#95: Domestic Potential

#95: Domestic Potential

While there was a lot to commend it, a downside to the house I wanted to buy was its complete lack of any working appliance. There were gaping holes where the fridge and stove should be, and while there was a dishwasher where you might expect a dishwasher, it produced buckets of brown water and loud grinding sounds instead of clean dishes. Undeterred, I moved in without so much as a microwave.

A second downside to the gaping hole where the stove should have been was the large pipe next to it marked “gas line.” I know house hunting cooks everywhere swoon at the prospect of a gas range but you see, I was not a cook, and I felt nothing but fear at the thought of operating a gas appliance. I’m a firefighter’s daughter; I’ve heard the stories of gas gone wrong. Call me crazy, but there has always been something about open flames and highly combustible materials that made me nervous. For what little cooking I did, I was happy being an electric girl (never mind that my old stove required not so much cleaning, as dusting).

I spoke with a few people in the know about re-plumbing the gaping hole so that it would accept an electric appliance, but I was assured that a. it was an expensive change to make and b. should I ever learn how to cook, I would greatly regret it. I could not imagine the cooking part, but as a new homeowner with an entire kitchen and laundry room to outfit, money was an object to consider. I sucked it up and began shopping.

After much compulsive checking and re-checking of sales circulars and product reviews, I ordered appliances. There was the dryer that required an electrician to rewire a new outlet because the power cord was too short to reach the existing one. The refrigerator that sprung a leak in the first week and then needed two service calls in the first sixth months. The old, malfunctioning dishwasher that didn’t want to leave the house without a fight, and had to be removed from the cabinet in pieces. I was so worn out by the time the new stove arrived, I didn’t care if it was powered by hamsters on roller skates, as long as it would bake me a potato.

While there was no fanfare or hamsters, the stove showed up on the promised day and within its three hour delivery window! After weeks of out-of-stock notifications and missed phone calls and leaving work early more than once to meet drivers that never showed, I had hope that maybe something would go in right on the first try! Maybe I could have a baked potato for dinner!

Maybe I should have had a professional measure the gaping hole, in order to determine that the stove was one-eighth of an inch too wide for it. (sad trombone)

My shiny stainless behemoth of a stove stood in the middle of the kitchen for a week, waiting on my handyman to come by and shave down the countertops. I stubbed my toe on it and said bad words more than once, but after a while I warmed up to it. It was all shiny and clean and I had yet to burn anything in it or on it. It made a terrific receptacle for my coat, and the mail.

Eventually, the counters were shaved and the stove hooked up to the gas line and my handyman showed me how all four burners worked perfectly. And then a week went by, and then another week, and I stopped putting my mail and coat on the top and cooked my potatoes in the microwave because I was afraid of my own appliance. Or to put a more fine point on it, I was afraid of the fireball that would surely follow the explosion that was the only possible result of my turning on a burner unsupervised.

I realized one day that I had spent several hundred dollars on something that, while nice and clean and shiny, was not fulfilling its domestic potential. I sucked it up and asked fellow pamphleteer Susan to show me how to boil water on the thing. I had a fire extinguisher handy, but shockingly, nothing exploded.

For a long while, I had to give myself a mini pep talk before every attempt at cooking, but eventually I could turn a burner on without heart palpitations. Now I can’t imagine taking ten minutes to boil water again, as I did in my electric days. While it’s a stretch to say I’m a carefree cook, I’ve come a long way. I even bought a gas grill recently, and have used it unsupervised! Without a single fireball!

The only downside to all the kitchen activity is that the stove isn’t as clean and shiny as it once was. I don’t put my coat on it anymore, or the mail. I almost never have to dust it, either. It now requires actual cleaning on a regular basis. It’s fulfilling its domestic potential!

And now, so am I.

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