Adventures in the Kitchen

               Low Vision Cooking Hazard: “Fire!” stove nozzles

***

One of my contributions to a household of three is to cook dinner for an elderly mother and hard-to-please brother. It was difficult for my mother (then, age 84) to turn over dinner preparation to her visually-impaired daughter but she couldn’t handle it anymore.

I really wanted to succeed at this task.

This particular meal began all right. Dinner would consist of roast beef and potatoes, gravy and a lightly tossed salad.

I had seared the outside of the roast on the stove top. It was now cooking in the oven. A rich, savory aroma filled the kitchen.  I was whittling away at a sizable stack of dishes from dinner the night  before that I should have already washed. My mother sat in my living room “grinding” old bills in the shredder.

“Can I put this one in?” Mom called.

“What is it?”

“You know, it’s one of those junk mail things with my name on it.”

I craned my neck to see what exactly she was holding. Of course, with my low vision and at that distance, even her hand was a blur. I sighed, letting my tea towel fall onto the counter and set the Tupperware container down. I walked into the living room to where she was seated. “Oh yeah, that’s okay.”

She looked uncertain.

“Just leave it.  I’ll grind it later.”

She set the plastic credit card to the side and continued to shred her papers.

I went back to washing my dishes. After rinsing a pan, I turned and set it down in the strainer. That’s when something bright orange caught my eye. I stared at it for a couple of seconds, trying to figure out what it was.

“Oh-oh-ohhhh-ohhhhh!” I gasped, covering my mouth for a second.

Fire! 

What on earth was burning? The only thing cooking was the roast and that was inside the oven! 

Wild-eyed, I scanned the kitchen for something to put it out with. I had no idea what. “Oh, oh, oh, oh!”

As I approached the burner, a strong smell hit me. Plastic! 

I ran to the sink, felt around (this usually helps me ‘see’ better) and found a large lid to a pot and filled the inside with water. Then I dumped the water on the flame.

Instead of dousing it, the fire gained momentum. It spread!

I threw a panicked look over the half wall that separated the kitchen and living room. Of all the days for Mom to come up, why did she have to be here for this? What if she had a heart attack right then and there? This was not her usual response to tension. Then I realized…

She has no idea!  

I turned my frantic gaze back to the burner, flames still leaping out. The lid! The lid!  My hands located the lid faster than my eyes did and I covered the burner with it, hoping to extinguish the fire that way. I waited for, perhaps, thirty seconds and removed it, burning my fingers as I touched t. The steel lid clattered onto the counter.

Underneath, the fire was still going strong!

Ooooooooohhh! 

I reached over and pulled the offending plastic off the burner and tossed it into the sink. A hissing sound

The fire burned the bottom out of my Tupperware container!
The fire burned the bottom out of my container!

followed as it hit the water and curls of smoke emerged.

One down. One to go.

Best way to get rid of it? What? What? WHAT! How? 

“Is everything okay in there?” Mom called.

“Noooooo, um it’s not,” I couldn’t think of anything else to say but confess. “I have a little … fire.”

“Get your brother,” she screamed.

He must have heard her–I mean, probably even the neighbors across the street heard her– because he came running into the kitchen.

I was panting.

“Don’t throw water on it,” he shouted, seeing the wet burner underneath the flames.

I guessed fires from plastic didn’t respond to water.

“Did you turn it off?” he asked.

I quickly  turned the knob, and the fire decreased slightly.

My brother leaned in and a moment later, the fire went out. I found out later that he blew it out.

With my heart thumping rapidly, I stood next to the stove and tried to calm down as I assessed the damage.

What a mess .. and this was after it was cleaned up somewhat!
Midway through clean-up.

My stove top, speckled with melted plastic looked like a candle had both melted and exploded everywhere. I wondered why the plastic was purple when my container was light green. It slowly dawned on me that the plastic I was cleaning up wasn’t purple; it was burnt.

I could hear my mother clucking as she held a fistful of unshredded envelopes in her hand.

She’s never going to let me cook again. 

“We’re lucky the house didn’t burn down,” Mom muttered. I knew what she was thinking. Her house. She hadn’t moved since I told her what was going on. The envelopes hung limply in her hand.

“I don’t know how that happened…”

“Well you’d better figure it out so it never happens again!”

