It was ancient…not as ancient as the little redwood house in which we lived, but still long past its ‘use by’ date. One approached this stove with a lit match (preferably a long one) and threw the flame in the general direction of the pilot light. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes a finger or two got singed. Sometimes we had to turn things off so the smell of gas and fumes wouldn’t drive us out onto the street. It was a challenge to cook anything. The oven’s max temperature was 300 degrees F. and so was actually more of a warming oven than a real cooker.

I guess I should count my blessings that I now have such a lovely, dependable appliance.I remind myself of that whenever Gill complains about culinary disasters with hers. Then again, I sometimes wonder if the stove isn’t just a convenient excuse for her not to cook. Her boyfriend is, according to all accounts, an excellent chef. Don’t know what he’s like, never met him, don’t care. He can cook. Gill won’t starve. End of story.

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