On Saturday morning, I woke up early for the farmer’s market and gave Esteban a reprieve, since he had been out playing his Dork games until the wee hours. I grabbed the dog and hit the farmer’s market. My grandmother asked me to pick her up three things: eggs, a tomato and a beef roast. I managed to make the farmer’s market by 7:15 and was early enough to avoid the quick-stoppers, the stop-and-chatters, and the strollers (and the strollers with strollers… the worst!) and hit the happy moment when the sun is hitting at a golden angle and the church bells around downtown all go off at once. I snagged a bunch of weird heirloom tomatoes and some basil for a caprese salad I wanted to make with some eensy teeny balls of mozzarella. I got my grandmother some heirlooms too, plus a regular beefsteak, and also the eggs from this amazing organic farm stand. Their egg yolks are so rich they are practically orange, and they are the only eggs we buy from June until November (yes, I’m aware that chickens lay eggs all year round, but this farm is like 30 miles away and when push comes to shove and we’re out of eggs on a Saturday morning, it’s a lot easier to just by the organic ones from the store six blocks away) and some of this amazing caramel corn that I’m addicted to but won’t let myself buy it. I also got her a bouquet of lizanthu, just because they were all over the place, they don’t have a scent and they last for weeks.
The week before, there had been a conundrum at the hospital, where I was helping my grandmother order her meals and she had wanted a doughnut but the cafeteria gave her a mini muffin instead, and she thought I had edited her order, to which I said “No, Grandma, I wouldn’t do that. I’m not Aunt Brumhilda.” (and everyone snickered, including Aunt Drusilla so heee!) I swung by the bakery and picked up some conciliatory doughnuts. After that, I ran out to the good meat place, which was a zoo, plus they were messing with the number system, so it was anarchy. While I was milling around, I watched them dump a bunch of New York Strip trimmings into the stew meat bin, so man, when my number was called, I nabbed three pounds of the stuff right away. I didn’t even know what I was going to make out of it, but such a deal for such a flavorful cut. Our meat stick supply had gotten low, so I snagged another pound (they are TO DIE FOR) and when I noticed that they had German potato salad in the prepared foods/deli case, I decided to get my grandmother some ready prepared foods too. Since my grandmother has had a hard time falling asleep after her surgeries, she thought she might not be up by the time I stopped by so told me to just leave everything by her back door. The meat place nicely sells ice as well, and I had an insulated grocery bag thing in the car, so I packed it all up and sure enough, her security light was still on, so I left it on a lawnchair.
Back home, because I really know how to relax, I had somehow set myself up with not one, not two, but three cooking projects. Scotty was having one of his legendary garage parties that evening, and while it was BYO everything, I have a hard time bringing food to not share with others, so I planned to make the caprese salad and also I wanted to have an excuse to make this amazing brownie crack recipe without having said pan of brownies sitting around the house, where we would eat it in its entirety. But, with the acquisition of the New York Strip chunks and the hours of home time ahead of me, it was a good day to start a pot of chili. I always make my chili with non-ground beef of some sort, chuck roast is a good flavorful cut but New York Strip! Holy fancyness! I got it started in the French oven on the back burner, and then pottered around the house, alternating cleaning with playing Starcraft II until the passage of time started speeding up.
Stupid Starcraft, it sucks time like no other video game. At least with the Sims, you get to see your characters age, reminding you of the hours of your life similarly being wasted. At some point, I looked up at the clock and realized we had to leave in two hours, so I whipped up the brownie layer and then compiled the caprese salad while it was cooking, and put the finishing touches on the chili. I had intended to keep the chili moderately mild so that heat lovers, like Esteban, could season as they liked, but apparently I had a Don Draper black out while I was dumping in the spices, because somehow I managed to make it both too hot and too salty. I threw in some pasta (something I never do, but weirdly a culturally appropriate thing in Wisconsin) to suck up some of the extra salt, but it really wasn’t fit to bring as a main course so I decided to keep it hidden, keep it safe. Then, I finished the salad and I realized that there was not even remotely enough to bring as a dish to pass, so I packed it up into two little wee containers and decided to put all of my efforts toward the brownies. I chopped up the peanut butter cups and realized that I probably should have had another two candy bars, but oh well, and added them to the almost-finished brownies. Clearly, there were obvious omens that were telling me to stop cooking, damn it, but I was too bullheaded to see them.
