The other night I was craving homemade soup, so I spent a half-hour chopping vegetables and chicken into neat little cubes. Then I put them into a pot, added some seasoning, water and broth, and let everything simmer.
While waiting for the soup, I curled up on the sofa to watch TV. That’s the last thing I remember until the smoke detectors – all seven of them – blasted me awake.
The detectors in my house are hooked up so that when one goes off, they all do. The combined noise is so loud, I’m pretty sure people up in Canada can hear it.
When my heart stopped pounding somewhere up around my eyeballs, I rushed out to the kitchen and turned off the burner. Nothing in my soup pot was recognizable. In fact, the contents looked as if they’d just been dredged up from the bottom of the La Brea Tar Pits.
A whole box of steel-wool pads later, I still couldn’t get the pot clean, so I checked the Internet for a solution. The general consensus was to put a little dishwashing liquid into the pot, add water and then bring it to a boil on the stove. The soap would make all of the burnt stuff loosen up, according to the information.
So I squirted some dishwashing liquid into the pot, added water and then set it on the stove to boil.
That’s when one of my friends called. We chatted for about 15 minutes and then I returned to the stove…which was covered with soap suds. It looked as if all of the burners were taking a bubble bath.
At least the smoke detectors didn’t go off again.
My husband always used to nag me to get a whistling teakettle because too often I’d put a pot of water on the stove for tea and then get distracted. It wasn’t until I’d hear the pot making crackling and popping noises (because all of the water had boiled out) that I’d remember my tea.
“You’re going to burn down the house one of these days,” he’d scold me.
“Not with all of these smoke detectors,” I’d answer. “I can’t even eat hot peppers without them going off!”
“Just humor me and get a whistling teakettle!”
“But I hate those annoying things! They make me jump when they whistle. Don’t they sell ones that play catchy little show tunes?”
He glared at me.
So I bought a whistling kettle. The first time it whistled, it sounded like the noise fireworks make when they’re shot into the sky. My dogs, who are terrified of fireworks, ran into the bedroom and hid.
That did it. I removed the whistling part of the kettle and turned it into a silent one. My husband was less than pleased when he discovered that the kettle’s voice box had been surgically removed. So once again, I had to endure a lecture.
“Every time you put something on the stove,” he said, “I want you to set the oven timer. That way, it will ding and remind you that you’re cooking.”
“That wimpy little ding?” I said, rolling my eyes. “I’d have to be sitting on the kitchen counter to hear it!”
“Well, I’ve seen you standing right next to the stove and still forget you were cooking something,” he said. “So I’d say any ding is better than no ding at all.”
He had a point.
So now, especially since the charcoaled-soup incident, I try to remember to set the oven timer whenever I have something on the stove. And when I recently adjusted the clocks for daylight savings, I made sure to put fresh batteries in all of the smoke detectors. I even bought a new fire extinguisher for the kitchen, and I’ve been heating up my tea water in the microwave so I won’t have to use any kettle at all.
Then, just to be safe, I put the fire department on speed dial (even though I’m pretty sure that if all my smoke detectors do go off again, firefighters from here to Canada will hear them anyway).