Two Easy Lessons

Nobody was seriously hurt and the oven is now clean. These outcomes are not bad considering what could have happened. And we still got to eat.

It was an ordinary summer Friday, a little cooler than earlier in the week and very pleasant at the pool. I have Chloe overnight on Thursdays, so we usually get in a little swim on Friday mornings before her mother picks her up. When Gary finished his Meals on Wheels deliveries, he joined us. After 15 or 20 minutes of raucous playing and splashing, girls against boy, Gary dipped down in the four feet and came up holding his mouth. He had hit bottom and chipped both of his front teeth, one badly and the other a little.

He immediately called the dentist. Four hours later she had worked her magic and he looked as good as new. He does have to be more careful eating things like carrots and apples, and she said to watch that the teeth didn’t turn color, but other than the $390 bill it was a good lesson in being more mindful about where he puts his body. He told me he had done something similar a few years ago, damaging the same front tooth, and was lucky he hadn’t broken his neck. I guess there are distinct disadvantages to being tall and thin, because I’m short enough and have enough fatty tissue I don’t think I could do what he did. Given the amount of money invested in my mouth, I sure hope not. (I often say I have English teeth—postwar milk rationing, too much sugar, and lackadaisical dental hygiene as a child have made me fanatical about dental care now.)

That evening I made homemade pizza for dinner. After I put the pan in the oven I noticed a bowl of toppings—green and red pepper, onions and mushrooms I had sautéed and set aside. Putting on  oven mitts, I opened the door and took the pan out, but lost my grip and the very raw pizza slid into the oven.

I walked out of the kitchen near tears, saying “Fuck! I just ruined dinner.”

Gary quickly and calmly came into the kitchen. I came to my senses and turned off the 450-degree oven. He somehow retrieved the floppy mess and put it back on the pan. I handed him the shelves and began scraping the cheesy-saucy toppings out of the oven, salvaging bits that could go back on the pizza. (One irony is that we had invited friends over to eat and watch a movie—I was immediately grateful they had been unable to make it, because we would have been ordering takeout at this point and I would have been terribly embarrassed.)

While Gary cleaned the shelves I continued to scrape until I could turn the oven back on and see if the pizza could be made edible. The house filled with smoke, but the smoke detector never kicked on. I joked we were having “smoked pizza.” It was actually okay—in fact I had a leftover piece for lunch today.

I was still shaken and decided to watch our movie while the oven cooled. I cleaned the worst up and sprayed it with Easy-Off, letting it sit overnight. I did a thorough cleaning in the morning while listening to my favorite radio program, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

As much as I cook I’m amazed I don’t have more catastrophes. Often when I’m putting a heavy baking dish or casserole into the oven, or worse, taking a hot one out, I think about how awful it would be if I dropped it. But I mostly make measurement errors. Once I tried to make half a recipe of fudge but didn’t halve the liquids, ending up with a substance that was too runny for fudge and too thick for sauce (the kids still ate it). Many years ago my daughters and I made a cake for a Fourth of July gathering that pretty much just fell. We covered it with red, white and blue icing and took it to the party anyway, and it made a much better memory than if it had been perfect.

So, teeth restored, pizza eaten, oven clean, and easy lessons in being aware and mindful. The smell of burning mozzarella will stay with me for a while. Some days I think gravity has just been cranked up a few notches.

Here is the recipe for Jill’s made-up pizza, but since I make it by feel the ingredients aren’t very specific.

Sloppy leftovers, or waste not want not.

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