Before I go, I have something to say

Breaking the Stove

Chambers Model No. 12-B

Today I broke the stove. But first, I cleaned it. It had been a while, so this morning, after I fried my egg, I sprayed the oven with the supposedly no-fume cleaner, then dashed off to work, knowing I would come home to a hard but satisfying chore.

Our stove isn’t that old, and it’s supposed to clean itself. But it lost that function a few years after we bought it. We bought just about everything in the kitchen that year, all because we wanted – let’s face it: desperately needed – new cupboards, and more of them. The guy who measured the room informed us that the beautiful antique stove we’d been using took up a lot more space than a normal, modern one would.

So I said goodbye to Mom and Dad’s 1930 Chambers stove. It now belongs to my son and his wife, who will retrieve it from the garage when they buy their own home next year. I don’t mind having it there; it evokes lots of good memories. Mom made good food with it  – Christmas fudge, summer oven-fried chicken, poached eggs for four made in the nifty Revere Ware pan with round holes for the egg cups that reminded me of the communion wine holder at our Presbyterian church.

Along with the new stove, we got a new microwave, new sink, new faucet, new dishwasher, new, well, I guess that’s it. Everything except the fridge. My son tore out the old cupboards while we were vacationing in Colorado, which I realize makes us sound like the idle rich, but you would be mistaken if you thought that. We came home to a room that contained only the refrigerator, the sink, propped up on a stool, and a hot plate. After weeks of making do and only occasionally whining, we got our new kitchen.

For a while, the self-cleaning function for the oven worked fine. This was good, since I am a baker who tends to load cherry pies over-optimistically, prompting them to bubble over and onto the oven floor. And when I beg my husband to sprinkle more cheese on my part of the pizza, he tends to strew it over areas where there is no pizza. All that, and more.

Mom never had a self-cleaning stove, so I learned how to do it the hard way. All it takes is the deadly chemical spray, time, lots of wet paper towels, good thigh muscles, and elbow grease. A stiff martini might help, were I a drinking woman. In any case, it’s not an impossible job, so I did it today after work.

It looked okay. I even got the gunk off the door that had rendered the oven light largely useless. “Are those cookies in the oven?” “Turn on the light and look!” “Like I said, are those cookies in the oven?” I had to use an SOS pad to get it clean, and I’m sure the manual warns in no uncertain terms not to use anything like steel wool anywhere near the oven, so it’s a good thing I lost the manual two weeks after the stove was installed.

After admiring my clean-enough oven, I wondered about that self-cleaning thing. Maybe I should try it again. Why not? All I had to do was push “clean,” press the > button, and, to my shock, lights came on, the oven door locked, and the temperature started to rise. Everybody knows there’s nothing magic about self-cleaning ovens. They just heat up to six zillion degrees, incinerating anything that ever dripped, bubbled, or fell off the food you put in there. After it’s cooled off – a week or so later – you’re left with a pile of ash. I don’t know about you, but I like to vacuum that up.

So there my stove was, getting hot and starting to clean itself, even though, technically speaking, it was no longer dirty. I figured I’d let it go through its paces, sort of like setting the dishwasher to “sterilize,” not that I’ve ever done that. Sometimes I’m a pathetic slob; other times I like to over-function. This was one of those times.

Then I noticed the haze. Even upstairs, the air in the house had taken on a faint blue glow. My eyes started to sting a little, and there was a chemically smell. Hoo boy. Luckily, it was warm and breezy out, so I started letting the outside air in, and vice versa. Upstairs and downstairs, I opened windows. It reminded me of the winter night the carbon monoxide detector started shrieking, and we found out our water heater was venting inside, instead of out.

I suppose I should have taken this as a sign to turn off the oven. Right Now. But, ha ha, I didn’t have to do that, because it turned itself off. One minute all the cleaning lights were brightly lit; the next minute, all was dark. The vent above the stove was still sucking in the bad air as fast as it could, something it does whether we want it to or not when things get hot around the collar. And boy, was it ever. I’m surprised the Hot Air Detector wasn’t going off and sending a silent alarm to the fire department.

No need for that. The stove is nice and cold now, and the fan is off. The lights remain off, too, because I seem to have killed the whole thing. I’m hoping the nice guys from Service One can do something. My daughter is due for a visit, and I promised to make lasagna. Will it fit in the toaster oven? We may have to find out.


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