Meditations On My Stove.

posted in: Rant 2
Carl Sandburg's kitchen. National Carl Sandburg Historical Site. Photo by Billy Hathorn, 2012, courtesy Wikipedia.
Carl Sandburg’s kitchen. National Carl Sandburg Historical Site. Photo by Billy Hathorn, 2012, courtesy Wikipedia.


I knew I wanted to write about my stove tonight. And since I often go to ol’ WikiCommons to find an image before I begin to write anything — it shapes the thing, you see — that’s precisely what I did: I went to the Commons and searched for “stove”.

And what do I find, searching “stove” on WikiCommons? A picture of poet Carl Sandburg’s kitchen. That kitchen up there, that’s how Carl Sandburg’s kitchen looked in 1950! No wonder he was such a prolific, successful poet. All that white cabinetry and a big tub of Crisco? His life was a poem. He just wrote it down, probably in that kitchen.

Anyhow, this post is about stoves because I have a problem I need to think about, which is that I hate my stove. This is hard to say because my mother told us girls that we could never tell someone to “shut up”, and  that saying you “hate” something — definitely saying you hate someone — is to be avoided at all costs. So I’ve been resisting. I’ve been taking deep breaths. But it’s hopeless. I hate my stove.

My master bathroom and kitchen renovations were complete two years ago, but I didn’t have much time to be with it all before I did the One Year New York City Experiment. I was insane to leave my home after enduring those construction guys in my home for nine months; insane to leave the gorgeousness that was not cheap and was also sparkly new. But it seems that this is how I do things and yes, I’m as perplexed as you are.

Now I’m home. And I’m all up in my kitchen. And this stove is killing me.

There are a number of issues:

1. The oven takes forever to get to temperature. It’s so slow, I continue to think there must be something wrong with it.

2. It’s an electric range with a glass top. I do not like electric ranges, but my building doesn’t allow gas ranges. I can’t talk about it. Aside from being an inferior way to apply heat to pans, a glass top electric stove is impossible to keep clean. Am I missing something? Every drop of water shows up.

2.a. …and it’s not safe! Look, I’m a reasonably intelligent person but if I turn a stove off and come back to it ten minutes later and do not see fire, yeah, I am likely to put something on the stove. Because I need the space, okay? With my lame stove, I have no visual cue that there is still heat coming from the surface except for an anemic little dot of light that says “HOT”. So I’m in trouble, especially if I’m not paying attention and I am often not paying attention.

3. There’s a dial you have to turn to choose your oven setting. It’s a loose dial. If you go too fast, you blaze past BAKE to CONVECTION BAKE to WARMING OVEN to BROIL to CLEAN and all you want is to pre-heat for a batch of cinnamon rolls and now the thing is beeping at you to make a decision for heaven’s sake.

4. Too steamy.

5. If you press a button on the panel twice in a row before it resets or whatever, it goes “Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeep. Do you hear me beeeeeeeeep.”  And it’s like, chill. Chill, oven. Except wait. I have a better idea. How about you don’t chill but actually allow me to get to 375-degrees sometime this decade? That’s a much better idea.

Gritting your teeth 70% of the time you engage with your stove not a tragedy. But there is a certain discontent that comes when you buy a big-ticket item and realize you may have made a mistake. I haven’t had a car since college, but I imagine discovering you hate the car you just bought is similarly rough. It’s buyer’s remorse of a legit kind: this isn’t a blue fox fur bolero you bought while vacationing in Sedona — this is one of the largest things you own and you actually need it. And you’ll probably own it for a long time. You’ll have to clean it for a long time. It looks at you. You look at it. For years.

I have not yet told my stove to shut up. There is bread in the oven as I write this. Bill Withers said, “We can make it if we try” and no one in the history of the world has ever had buyer’s remorse where Bill Withers is concerned.

The Pendennis Observer: Dispatch No. 382

posted in: Day In The Life, Paean, Pendennis 2
Pendennis as pretzel.
Up to no good, as usual. 

I’ve been traveling so much lately — home in DC this evening after a full week in Chicago — chances are good there are new readers to PaperGirl. I encourage people I meet at events or classes to visit and read this blog, but I still see fear in their hearts when I tell them PaperGirl isn’t about one thing but “just sort of about my life.” A gluten-free baking tutorial blog is an easier sell but what can I do? Surely some people were curious enough to visit and it seems like a good opportunity to take a moment and explain the monkey. I haven’t posted a picture of or given an update on Pendennis in some time; let’s get everyone caught up.

Some adults have an ironic connection to a childhood toy or a juvenile object and it can be cute or it can be weird. Either way, these peoples’ friends are actually happy when there’s a “thing” because it makes that person really easy to shop for. “I have no idea what to get Nancy for Christmas” is not a sentence Nancy’s friends will ever have to say because Nancy likes deer.

I don’t have a “thing” for sock monkeys; I have a thing for my sock monkey. His name is Pendennis and no, I do not sleep with him or cry hot, hot tears into his soft body. He does not come on trips with me. I haven’t had him since I was three and I do not suck on his tail. My high school art teacher made him for me when I was her teacher’s aide and Pendennis has simply been with me ever since, not because I need a stuffed animal to cope with life* but because I love him. My love is akin to the love I have for a special painting or a treasured photograph, except that I can cry hot, hot tears into his soft body. I love the monkey like I love my favorite sweater or my favorite snack. He is a comfort and we all need more of that. He went to New York. He came to DC. He’s my little guy.

But fondness springs eternal for Pendennis not just because he’s familiar: Pendennis is hilarious. I laugh out loud when I see him poking out from under a chair or twisted up like a pretzel under a pillow (see above.) I’ve been Pendennis’s personal photographer for years because I have to try and capture the joy he brings to me when I discover him in his natural habitat. This way, when I’m old and Pendennis has been chewed up by a cat, I can look at the pictures on my hologram phone and feel happy again. What’s crucial for readers to know is that I never, ever pose Pendennis. When I take a picture of him, you can be sure I am shooting what I discovered, not anything I created. The monkey needs no stylist, no art director; I simply point and shoot.

That’s the scoop on the PaperGirl mascot. And I’m glad you’re here.

*Untrue, but it sounded good up there. Also, you really need to see the stitched “Pocket Pendennis” made for me by the gorgeous and talented Margaret. Margaret, I’m looking at the PP as I type this.