Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


I've been informed certain people are tired of looking at Neil Gaiman's dreamy British face. While I have -- as our political candidates would say --a fundamental difference of opinion with such people, I admit it's been a long time since I've posted anything. But wait! Before you cast me into the outer darkness of the internet, you should at least pause to let me explain why I've been so remiss. One word:

Wait, let's pull back and get a more accurate perspective on what's going on in my kitchen.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there are three pies cooling on my counter top, two traditional and one for my vegan friends.

I've been stressing out lately, partly because my boss has been gone from work a lot
this month, and I've been limping along in her place like a kid wearing her mother's heels, but also because of the severe gasoline shortage in the mountains at the end of September. Several Gulf Coast refineries shut down after the most recent bout of hurricanes, cutting off the supply of gasoline to Western North Carolina. At first, area service stations were only out of gas for a day or so, but three Mondays ago, nearly all the stations were dry and lines started forming at the few offering low-grade gasoline for nearly $5 per gallon. Jeremy braved the lines that Monday and ended up waiting over two hours to fill up his little Kia. A friend told us she saw two fights break out while she was waiting in line the same day.

Later that week, my employer decided to close for several days.
You would think I suddenly found myself with loads of time for blogging on my hands, but in reality, missing two days of work meant running around trying to reschedule a slew of community outreach activities. Hence, I was stressed, and had to rectify the situation by making an obscene number of pies.

I frankly hate cooking when it's a duty being presse
d upon me, but when I'm alone on my day off and decide I want some pie, damn it, then I really enjoy cooking. I even decided it was finally time I learned to make my own pie crust, so I pulled out several recipe books and created a Frankenstein dough that ended up being pretty tasty. It's hard for something containing an entire stick of butter and four heaping tablespoons of caster sugar to come out bad.

I also tried to assuage my guilt about allowing our house to descend into total messy chaos by doing a couple of loads of laundry while I baked. By the time the pies were in the oven, I had gotten so much laundry done I decided it was a good idea to wash the clothes I was wearing. I pulled the blinds, tossed my shirt and pants in the washer, put my first two pies in the oven, and started rolling dough for the third.
To understand what happens next, you have to know about the highly flammable property of Crisco vegetable shortening. I was unaware of this particular attribute at the time. You see, I wanted to share the joy of apple pie with some friends who happen to be vegan and therefore can't have butter. So, I substituted Crisco and, voila!, vegan apple pie.

While the vegan pie tasted pretty good, the consistency of the dough was a more goopey than the one I made with butter, and some of the sugary-apple filling bubbled out between the gaps in the top of my vegan pie crust onto the red hot heating coil at the bottom of my oven.

It wasn't long before I noticed a thin sheet of smoke wafting out of the crack in the oven door. Wearing nothing but an oven mitt, I pulled the oven door open and saw a small patch of Crisco-fueled flame at the back of the oven. I immediately shut the door. What should I do? If I kept the oven door closed, would that deprive the fire of oxygen and cause it to go out on its own? No, probably not. Where was the fire extinguisher? I looked under the sink, where we had stored it in our old house. Nothing. Oh shit, I thought. The oven is freaking ON FIRE. The fire department is going to pull up to the smoking remains of our house, and I'm going to stumble out naked, streaked with smoke, carrying two half-cooked pies.

So I did the only thing I could think of. I turned off the oven, pulled out the pies and placed them on the stovetop, removed the metal shelves, and began beating out the small slick of flame with my oven mitt. When I was sure I had smothered it, I threw the oven mitt in the sink, put on a bathrobe, and stationed myself in a kitchen chair directly across from the oven to make sure it wasn't about to burst into flames again.

After about half an hour, I was fairly sure the oven was cool enough to leave alone, and my hands had stopped shaking. Despite the fire, the pies turned out pretty well. I'm not sure what the moral of my story is, so I'll offer several, in the vein of Charles Perrault:

Never forget: Crisco is highly flammable.

I should really have a fire extinguisher in my kitchen.

Don't multitask if it means you might end up in a situation combining embarassing personal nudity and the fire department. Unless, you know, you're into that kind of thing.

The End.

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