Sunday, January 11, 2009


I have said here before that I am not handy. This surfaces in various ways, most recently with a kitchen stove timer. Last night and this morning, as a matter of fact.

Among other areas in which I am remarkably uninformed and untalented, we may include cooking. My father was a good cook, my brother Billy is a good cook, but if it weren't for technology I would dine on charcoal, E. coli, and salmonella.

Fortunately, the microwave bailed me out decades ago.

My current microwave is about ten years old, I think, and has seen more frozen meals than most of my friends' freezers combined. Several nights ago I nuked a frozen chicken pot pie. Five minutes on high, if you must know. When it was done, the microwave began piping its "All done, dummy" message, which for this oven is one long note, perhaps three seconds in duration.

Halfway through the note the volume dropped to barely audible. Oh oh, new microwave time. While devouring that meal I processed what little information I had, concluding only that it was at least possible that the only problem was with that volume, and that the cooking function might still be A-OK.

The next day I cranked up the stove oven as a backup and put another frozen meal into the microwave. Everything seemed to work normally - the internal light was on, there was much blowing of air, and the carousel turned, however reluctantly.

This time when the meal was cooked, the volume began at nearly subaudible instead of tapering off to that level, but this was no longer the issue. Cautiously, I tasted the middle of the meal and was gratified to learn that indeed the microwave's cooking function was in order.

Fifteen minutes later, finished with the meal and walking by the stove on the way to the kitchen sink, I detected an inordinate amount of heat. Sigh. I turned the oven off. Really, I don't know how I've survived this long. A few thousand years ago I'd have set the cave on fire.

Now those of you who actually cook might be surprised to learn that even in this day and age there are some frozen meals - aside from Thanksgiving turkeys - that cannot be nuked but must be cooked in a conventional oven, or even a broiler. Perhaps once a week I cook something in this fashion.

(Background: I moved into my current abode five and a half years ago. One item present, of course, was the stove. With no instructions. Now I suspect that the very worst of us would not need instructions to turn on the oven or the broiler, but what about setting the clock and setting the timer, hmmmm? I don't even set the clock in my car. Since I replaced a battery a couple of weeks ago, the car's clock is about three hours and forty-five minutes off. Whether slow or fast I don't remember.¹)

Since the microwave had a timer which could be used even when not cooking anything, I have always used that and never the stove timer, even when using the stove's oven. The microwave timer's call has always been loud enough to hear from several rooms away.

No more, alas.

Last night I threw something into the oven (450 degrees for 30 minutes) and set about figuring out the stove timer. I raced through increments of time and found that I could not set it for more than twelve minutes. What the Hell use is that?

I gave it up and decided to take on the responsibility of knowing when the thirty minutes was up, and it will delight and amaze you, I am sure, to learn that this little experiment was successful. And that I remembered to turn off the oven.

Fast forwarding to somewhere around six o'clock this morning, we find me sleeping comfortably until awakened by a ceaseless series of short, shrill, loud bursts of sound. From the stove's timer. Which will, it turns out, time up to twelve hours and not twelve minutes, as I had thought.

It remains to be seen whether I will give the stove timer another try, but my guess is that the most likely outcome is the purchase of a small kitchen timer.

¹ January 12, 2009 - It's slow.

Friday, January 9, 2009