Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Great Balls of Fire

When we can't stand the heat, we get out of the kitchen. But what do our appliances do? Boxy and legless, they don't stand much of a chance of they do what anyone would do under the circumstances: catch fire.

A few days ago I decide to finally haul myself out of my cooking slump by whipping up a Turkish classic, guveç. It's basically a layered dish of meat and about five different kinds of veggies, baked for hours in a clay pot until all the different juices have fused together and the vegetables melt in your mouth. Delicious. So I haul myself to the greengrocer, pick up the necessary produce, surmount my squeamishness to pay a visit to the butcher and pick up a half kilo of beef, then spend the next hour washing, chopping and layering everything into my lovely black Colombian pot. Gently putting the lid on, I kiss the pot for luck and stick it in the preheated oven. Three hours from now our taste buds will be singing.

Company is expected. It arrives, and we all pace the house like circling buzzards, anticipating the meal to come. About a half hour of cooking time is left when I start to smell something funny. I peer into the kitchen, and low and behold -- flames! Not coming from within the oven, but from behind, where the electrical wires are. As the smoke grows more acrid and the flames start to leap out from behind the oven, I do what anyone with numerous safety, rescue and emergency preparedness courses under her belt would do: I stand there staring at the flames, paralyzed and panicking. Our oven is fueled by a gas canister just outside on the balcony. Sudden terrifying visions fill my head -- the imminent explosion of the canister; my body, blackened and maimed; blood dripping from my ears; death. I do manage to have enough presence of mind to turn the oven off and weakly croak "fire". Fortunately the others hear my cry for help. Levent rushes in, disconnects the gas canister as a precaution, and somehow (I'm so dazed I don't notice how) puts out the fire behind the oven. We're safe.

But the guveç is raw and inedible, and the disappointment in the house is tremendous. It turns out that the oven had been suffering long before it made its radical attention-getting gesture. The heat was nowhere near where it should have been, and consquently the food still needs another hour and a half instead of the anticipated half hour. Reluctantly, we hit on a solution in the form of take-out -- there is a fantastic lahmacun (flat bread covered with meat and spices cooked in a clay oven) place around the corner. We take the guveç when we go, and the staff there kindly agrees to cook it for us.

Now we are ovenless (although the stove still works, thank goodness). A new appliance will inevitably be purchased, but in the meantime, I am doing some experimenting with oven-less cooking. On the agenda today: whole-wheat bread and carrot cake. Who could rock the culinary world.


At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Mum said...

Next time perhaps you should forego kissing the pot! With the kind of luck it brought you, you're better off forgoing that charming custom!

Or perhaps the problem was not the kiss, but the fact that you had a xenphobic, patriotic Turkish oven. Faced with the prospect of having to accept a Colombian cooking pot containing a traditional Turkish dish that had been prepared by American hands, it rebelled. So much for multiculturalism.

I'm relieved that no one was hurt, and glad you were able to locate an accommodating oven elsewhere to finish the cooking process. You didn't say how the dish ultimately turned out. I hope it was as tasty as you had imagined it would be.


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