All Blog Posts

Dining With the Smoke Detector: Conclusion

August 26, 2013
Part I can be found (here.)


The front door was open to let out the smoke, making it unnecessary for the firemen to sink their axes into it.


A George Clooney look-a-like said, “We were just driving by on a grocery run and saw all the smoke. Is everything okay?”


Before I could answer, Mrs. C., wrapped in a wet towel, appeared at the top of the stairs. “What’s going on? Why is the smoke detector going…” Her voice trailed off at the sight of firemen standing in our foyer. She may have giggled. I’m sure she did. She would later deny it. 


“Sorry, guys,” I said, “but it’s just a small grease fire, nothing to worry about.”


“Do you have a fire extinguisher handy? A planned escape route?”


I stared at him. What I had was a chunk of black meat that looked like it had been torched by a flamethrower.


Mrs. C., moving with the speed of a glacier, retreated to the bedroom to put on clothes.


“What are you cooking?” a chisel-jawed firefighter asked.


“Pot roast,” I answered.


“Did you get a cut of meat with enough fat on it? You need fat for flavor, and wine… and—”


I assumed he was the one at the fire station always switching the TV channel to the Food Network. “Thanks guys, but I have everything under control.”


The firemen lingered in our foyer. One of them handed me a pamphlet on home fire safety. They couldn’t possibly be waiting for an invitation to my charred dinner so I assumed they were hoping to catch another glimpse of Mrs. C. in her bath towel. I closed the door on them just as the phone rang.


“Did you flush out all the smoke?”


“Yes, Mom.”


“Good. Did you brown the meat?”


“Oh, it’s good and brown all right.”


“Fine. Did you add the wine and a cup of water?”


“I’m doing it now.”


“What about the bay leaves? Did you add them to the juice?”


I’d forgotten the bay leaves. I pulled them out of a plastic bag; they reminded me of something I rolled and smoked in college. I dropped them into the big red pot.


Mom’s deluge of instructions resumed. “Sprinkle half a tablespoon of cumin to the juice, along with a dash of cinnamon. Place a few strips of bacon on top of the roast, cover the pot with the lid and put it into the oven. Did you preheat your oven to 350˚?”


“Of course,” I answered, turning on the oven.


“Leave it in the oven, covered, for about an hour. Then take off the lid, drop in your peeled celery, potatoes and carrots. Let it cook for another thirty minutes.”


“Holy crap!” I barked into the phone. “The Manhattan Project made atomic bombs at Los Alamos with less fuss.”


“I don’t know how they make pot roasts in Manhattan,” she said, “but this is the way I do it.”


I hung up and cautiously pushed the pot into the oven, hoping for the best. I’d only wanted to treat my wife to a nice meal, but I now felt like the fate of the free world rested on my shriveled piece of meat.


Mrs. C’s voice wafted down from the top of the stairs. “Is there anything I can do to help?”


“No, sweetie, I’ve got it covered. Why don’t you take a nap?”


“I think I will. What a treat!”


I didn’t want to admit it but cooking was hard work. I settled down on the couch in the family room, turned on a football game (okay it was the Antique Road Show) and quickly fell asleep. Had I known how to set the timer on the stove I might not have slept so long, but two hours quickly passed. I dashed to the oven and plucked out the pot. Even though I hadn’t preheated the oven, my roast looked like it had been hocked up by a fire-breathing dragon. I dug out Mrs. C’s meat thermometer, which informed me that beef was well cooked at 160˚. With difficulty, I jammed in the thermometer. The needle rose…and rose…and rose…. It wavered at 180˚ and then jumped upward to 201˚. Close enough. I promptly burned a few pop and bake biscuits to accompany my meal.


Mrs. C. came downstairs just as I was placing my meal on the dining room table. She didn’t say anything snarky about a meal that looked like it had been prepared in the fiery kitchens of Mount Doom.


My meal was a bust: a mako shark would have struggled to bite through the meat, the biscuits looked like hockey pucks and the juice I was supposed to ladle over the carrots and potatoes—strangely missing from the pot—looked like residue spooned from a tar pit. But the sight of me clearing the plates and doing the dishes seemed to put her in a generous mood.


“Let’s go upstairs,” she said when I wrapped up in the kitchen.


“What did you have in mind?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.


“Let’s spice things up with some game playing. I’ll be a damsel in a burning building and you can be the handsome fireman come to save me.”


