For sheer heat index, Hell’s Kitchen is nothing compared to my kitchen. Of course, a straight comparison is really not fair because I have a secret weapon.
The Inferno, a malicious representative of an extra level of the Bad Place that was too frightening for Dante to include in his detailed description of the place where murderers and people who leave the copier jammed go to spend eternity, looks relatively innocent poised there beside the refrigerator waiting for me to thrust the next victim into its cavernous maw. Soot from past victims cover the oven door like oatmeal around a baby’s mouth.
The trouble comes from a malfunctioning thermostat deep inside the Inferno. It’s either broken or has learned human characteristics like the freaky computers that take over the world in stories that I used to think were fiction.
Me: I’d like to preheat to 350.
Oven: I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Amy.
I only use one rack at the very top. Anything lower would just be cruel. When I first got the thing, I foolishly and against orders turned the knob to Preheat and sacrificed a pan of brown and serve rolls. The dogs wouldn’t eat them, even the Lab that once tried to consume three hubcaps and a tire tool in the garage. Finally I threw them in the yard and claimed a meteor hit the elm tree.
As you can imagine, cooking a nice Thanksgiving dinner is out of the question. Oh, ever the optimist, I tried it once. The Inferno gutted that bird like a freshly caught catfish and raced across my innocent roasting pan like the great Chicago fire. There are fossils embedded in the enamel that will amaze archaeologists in centuries to come.
As I whipped open the oven door in a suicidal attempt to rescue the dinner, the heat sent my hair flying toward the ceiling like space dust and singed my eyebrows. Armed with Kevlar potholders, I whipped the pan out of the oven and hurled it toward the table. The remains of the charred cooking bag stuck to the turkey’s skin like a huge black bandaid and the legs looked like Tiki torches. The bones at the end of the drumsticks crumbled to ash upon contact with fresh air.
Bill Dear, ever the man with the right thing to say when kitchen disasters strike, strolled into the room coughing and clutching a cup of coffee like it was the last life boat on the Titanic. “I didn’t even know you could make blackened turkey.”
I peered at him through the smoke. “It was only in there for half an hour.”
“At least you had the foresight to put it in a body bag before you cooked it.”
I gazed forlornly at the little ashen piles of soot under the drumsticks and thought about the Thanksgiving dinner we would eat at McDonald’s.
“Don’t worry, Baby,” Bill drew a gentle hand across my face where my eyebrows used to be. “Anybody can cook a turkey breast, but it takes somebody special to mulch the feet.”