Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

When Mommy Almost Burned the House Down

I have been woefully delinquent in posting lately–my apologies–but I have a very good reason, which I will now share with you:

A couple of weeks ago I was cooking a chicken. Now, this is something I do quite often, but in this instance I was cooking a chicken differently than I normally do. That’s because I’m working on a cookbook! Yes, some of you may know this already but I’m writing a real live cookbook with a friend of mine, and former coworker from my Saveur days–Kathleen Brennan. Rodale Books will be publishing it and we have a great title (which I cannot share with you because it’s so awesome I’m afraid someone might steal it!). I can tell you that it will contain not only 100 delicious, interesting, and essential weekday-friendly recipes, but it will also help everyone from the accomplished home cook to the wary wannabe home cook enjoy cooking more, with less stress, guilt, and emotional turmoil and more confidence, fun, and skill. Can we pull that off? I think we can!

So back to the chicken…

I was testing a recipe for our book and had decided to broil a split chicken breast to see if I could get the cooking time down while still producing a delicious roasted bird with crispy skin and juicy meat.

I made a bed of sweet potatoes (aka kindling) and rubbed the bird with spices, lemon juice, and olive oil (aka gasoline).

I moved the oven rack to what I thought was a safe distance from the overhead flame and then put the roasting pan with the chicken beneath it. I closed the oven, set a timer, and went to watch The Electric Company with the kids (I love the new Electric Company).

After a few minutes the fire alarm went off. Now, at this point there was no burning smell (I usually have a very acute sense of smell, which I attribute to my extremely poor eyesight–I’m sort of like a dog) or recognizable hints of imminent danger, so I got up to turn off the alarm which I just assumed was being a little oversensitive.

As I climbed a chair and started banging on the alarm my mom suggested that maybe I should check on the chicken…just in case.

So I did. I walked over to the oven, nonchalantly opened the door, and was met with a flaming inferno. The bird, the pan, the potatoes, they were all ON FIRE.

I know we all like to think that, faced with a crisis or emergency, we will be unflappable. Like a character from NCIS. But in reality, when faced with a flaming chicken, most of us will just run around in circles screaming. This is kind of what I did. I shouted for the kids to run out to the backyard (which they did, sprinting to the jungle gym that’s about 50 yards away and climbing to the very top of it where they spent the next half hour bawling that mommy was burning the house down).

My mom tried to call 911 but couldn’t find her reading glasses so instead just ran around the house holding the phone and hunting for her glasses (I could have dialed it for her, but clearly that would have made too much sense).

I located the fire extinguisher in the coat closet (And if there’s any lesson I can impart from this experiences it’s to always have a fire extinguisher

14 Responses to When Mommy Almost Burned the House Down

  1. It’s horrible, but I’m laughing hysterically right now. Poor Conor.

    First, mazel tov on the cookbook! CANNOT WAIT. And second, oy on the fire! I think I read somewhere that the oven is built to contain fire so the best thing to do is just turn it off & leave it alone. Closed. Without oxygen the fire will go out. In theory.

  2. Juan says:

    My, if that isn’t an exciting story I don’t know what is 🙂

  3. Jenn says:

    I’m with debbie….sorry that happened, but I’m laughing hysterically 🙂 Your poor boy….isn’t it horrible of us to laugh at our children when they are obviously so traumatized?? *wipes away the tears of laughter*

    I must make a post of my own sometime about my ONE attempt at deep frying. Did you know that when you throw baking soda into a pot of burning oil, the resulting rapidly expanding mass of foam looks something like a mushroom cloud? but the fire went out!

    And congrats on the cook book! I’ll buy it 🙂

    • admin says:

      you are not the first person to mention baking soda to me! I hadn’t thought of that… but I’m wondering what it would have looked like if I had thrown some in the oven. Although the mushroom-effect does sound pretty cool.

  4. karen says:

    I feel guilty for laughing while reading that, and for feeling reassured that even experienced cooks like you have mishaps in the kitchen. This novice cook cannot wait for the cookbook! xoxo

  5. Nicole says:

    Oh my gosh! That sounds scary, but the image of your children holding each other at the top of the jungle gym is just too much for me to resist! I’m glad you didn’t burn the house down!

  6. Cindy says:

    Congrats on the book and saving the Viking!

  7. katie says:

    As a fellow Viking owner I think you did the right thing. I also know how HOT that oven can get! I have nearly ignited many a meal in ours, but never to that point [I’m happy to read this because I’m feeling like I might have a better idea of what to do if it does ever happen].
    I’m happy to hear everything ended up OK in the end! [minus the children’s new oven fear]
    AND…Congrats on the cookbook!! I’m so happy for you! I love your blog and look forward to buying it 🙂

  8. Julie says:

    First let me say, I didnt know that there was a new Electric Company. Caroline, you are so damn funny. It sounds very scary, but too funny that you guys didnt want to melt the bowl in the sink. I’m glad you are all okay. Poor baby doll Connor. He is ruined, for sure. You can use the tons of money you are going to make on your best seller cook book to pay for his therapy. I can not wait for your book! That is so exciting.

  9. Sarah says:

    Congratulations on the cookbook! It’s my dream to own a Viking one day, so I completely understand your dilemma inputting out the fire! Did you take any pictures of the aftermath?

  10. Jennnyfair says:

    I’m sorry for your son, I know mine would have acted exactly the same, but man oh man did this story have me laughing out loud and recalling my own kitchen fire. You were spot on about running around in circles and brain going blank!
    Thank you for sharing,
    Reading and laughing from New Zealand.

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