I finally remembered setting the Tupperware down on the burner when I went to see what Mom wanted. The heat must have been on the lowest setting because I didn’t see any flame. Then I went back to washing the dishes and completely forgot about the Tupperware I was drying. Oh my gosh! That’s when it started burning a hole in it.

I decided the best thing to do was to finish cooking dinner.

Mom went downstairs, not only to escape the strong smell of burned plastic but also to calm her nerves, I imagine.

The smell of burnt plastic permeated the kitchen so it wasn’t immediately apparent until after I had made the gravy…

The gravy ladle melted later!
The gravy ladle melted later!

Somehow, in a double dose of bad luck, the handle of the gravy ladle had, of its own accord, crept too close to fire. It, too, had begun to melt! 

I pulled it away from the fire  and raised a shaking hand to my forehead. At least there were no witnesses.

Wouldn’t you know, that night the roast beef was the best I’d ever made. The meat was so tender that it fell apart when I cut it. The potatoes looked beautiful and the carrots tasted nice and sweet. 

Go figure. 

At my mother’s compliment I realized–at least that night–I had succeeded at my cooking task in spite of the disasters along the way and that felt pretty good!

***

If you’d like to read more of Amy’s writing, check out her memoir, Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith found on Createspace, Amazon anad Amy’s website

Low Vision Cooking Hazard: “Fire!”
Spread the love

10 thoughts on “Low Vision Cooking Hazard: “Fire!”

  • January 25, 2015 at 6:27 am
    Permalink

    Honestly I think I’d have tried water on plastic too, I mean, I never would for oil, but it would never have dawned on me that plastic would flame higher with water thrown on.
    Maybe the best thing to do is go to a hardware store and buy a couple of fire extinguishers!

  • January 25, 2015 at 7:04 am
    Permalink

    I’ve had my share of catastrophe’s in the kitchen…mostly because I forgot something was on the stove. Time always seems to get away from me lol. At least your dinner turned out really good after going through all of that. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • January 25, 2015 at 10:34 am
    Permalink

    What wonderful drama at your expense. You certainly know how to tell a good story. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to cope with all the hazards in the kitchen if you can’t see them clearly. And what a wonderful ending to the scene–the perfect meal.

  • January 25, 2015 at 11:11 am
    Permalink

    Oh my! This was disaster! Glad you are okay! FYI, the title really got me hooked because of my interest in low vision, but it took me so long to scan to get to the word “Fire!” more than 600 words into this piece. Bring it up sooner! It’s such an explosive title and such a shocking story. You hooked me with the title, but the meat of this story is really the potential danger that people with low vision have to live with day by day. Nothing to giggle at if we had lost you in a fire!!!!!! Tighten and go over with a proofreader to catch all the little tiny issues that get in the way of your work. Try a read-back program so you can hear the mistakes if your vision keeps you from catching them. Stay safe!!!!!! LM

  • January 25, 2015 at 4:08 pm
    Permalink

    Ha ha, VJ! I have to replace my one in the ceiling. Good reminder! In all my years of cooking, I’ve only dealt with a couple of fires, thank goodness! I might need that extinguisher if I forget to turn off the fire completely again!
    Amy

  • January 25, 2015 at 4:09 pm
    Permalink

    Cheryl,
    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one and glad you are living proof we can get past them! And yes, happy that it turned out all right!
    Thanks for reading my story.
    Amy

  • January 25, 2015 at 4:11 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you, Francene! Couldn’t believe it turned out so well!!
    Have a great day and thank you so much for taking the time to comment.
    Amy

  • January 25, 2015 at 4:16 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Lanie Marie,
    You are absolutely right! Thank you so much for letting me know. I do take too long to get into a story. Your feedback is especially helpful because I am compiling a book with the most dramatic and humorous experiences I’ve gone through called “A Sight for Sore Eyes: The Lighter Side to Facing Vision Loss.” I need to know these things. Thanks again!
    Amy

  • January 25, 2015 at 8:21 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Amy,

    Okay. You can tell us. How long did your mom ground you for after your pyro-technic display? LOL

    Still Grinning,

    Matt

    P.S. I’m glad no one was injured. 😉

  • January 25, 2015 at 8:41 pm
    Permalink

    Ha ha! It WAS quite the show. A little drama for a quiet afternoon.
    Resolved after the great meal, with a few reminders in the days to come.
    Amy

Leave a Reply