I can't believe I have waited this long to share this, but here goes: I set my kitchen on fire last week. OK, so not the whole kitchen, just one of the burners on the stove, but it was still pretty traumatic. I should explain that I have a deep and abiding fear of fire, that goes well beyond normal common-sense caution of flammability. I trace it back to when I was eight and my dad, the ardent outdoorsman, tried to teach me how to light a campfire. It was years before I could even watch a match being struck, and I still won't do the striking myself. I was close to ten before I would use the iron or toaster and very close to teenager years before I would use the stove or oven. I still refuse to deep-fry anything, not only for health reasons, but because popping grease scares me.
Last Thursday night I was stressed and headachey after teaching, trying to throw stuff together so we could hit the road toward Marion. I started a quick supper, stir fry, and put a pot of water on to boil the rice. I noticed the burner was smoking, due probably to crumbs below the coil, but I didn't think anything about it until I heard a gentle whoosh and noticed that there were flames licking the bottom of the pot. I attempted to blow them out (having done this once before several years ago), but they didn't go out. They got higher. Suddenly they were up above the top of the pot of water. I am comforted to realize that I didn't fall apart then. Instead, I went into process mode. Here is a transcript of my thoughts:
-That's a real fire.
-I should turn the burner off.
-Blowing didn't work.
-OK, is it a grease fire? No, OK, so water is alright.
-I need a vessel [yes, I thought the word vessel]. This bowl is too big, I will use this cup.
-It's OK, the hiss just means that the fire is out.
-Open the windows and door.
-That's the smoke detector, run and fan it vigorously before the fire department comes and the sprinklers turn on and ruin all of our possessions.
-OK, now you may fall apart.
I then fell apart very quietly, manifested mostly by shaking and the intense ramping up of my migraine. Jordan came home shortly thereafter, and found that the stir fry was ready (sans rice) and a large puddle of water was dripping off our stove-top. We managed to pack and get on the road. We had only made it a mile from the apartment (not even to the interstate yet) and since I had asked Jordan approximately five times in the course of that mile if he was sure the stove was off, he turned the car around and we went back. I went in the apartment and pulled the offending burning out. I then touched every knob on the stove, tracing with my finger the indention that was pointed to "Off." Then, I touched every burner with my hand to reassure myself that they were all cool to the touch. Seriously, if anything like this happens to me again, I will be on an intervention show on A&E.