Stuck in the Kitchen – Boiling Water

You know how people joke about really bad cooks by saying they can’t even boil water? Yeah… this post is going to get funny.

So, let me start with a couple of weeks ago. I had bought a shitload of meat. I like to grill a lot of of things at once and then just eat leftovers, because it’s not worth firing up the grill for one pork chop. So I marinated the pork chops in this homemade mix I like. I did the same with a couple of steaks (albeit a different marinade). And I had some sausages to throw in there, because sausages make for good “I’m kind of hungry but I don’t want a whole meal” foods on a Saturday afternoon. One morning, I decided that I’d be grilling it all that night, so I pulled the frozen stuff out to thaw (which I do by putting it in the sink under cool water, because my fridge is too cold to thaw anything in time) and went to work.

I got home from work, gathered up all the meat, carried it out to the grill, turned the knobs, realized no gas was coming out, and cussed… a lot. (Yes, charcoal tastes better. I’m not going to dispute that. Gas is convenient, and I’m lazy. Please shut up about charcoal. Please.) So, having thawed the meat out and not really feeling safe about re-freezing anything, I decided I’d cook it anyway. I called my parents, but they’d already eaten, and I didn’t really feel like driving out there just to use their grill anyway. So, I improvised.

I put the pork chops in a little glass brownie dish (I don’t know what else to call this this. It’s the little 8×8 square glass dish you make brownies in.) and the marinade was enough to keep them drowned. I called a very dear friend and asked her at what temperature and for how long, and I put them in the oven to cook. (They turned out amazing, by the way.) For the sausages and steaks, though, I decided to use a cast-iron skillet that I have, which has little ridges in the bottom to simulate grilling. I threw the sausages on first, because they’d take longer, and because I really didn’t think things through very well.

Once I was fairly sure the sausages wouldn’t kill me if I ate them, I pulled them out and set them aside, and suddenly realized that my steaks would taste like shit if I cooked them in that sausage grease. (Maybe they’d actually taste amazing, but I didn’t feel like experimenting.) So, I did what any clueless chef would do, and poured the grease out into my garbage disposal, and cleaned the skillet completely before dropping my steaks on the stove-top.

Now, I KNOW you’re not supposed to drain grease into your sink. I do. Normally, I let it cool a little and then pour it into a Solo cup, which I then throw away a few days later after it gets disgusting. (Ask me why I know to let it cool a little first? I’ll give you a hint. Solo cups melt pretty damn fast.) So I knew that pouring the grease in the disposal was not the optimal solution. I had fully intended to run some warm water on it and flush it all out and let it be the city’s problem when it clogged up a sewage main somewhere down the line. But the steaks were cooking, you see?

I love my steak rare. Like… bloody rare. (Someone might want to comment here that it’s not actually blood, and I respect her opinion because she is a much better chef than I will ever be, but laymen will call this red liquid left on the plate blood, so I’m saying “bloody rare”) The middle has to be warm. That’s my only requirement. In mixed company (Read: When I’m eating with you pansies who want their steaks cooked WELL DONE, and then probably have the audacity to ask for A-1 or Heinz 57… gods, I want to slap you all) I will go as far as Medium Rare, because it doesn’t quite leave a mess on the plate. Anyway… the steaks were cooking. I couldn’t turn away from them for longer than a few seconds, because then I’d overcook them. So I forgot to rinse the grease away.

All of the above narrative is to explain why my garbage disposal stopped working. The little spinny bits wouldn’t spin, because the grease had gunked up all the shit in there. The little wrench-thingy that you use to manually turn the spin bits from underneath would not budge. So… I called that very dear friend whom I love to pieces (and who happens to be an amazing chef) that I mentioned earlier, and asked what she would do. The answer was pure genius in its simplicity: Boil water and pour it in there to heat up the grease. Once the grease get gooey again, I should be able to use the wrench-thing!

And so, I decided to boil some water tonight. I got out a my largest pot and a big kettle that I use when I’m making a lot of spaghetti (which is never), filled them with water, added a little salt (because all I care about is the temperature, not the actual boiling, right? Thank you, Science!), set them on the burners, and turned the burners on. Then, because it’s a lot of water and would take a while to start boiling, I went outside with the dogs to clean up some yard trash around the deck (an ongoing project for me in my reclamation of my back yard). After only a couple of minutes, long before the water should’ve started boiled, I hear this loud sound from inside the house. (I had the back door open. It’s nice outside.) I thought the dogs had knocked something over. So I come back in expecting a mess, and HOLY SHIT, THERE’S A FIRE IN MY KITCHEN!

One of my dish towels had apparently been resting too close to the stove eye, and had caught fire. But that wasn’t what made the sound. Another towel was close enough to catch as well. Which probably didn’t make the sound, either. And there was a bag of dog treats on top of that towel which was melting. (None of these made the sound, as far as I can tell. I’m still wondering what did.) And all of the fire was forming a nice little wall of danger right in front of the knobs to turn the eyes back off. I’ve not replaced my fire extinguisher yet, so that wasn’t an option. I didn’t have a towel to beat the flames out with, since the towels were on fire. Yes, I had two large containers full of water right there… but it was HOT water, which might lead to other problems. All my other water receptacles were in the dishwasher, which was running. (Yes, I could have just opened the damn thing and grabbed whatever. But I didn’t… because FIRE!) So I decided… save the house, sacrifice the hand. I ran cold water over my left hand quickly, and grabbed the first burning towel and threw it in the sink (water still running). It hurt. So fuck it, I just cuperd my hands under the water and started throwing it on the other burning towel. Not my brightest moment, I know. But I am a man of action… action which apparently got my tee shirt close enough to the front burner to ignite as well.

You know how in the movies, when a stunt-man is immolated and sort runs about willy-nilly while he burns? Yeah… imagine a fat guy doing that in the kitchen, while trying to simultaneously hit himself to beat the fire out and take off his flaming shirt. I wish I had a camera rolling. I really do. I could blow up the Youtubes and retire early.

On the plus side, though, the flaming towels and my ruined shirt ended up soaking wet in the sink. The melted dog treats were not actually on fire, although that burnt plastic smell was overpowering. My hand felt pretty burned, but nothing serious. My stomach also has a little bit of burning on it, but also nothing serious. And the water was just starting to boil. So Phase One was complete, with some “minor” difficulties. On to Phase Two, because hey, the water is about hot enough now, right?

In the end, the hot water worked beautifully. I was able to manually-crank the spinny bits with ease once the grease had melted off. Although the motor might be shot, because it still won’t turn on. So I get to replace the disposal entirely, and could have avoided the entire process. But what kind of story would that make, right?

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