The Suitcase Lady


November 3, 2015, 8:28 pm

I need to begin by saying that I do know how to cook dinner. Having had 51 years of practice coming up with nightly meals, I’m experienced.

Last week I came home from work, scrubbed up two huge baking potatoes, pricked holes in them and shoved them in my oven which I set for 400 degrees. Then I turned the timer on for an hour and wandered off to do other things.

Coming back when the timer went off, I opened the oven door and a blast of heat dried the mascara off my eyelashes. Instead of two baked potatoes, two coal black rocks were sitting on the oven rack and the temperature in my kitchen was rapidly rising to hellish degrees.

“What have I done?” raced through my mind. We women all are trained to blame ourselves for anything that goes wrong. I immediately checked the temperature setting I had chosen and it was gone. Instead, the temperature screen said F9.

I whipped out my stove’s instruction manual to decode the inscrutable F9. Convoluted instructions were given to reset the temperature sensors. No translation for F9 was given.

Now I was in perfect control of the situation. I knew exactly what to do. I yelled for my husband to come fast. My stove is mainly a giant computer with a few incidental heating components. He is a computer guru.

He quickly arrived in the torrid kitchen, whipped out his computer, brought up the stove’s online repair manual and diagnosed the problem. F9 was the failure code for “a runaway oven”. The temperature was in excess of 650 degrees. As soon as the patient cooled down, my guy could do a computer repair job and I would be back in the baking business.

Dinner, however, was now the immediate problem. I pulled the black rocks out of the oven and was about to toss them in the garbage. And then a story from decades ago popped into my head.

My father was from an extremely poor family. One of his happiest boyhood memories was of going to a vacant lot, setting a big bonfire and roasting potatoes in the red hot coals. He had watched the homeless (who were called hobos then) do this and he was imitating them.

I got out a sharp knife and cut the potatoes in half. The insides were snowy white and steaming. I quickly made a cheese omelette and a big green salad. The baked potatoes were the best we have ever eaten.

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