Friday, February 25, 2011


I was cooking cheeseburgers Friday night at about 7:45. They were nearly done, sizzling nicely, and the lightly buttered buns were lying face down in another pan, toasting to golden perfection.

I opened the refrigerator door and reached in to grab the mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and cheese. Suddenly, everything went black.

“Oh, great!” my husband’s voice came his recliner. “What a time to have a power failure!”

At least he was safely sitting in his chair. I was bent over with my head in the refrigerator.

I felt my way across the kitchen to the cupboard where I keep a stash of scented candles. I took them out, one by one, then felt my way back to the drawer where I keep the matches. I began to light the candles – lemon scented, bayberry scented, pine scented, sea-breeze scented – and then plunked them down on the counter, kitchen island and table. I also handed one to my husband, which he put on the end table next to his chair.

I soon discovered that scented candles smell really nice…if you burn only one at a time. Burning them all at once, however, was a different story. The combination of scents filled the house with one giant scent that smelled like a combination of skunk oil and roses.

I managed to dig up a pocket flashlight, then rushed back to the stove. Our gas stove remains lit during power failures, which usually is a good thing, but not when you’re distracted and trying to light a half-dozen candles.

The worst part was I really couldn’t tell if I’d burned the burgers or not because the flashlight was about as powerful as opening the blinds and using the moonlight.

But even in the dark I could tell that the hamburger buns were long beyond done. When I touched them, they felt like tree bark. I aimed the flashlight at them – they were about 20 shades darker than the golden brown I’d hoped for. Frantically, I grabbed a butter knife and began to scrape off all the black parts (at least the ones I could see), which wasn’t easy while holding a flashlight between my teeth.

Putting the condiments on the burgers also was a challenge. I like just the right amount of ketchup and mustard on mine. My husband likes ketchup and mayonnaise. As the flashlight grew dimmer, not only couldn’t I tell how much of anything I was putting on the burgers, I had no idea what I was putting on them. For all I knew, I could have accidentally grabbed a jar of almost anything in the refrigerator and was slathering it on the burgers.

“Is there any Pepsi in the fridge?” my husband asked.

“There might be,” I said. “But there are a lot of bottles in there that might look alike by candlelight. Just don’t chug down the bottle of vinegar by accident.”

“Never mind,” he said. “I think I’ll just have a glass of water.”

He, carrying a lilac-scented candle in a jar, slowly made his way out to the kitchen, which wasn’t easy, considering he had two frightened rottweilers clinging to his legs. He located a glass in the cupboard, then held it under the kitchen faucet, turned the handle and waited.

I tried not to laugh. In our previous home, we had water even when the power went out. At our new one we have an artesian well with an electric pump. So no power, no water.

“You’ll be standing there a long time if you want water,” I told him. “It might be faster if you go outside, fill the glass with snow and wait for it to melt.”

Not only did the realization he wasn’t going to get a glass of water strike him, so did another more disturbing fact. “No toilet or shower?” he gasped.

“’Fraid not,” I said, handing him a paper plate with his dried-up cheeseburger with maybe ketchup and mayo on it, or maybe mustard and mayo…or maybe something else.

When I bit into my burger, I honestly thought I’d accidentally put the dish-scrubbing pad into the bun. It was dry, chewy and tasteless. The bun was hard and crisp. And I’d practically drowned the meat in ketchup, which probably was a good thing because it provided the only moisture on what otherwise could have been described as a chunk of compressed sawdust.

I was just about to apologize to my husband for the fiasco of a meal when I heard him say, “Mmmmm, this is good! One of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had! It has a different flavor to it that really makes it!”

The “different flavor” part concerned me. I immediately wondered what I’d put on his burger. The old bacon drippings in a jar I’d been meaning to toss out? A slice of aged (make that ancient) cheddar cheese instead of his favorite American cheese? Yogurt? Alpo?

I guess I’ll never know, which probably is for the best. And if my husband wants me to ever duplicate the recipe again, he’ll just have to wait for another power failure.

Or, I suppose I could always wear a blindfold.

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