Holding Forth

Published on December 11th, 2014 | by Richard Black


“I’ll Leave the Stove on For Ya!”


The reason my carbon footprint is the approximate size of Manhattan

I used to think that people who left their oven on and went to bed or out shopping for the day were morons. You know the type. These are people who pass out with a lit cigarette and burn down entire trailer parks or make an ad hoc hot tub in their front yard out of an outboard motor, a kiddie pool and a space heater. People whose waking words in the ER are always  “it seemed like a good idea at the time…”

I mean, really, how hard is it to remember to turn off a burner? As I kid I watched my grandmother obsessively check each dial on the range during the two occasions I recall her leaving the house and distinctly remember thinking that it might be time to put the old girl in a home.

Over the past few years however, a period of time that roughly coincides with the birth of my daughter, I’ve had a slight change of opinion. Don’t get me wrong I still believe that people who leave their ranges on overnight are idiots of the highest order the only difference is that I now count myself as one of them.

Since I’ve had a daughter I conservatively estimate that I’ve either left a burner on or allowed the natural gas to cheerily pump away in the confines of my stove with wild abandon about 148,000 times in the past four years. Most of the time I’m able to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes and issue i.e. the house burns down or my wife Laura notices that the oven has been on for an entire week.


Deepwater drilling. A common topic in my household when the gas bill comes due.

“Why is our gas bill so high?” she asks every month and every month launch into a long winded diatribe about the rising cost of natural resources, their increasing scarcity and the need to secure alternative sources of energy until she passes out or has a stroke.

“Honey I’ve got friends who would kill to have a $3,000 gas bill,” I tell her if she’s managed to stay awake during my four hour lecture on the safe and economical removal of methane hydrates from the ocean floor.

“Really?” she asks.

“Really, ” I say in my most reassuring voice, “Now what do you remember from last month’s lecture on extracting oil from shale?”

I seem to be particularly adept at leaving burners on after boiling eggs. If you were an anthropologist observing my behavior in the kitchen these past four years you would have noted that I do so with regularity although for reasons you haven’t yet been able to discern.

“The hairy fat one one I call Richard leaves the burner on after boiling eggs so consistently that it cannot be a mistake even for such a simple creature as he, “I can hear Jane Goodall say, “Unfortunately whether he believes this action is in some way integral to the process or simply one with superstitious underpinnings I shall never know. If only there was some way to communicate with him.”

I have better luck with the oven. Not because the oven is intrinsically easier to use mind you but because I usually only put one thing in the oven at a time and when the timer or smoke alarm goes off I generally know what I’m supposed to do next. Unfortunately I’m easily confused and things tend to fall apart when I’m cooking anything in bulk or more complicated that a crescent roll.


Merry Christmas!

For the past decade or so I’ve baked Laura’s quick bread recipes and shipped the end result to various family members over the Holidays. After all nothing quite says “Merry Christmas” like an apple walnut bread the approximate size and density of a depleted uranium battleship shell. I usually bake around forty or fifty loaves in three different varieties: apple walnut, pumpkin and shame, and cranberry it looks like you’ve put on a few pounds this year.

In the past I baked these breads in groups of four which took up the better part of the day. This year, in the interest of efficiency, I doubled the batches which wouldn’t be a problem for anyone with a rudimentary grasp of mathematics. It sounds so simple. Eight bread pans go in, eight come out right?


At some point in the process eight breads went into the oven and only seven came out. In retrospect I can laugh about it and I even amuse myself with the thought that some sort of battle royale al la Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome took place (eight breads enter, seven breads leave) but it’s taken some time.

For the next three days, a period of time in which I used the oven on a number of different occasions, I ignored my wife’s complaints about the pervasive burnt scent in our kitchen. In my defense I burn a lot of things and I just assumed that the smell of cinders was the result of one of my more recent attempts in the kitchen. I suppose I’m just an optimist that way.

I’m not sure what prompted it but at some point I had to take a good look at the back of the oven and I pulled out the charcoaled remains of a bread that had been cooking on and off for more than 72 hours.

“Didn’t you notice that you had only pulled out seven bread pans,” my wife asked me in a post mortem of the incident.

“No,” I said a little indignantly to what I felt was a pretty stupid question. I mean really. If I had noticed that a bread was missing wouldn’t you imagine that I’d investigate the matter further? It turns out I wouldn’t. My indignation was all for show. I did actually notice that I was missing a bread pan at some point and I dutifully noted the fact and moved on.

The fact is that I lose things all the time. I could spend a half an hour freaking out about finding my keys or Laura’s insulin or every other little thing that goes missing but I wouldn’t have time to do anything else. In most cases I’ve found that if I go on about my business the missing item pops up or the issue resolves itself.

It’s worked pretty well so far but you’ll have to excuse me. I’m not used to this level of intense introspection and could use a good long soak. I don’t own a hot tub of course but I’ll bet I can get my Kitchen Aid blender to work under water. For safety’s sake I’ll keep the cord out of the tub.

I’m not a complete idiot.


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