The bit of pot roast I’d managed to swallow lurched in my stomach.




What was your greatest kitchen disaster?






thank God my husband knows how to cook.
By: mindy halleck on August 26, 2013
I can be pretty handy in the kitchen, but holy hell!! POT ROAST!! THat's like learning to fly in a 747!
By: Cranky on August 26, 2013
excellent telling of a well meaning yet not successful attempt at fine dining on your part....but it is always the thought that counts. Fireman huh???? hehehehe
By: Oma Linda on August 26, 2013
Nice ending! I burned all the taco shells in the broiler once. My wife then informed me that they go in the oven. I thought they would cook faster on broil. How was I supposed to know?
By: David Walston on August 26, 2013
Well, i've heard that the sexiest thing a guy can do for his wife is to cook or clean! This was hilarious! My worst flops were years ago, when i didn't realize just how much bacon grease my Sweetie wants in his food.
By: mimi on August 26, 2013
My greatest kitchen disaster? Hmmm...I think that would be the time I used Easy-Off Oven Cleaner. On a self-cleaning oven. Little did I know the damn thing would automatically lock up for its cleaning cycle and then start smoking. I took the frikkin' thing all apart before I was able to vent the smoke out. My neighbor, when I told him what happened, said, "Why didn't you advance the oven's clock a couple hours to get the thing to unlock?" Oh.
By: Al Penwasser on August 26, 2013
I'd say it worked in your favor to start a fire. A woman's always in the mood when she's seen firemen. I've had an entire batch of fudge gone wrong, once or twice. For me, that was tragic. There's no way to redeem fudge. I just had to eat/drink as much as I could before saying a sad "goodbye."
By: Robyn Engel on August 26, 2013
Was Mrs. C's suggestion of "dessert" upstairs due to your attempt to cook or the sight of those hunky firemen? Or did she never actually share her inspiration? I haven't had too many disasters that I can think of but there were the first attempts at yeast rolls. Yeast takes a bit of learning to get things right. My first attempt could have been used as hockey pucks.
By: Cheryl P. on August 26, 2013
Mrs. C. is a keeper! Loved this story. I've had several kitchen disasters, mostly from my past, but they make me ever wary of a repeat...
By: Shelly on August 26, 2013
I remember this the first time you posted it. It is so reminiscent of some of my own cooking experiences. Still funny.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on August 26, 2013
All the firemen I've ever seen are gorgeous--I think it's part of their job requirement!!
By: fishducky on August 26, 2013
I'm with Cranky. If it has more than 5 ingredients, I move on to something simpler. It's more "subsistance" cooking than "gourmet" cooking. I will give you two thumbs up for trying, though. ;)
By: Scott Park on August 26, 2013
This story is hilarious! So you put baon strips on top of your pot roast, huh? Should have invited Scott Park for dinner - he'll eat anything with bacon on it.
By: Pixel Peeper on August 26, 2013
I have a different pot roast recipe. But I'll bet you cook your frozen pizza WITHOUT the cardboard circle. Different strokes, you know.
By: Val on August 26, 2013
I'm a total wreck in the kitchen though I continue to try. Who knows, maybe one day I'll cook something delicious enough to go on Top Chef :) You and your wife sound hilarious. What it must be like to be a fly in the wall in your house :)
By: anne on August 27, 2013
Oh, I have too many kitchen disasters to mention. But, if you're interested, here are two good (I think) ones: 1) 2) By the way... I've heard that Mrs. C's wet towel was just for the fireman. She had been upstairs watching TV before they arrived!
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 27, 2013
I dare say your meal ended on a positive note. Lucky devil! :D
By: Daniel @ The Pixel Collective on August 27, 2013
Nothing better than a happy outcome!
By: John on August 27, 2013
Classic Chubby Chatterbox story . . . and that's why I always go for take-out!
By: tom sightings on August 27, 2013
You are a sad, sad excuse for a cook. lol I've had too many bad cooking experiences to name. My worst may have been trying to cook frozen danish in the broiler and setting them on fire or the time I had no pasta sauce or tomatoes, but decided I could make it from tomato paste by adding water. Yup, I'm a sad, sad excuse for a cook.
By: Lexa Cain on August 27, 2013
You had me hootin' as always. Another fine story. You have such a way with words. "the speed of a glacier" cracked me up.
By: Hilary on August 28, 2013

Leave a Comment


Return to All Blog Posts Main Page

RSS 2.0   Atom