Walking by the oven, waiting for the middle layer to melt, I noticed that the oven light was on, but it was flickering. I cracked open the door and saw that I must have been sloppy applying the chocolate pieces because there was a fire on the element. I shrugged and figured it would burn off, no big deal. The tiniest bit of sugar burns like crazy, but I should have had a clue that there was no smoke. I checked it again and no, it wasn’t a fire. Those were SPARKS. In fact, the bright “flame” was traveling along the heating element, leaving burned wilted metal (glass? Something?) behind it. I turned off the oven, and the fire still raged. I called Esteban in and said “Is that what you would call an electrical fire?” He told me to turn off the oven and I noted that it WAS off, so he ran down to the basement and flipped the oven’s power off, and finally the fire went out.
It was a strangely emotionless incident. I suppose it’s a good thing I wasn’t playing Sims III that day, or I might have just jumped around frantic, showing “OMG!” at the stove until the fireman arrived, potentially burning someone to death in the process.
So, stove’s broke. But luckily it lasted until I was done with the chili and the brownies (the third layer just needed to be melted, which the microwave did just fine). The brownies, by the way, are fucking amazing. In fact, it’s entirely possible that the brownies are so sinful that God smote my stove for baking them.
At the casual get together, my friend Phil assured me that it was very easy to fix electric stoves like 95% of the time, because you whip out the element, plug a new one back in, and voila. “But why? Why did the element go all berserk? It doesn’t make sense!” Phil shrugged and said “Well, you plug in the new part and wait and see if it does it again. If it does, then it’s the other five percent.” Ah, right, nothing like “wait and see” approach when dealing with fire-hazard appliances and electrical current!
Esteban then spent a good part of Monday attempting to locate a new element for the stove, which apparently costs about $42, which is quite a bit less than a new stove. That’s usually my high water mark for deciding to fix instead of buy new: if it’s less than one-tenth the price of a new whatever, then it’s worth the gamble to see if a new part fixes it. We’ve used this rule of thumb five times with our dryer, and so far so good. However, the part about the fire-or-whatever still going after I had turned off the stove was really bugging Esteban, so when in doubt, consult Google.
This is exactly what happened. More research was required and from that, we learned that a new control box is apparently a non-negotiable stove part. And it’s way more than one-tenth the price of a new stove.
Then we were stuck with a connundrum. Should we buy a stove to get by or buy something we really want? It seems silly to spend some huge amount of money on an appliance now that our two years of self-imposed house arrest is over and we’re looking at moving, so we agreed to just go down to the used appliance store and buy something that wasn’t horrible. Esteban called Ward to update him (you see, a broken appliance in our house is a whole family affair) and his mother got into the action, encouraging us to buy the gas stove that she knew we really wanted. Esteban quipped back “Do YOU want a gas stove? Why don’t YOU buy one and then we’ll buy your old stove off you?” June doesn’t care for her goading to be thrown back at her, but about fifteen minutes Ward called back and said they were going to buy a new stove so we could have theirs. We immediately turned them down, thinking they were trying to be extraordinarily generous, but apparently that suggestion in jest from Esteban was enough for June to see what she really really wanted. A gas stove.
Now, to be honest, I do actually want a gas stove, but I also went on a long vacation in June and a short one in August and had to get a second new cellphone and now I am broke as a joke. And also, I still have to replace our countertops at some point in the near future, which still have the burn mark from the Christmas Yule Fire of Aught Four that probably jacked up the control box on the stove in the first place. So buying a used stove from Ward and June is a very practical and frugal solution.
On the downside, it’s beige. It matches our fridge, which June picked out (a wedding present). The rest of our kitchen is white. I loathe beige, but I think the dissonance might be enough that when I paint the kitchen, I’ll paint it some beige-friendly color and never look back.
Or stop thinking about it so much.