College Kitchen Catastrophe

Many disasters have occurred in our apartment. When you have five women attempting to use the same two burner, oven-less kitchen, some difficulties are to be expected. The five of us, Jen, Bri, Kaitlyn, Shante, and I, all use the kitchen multiple times throughout the day. When four of the five women are admittedly inept at cooking, the chances of catastrophe go up significantly. These are the conditions I have lived in for around four months now. We have lost numerous dishes and eaten things that can only loosely be called food. Money is an issue. The “starving college student” saying really does ring true. There are times when I really do have to eat ramen noodles as my only meal of the day. Despite the deficit of funds my roommates and I suffer from, we try to pull together and eat food that both tastes good and is healthy. I won’t lie, we still cheated and ate desert, often spiced wafers and cookies. We just came to the conclusion that you could still eat the treats considered “cheats” as long as the other things we ate were healthy.

I became the main house cook. It was on one of the evening when Bri, Jen, and I intended to eat dinner and watch a movie that we had the most incidents. The Swan Princess was in the VCR waiting (yes, we watch old princess cartoons and yes, some of those movies are on VHS) and the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera was loudly paying through the apartment for me to sing along to as I cooked. My endeavor of the evening was to make lemon chicken with brown rice. It was a simple dish, very similar to many dinners I had made before. The chicken was simmering in its pan a slightly gold color added to its white perfection, seasonings adding to the tangy aroma wafting around the kitchen. The rice was nearly finished. I was satisfied with that, but Bri protested that we would need to make more food. Jen, trying to be helpful, suggested that she could make garlic bread, for as we called it “farlic” bread (fake-garlic bread; a sad excuse for bread made of whatever bread we have in the apartment, butter, and powdered garlic.) While I went upstairs to grab some water bottles out of my room, Jen put the bread in the toaster oven. (To be honest she really only could have put the bread in the toaster oven when I left the kitchen because it is nearly impossible to put two people in our kitchen.)

When I came down stairs I sat the water on the table and threw myself on the couch to wait. Bri was working on some homework and Jen had just seated herself next to me when I started to smell something off. Jen was lounging beside me and Bri had her face buried in her computer. Neither of them seemed to notice the smell. I stood up and took another big sniff. After a few deep huffs I determined the smell; burning plastic. I ran over to the toaster oven to see a melting blue plastic plate of garlic bread inside. After wrestling the Salvador Dali looking plate out of the toaster I was finally able to laugh. Jen was as red as her hair. “I wasn’t even thinking!” she apologized.

I wish I could say that blue plate was the only casualty of war our kitchen suffered, but that, sadly, is not the case. We lost every blue plastic plate, most to being shoved into our overly cramped cabinets, and a couple to a far too rigorous dish washing. We lost a mug to a battle with the crock pot, both wanting to occupy places on the one square foot of available counter space. The crockpot won, the poor mug was put to rest with the rest of our broken kitchen wares in the dumpster.

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The universe must have decided that since we’d already had one mishap, the ball of catastrophe was already rolling. Let me explain something about the layout of our kitchen. The toaster sits facing the side of the stove. If we are very careful, and maneuver with some dexterity, we can open the toaster’s door to pull out the tray with two pots on the stove. As it was, that night both burners were occupied. In the process, and panic, of getting the plate out of the toaster (the Phantom’s “Down Once More” drowning out the curses I uttered while the blue plastic burned me), the pot of brown rice had partially spilled on the burner. It had not been my first priority to clean the burner or turn it off. That was a big mistake on my part. Within moments the rice had burst into flames. I didn’t even know it could do that!

Panic struck Jen and I, Bri was still completely absorbed in her laptop. Amidst a loud chorus of “What?!” from each of us, I finally turned off the burner. Jen took a fork and dissipated the flaming rice, pushing it between the coils so it was no longer in direct contact with the burner. I replaced the pot on the stove, hoping to smother the heat. The flames died. We stood there for a minute in stunned silence. Then I finally started laughing again. Jen soon followed. As we giggled away our tension Bri came up behind us.

“What did you do?” She gasped.

Amidst laughter I squeaked out, “We nearly burnt down the house.”

“No kidding. Look at that chicken.” While everything else had been going wrong, the chicken had cooked just a little too long. I was exasperated.

“Well, I guess we’re having blackened chicken tonight. Eat up.”

For the most part, I am proud of what I have accomplished over the last few months. Anyone who has cooked a meal for multiple people would take one look at the kitchen I’ve had to deal with and gasp in exasperation. No oven, only two burners, a total of four cramped cabinets, virtually no counter space, a microwave that only works at half power, and a “full sized” fridge that looks like the sickly younger sibling of an actual fridge and either freezes its contents or warms them to room temperature (the maintenance man even told us to covertly “kill” our fridge so the school would have to give us a new one) are the elements that take up the little corner of our apartment passed off as a kitchen. It really isn’t surprising that we’ve created a kitchen appliance graveyard. For one, we’re all a bit klutzy. Secondly, it is my sincerest belief that you just can’t put as much energy as cooking generates in a three by three foot kitchen without starting a self-destruct sequence. It is by pure dumb luck that we’ve made it this far without burning the building down, but we’ve sure had fun along the way!

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One Response to College Kitchen Catastrophe

  1. Janice Chernekoff says:

    Sounds like you’re doing an admirable job given the constraints of your kitchen situation!

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