I like to cook and like to eat. I think of my relationship with food as mostly a healthy one. Just as with any relationship we have our ups and downs, but mostly we get along fine.
There is this one little issue. I have a history of starting kitchen fires.
Not big fires. I’ve thankfully never had to call in the professionals to put out flames. But nonetheless, the smell of something burning has a special significance in our house.
I realized a few days ago at the occurrence of my latest stove-top ignition that the sight of flames doesn’t even get my heart to beat faster anymore. Setting fires has become so commonplace that it is now a “meh” moment in my life.
When I set my first burner fire at about age 7, it was scary. Thankfully I have loving, patient and forgiving parents. Now, 20-something years later, I still haven’t kicked the kindling habit. And now it’s not scary, but mostly funny.
It is no mystery to me how these fires start. It’s a combination of two major factors: I am a messy cook and a master at multitasking. I spill a lot, and don’t stand exclusively at the stove while it’s on. And as I embarked on cleaning up after my latest combustion incident, I came to the realization that these fires hold some additional significance.
Life is full of fires. Some are intentional, some accidental. Some are caused by stupid mistakes (and all of us are guilty of stupid mistakes), and some are caused by circumstances beyond our control. When fires come along, there are two options. You can let them burn. These flames can get out of control and cause irreparable damages. Or you can put the fire out. This requires knowledge (use salt or baking soda, not water!), experience (turns out that oven mitts are also flammable), and ultimately laughter. It might literally stink at the time, but makes for a good learning experience and hilarious story later.
Some fires are bigger and more serious than others, but there has never been one that can’t be put out or that won’t go out on its own. Be patient. Stay calm. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Life is too short and already too serious to let any fires bring you down and keep you there. Fires happen, in the kitchen and in life, and it takes mostly humor and a dash of salt to get through them successfully and gracefully.
I think Voltaire had it right: “God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”
Don’t be afraid to laugh in the face of danger, fire and life. And don’t forget the salt.