When, in the course of human events, we turn the oven on to pre-heat before baking something of probably a true delicious nature – and it stinks. It smokes a bit, actually, and when we open the oven door, it’s plain to see that the floor of the oven, which in our case should be a nice blue color, is black and greasy – and smoky.
Now, let me say from the outset that during the period of time when Cheri was working up here in Fargo, and my headquarters was in Rapid City (I know, I know – the singularly dumbest thing I have ever done in my life, to live away from my wife for three years… stupid, stupid, stupid –but that’s another story…) I used the oven regularly as I lived on Limelight Lane. I mean, three or four times a week, by my estimate. Isn’t it odd that over three years, I had to clean the oven ONE time, and it wasn’t particularly dirty then – it just had spilled over when I baked some lasagna, and after wiping up the spill, it still had a burnt residue, so I ran it through the self-cleaning cycle. One time in three years.
Why is it, then, that about every three months as we all live together in Fargo, does the oven get to the point that it appears to be imitating the Canadian fires burning up north these days, with constant smoke? I won’t go into the details, but any logical detective would probably surmise that SOMEONE, or SOMEONES seem to be baking things that constantly spill over with greasy messes, and instead of quickly cleaning it up afterwards, just let it keep building up until the grease burns like Rome – you can almost hear Nero fiddling in the other room.
Now, if I flashback to when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I can remember coming home from school, opening the door, and suddenly being hit with an odor similar to what they must have sniffed at Chernobyl. Coming around the corner of the kitchen, there I would see that sight: Mom, on her knees, with rubber gloves up to her elbows, spraying “Easy Off” oven cleaner all around the inside of the oven. While they still sell Easy Off today, for the five ovens in America that are not self-cleaning, they now make the formula with a “fresh scent” – like wildflowers or roses, and the way they must smell when they are hit with a flame thrower. Also, they say that they have developed a “fume-free” sprayer. Right. All I know is that back in the 60s, we all understood toxic fumes. What we didn’t understand was how the mothers of America didn’t all find their IQs dropping by 50 or more points from inhaling that mist. I remember Mom’s gentle encouragement for us to “Just get out of here!” as she hosed down the interior of the cooking instrument from which were pulled birthday cakes and pizzas and the like. Like I said, Chernobyl had nothing on our kitchen…
In today’s world, however, domestic technicians have invented what they like to call a “self-cleaning” oven. And in a purely literal sense, that’s what it is. You spin the dial, push all sorts of buttons, and you hear a giant “click” as the oven door is sealed, much like the interior door of a submarine that caught a torpedo, and they have to close up an entire section, sadly leaving the poor victim sucker sailors trapped inside, banging on the door to let them out.
I find amazement in two specific processes of a “self-cleaning” oven. First, I am always shocked by how bloody long it takes to go through the self-cleaning cycle. Once you push the final “start” button, and the door is sealed, you will notice that it will take a good four or five hours, of super-hot temperature, before it decides it has reduced all matter inside to ashes. I always thought, if I had to get rid of some evidence from a heinous crime, that I could stuff it into the oven and hit self-clean. Nothing would remain.
The other amazing thing – is how much it stinks. Man, those four or five hours are pretty terrible. I remember not thinking one time, and starting the self-clean cycle in January up here in the Northland. The smoke and destruction were so tough, that I knew any moment that the smoke detectors were going to go off, and it was about 10pm, and so the only option I had was to open the outside door closest to the kitchen, in hopes that the smell would intermingle with fresh air, and save us all. The trouble is, that particular gambit only works when you have a nice spring or autumn evening, where the temperature outside is not too hot nor too cold. Otherwise, you end up filling the house with either sub-zero air, which causes the furnace to run like you are living in the Antarctic, or it fills with blast furnace air which is already the makeup of the oxygen in the kitchen, and so the air conditioner then runs, with the sound of whirring electrical gauges telling you that your summer vacation trip is now postponed so you can pay the electric bill instead.
Well, after supper last night, when SOMEONE used the oven to cook up some greasy, drippy mozzarella sticks, I went ahead and started the whole cremation process inside our oven. After about two hours downstairs watching television, I began to have the acrid smell of burning whatever float down in straight into my nostrils. We opened the back door, but unfortunately, the breeze blew air INTO the kitchen instead of sucking it out, so eventually, the entire upstairs smelled like the aftermath of a Canadian forest fire – smoke and all. I turned on two fans in the bedroom, and just hoped that the sleep we would have would not turn into the sleep that had no end…
The good news is that nothing bad lasts forever, and this morning, as I opened the oven door, all I saw were the white ash remains of past indiscretions. It made me want, for a moment, to buy a nice red velvet rope and brass stands, and cordon off the oven from future use, but I know that’s a pipe dream for sure. It’s only a matter of time before SOMEONE decides to throw a grease bomb into the oven, and the process starts all over again.
We live in a world of repetitive chores, don’t we? I mean it seems we are constantly having placed before us the work of simply maintaining a place to live, from straightening and vacuuming to doing dishes to dusting to making beds to cleaning bathrooms and sweeping out garages, and mowing lawns and on and on and on. What I forget of course, when faced with the to-do list of stuff around the house, is that we actually have a house to “do stuff around.” We have a very nice home, that needs our attention completely – it’s like a perennial newborn, but doggone, we love the little thing, even for it being more of a pain to take care that to enjoy sometimes.
But that’s life lived in a wonderful world, and complaints, even over a stinky self-clean oven, should always be replaced with a word of thanks to God, from Whom all blessings flow. Our lives will always be richer when the work we are called to do extends from the gratitude we have for the gifts God has first blessed us with. Have a great day, make sure to clean that oven!
Word for the day: foison. Pronounced (in English) FOY-sun – like the word, “poison.” It actually means a plentiful yield, like a crop, or anything that is plentiful, It’s not an actual measurement, but it stands for an abundance of something. It actually comes from the Latin fusio, which means “an outpouring, or a flood.” Even more primary is the Latin fundere, which means “to pour, or shed or cast.” Interesting the foison – a plentify something, is also tied with another English word, “fusion,” which is the merging or blending of two disparate items into one larger something. Probably not a very common word to use, but sometimes, when you want to substitute talking about a “whole lot” of something, you could simply remark that it is a “foison” of something, or somethings. Makes you sound smarter, at least.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.