Part of being a chef/foodie is experiencing more kitchen-related disasters than the average person. Everything from burning your palms while holding a steaming pot with your bare hands because you truly believed your middle name was superwoman, to accidentally nicking your fingers because hey, this knife can’t be that sharp right?, or even almost burning the kitchen down because… well because plantain. My point is that we’ve all experienced our fair share of mishaps and there’s no need to judge each other. Instead, being the kind person that I am, I will share some of the key lessons that I have learned over time when dealing with kitchen fires.
1. STOP RUNNING
I sigh deeply at some of the
dumb stupid funny things I have done in my lifetime. I was 11 years old when I woke up early for school one day and decided to fry sausages for breakfast. I had been cooking breakfast by myself for a while so it wasn’t such a big deal, but that morning, I was way too excited [read: impatient] at the thought of eating that I turned up the fire to the max. The oil grew very hot and the fire beneath seemed to intensify, so much that it began to aggressively lick the top edges of the pan. Within seconds, my sausages caught fire like hair to a flame.
I was alone in the kitchen and there was no immediate help. I knew well enough not to leave the pan on fire lest the fire grow and burn down the kitchen. So I did what any 11-year-old kid would do… I picked up the frying pan and ran around in circles screaming “Jesus! Jesus! Fire! Fire!” until the flames died down.
The great news is that my sausages were fine *deep sigh of relief*. Man, I would have been so angry if I had to fry another batch or, God forbid, if I had to go to school without breakfast.
Oh yeah the house was fine too I guess. Priorities.
LESSON: If you are ever faced with a similar situation, you should immediately turn the fire off from the stove and cover the pot/pan with a lid. The lack of oxygen will stop the flames. Also, don’t swat the fire with dry cloth, you’re likely to spread the fire and you’ll probably catch fire yourself.
P.S. I never told my parents about this little incident, primarily because it only lasted a few seconds, even though it felt like forever. So mom, dad, if you are reading this now… I love you. 🙂
2. WATER + GREASE? BAD IDEA
You know when you watch a movie and there’s a fire and the person sometimes gets a bucket of water and throws it to quell the flames? Yeah… that’s not for grease fires. It may sound pretty obvious to some of you but let me tell you that I almost learned that the hard way. I was on summer holiday from school and I was practicing how to make ofada/ayamase stew for the first time. One of the key steps in the recipe is to “bleach” the palm oil – basically heat it till it becomes relatively transparent. Unfortunately, I wasn’t
smart informed enough to know to cover the pot during this process, so imagine me standing casually by a pot of bubbling oil that is sitting on extremely high heat. Of course, the inevitable happened, but this time it wasn’t a small flame like the one on my sausages. It. Was. Huge. The whole kitchen was filled with smoke within seconds and I was so confused. I knew well enough to turn the stove off immediately and thankfully, I was too scared to attempt to pick up the pot and run with it like the last time. But I panicked and headed straight for the sink to fetch a bowl of water.
If there is ever a time in my life when I feel like God doesn’t have my back, I just take a moment to think of this particular day. Because the potential disaster that could have taken place eh… Somebody help me shout HALLELUJAH!
I filled a bowl with water and ran towards the pot but as I drew near, I felt something hold me back from throwing water at the flame so I yelled for one of my cousins, who appeared moments later with a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.
LESSON: When confronted with a grease fire, do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to put it out with water. Water repels grease and can actually spread the fire by splattering the grease. Instead, use a fire extinguisher and aim at the base of the fire (not the flames) or throw a lot of baking soda or salt in the pot.
I was quite shaken by this event. After putting the fire out, I sat by the porch in front of the house for a few minutes and wondered whether I should just give up on cooking. But you see the way my hunger is set up… I shook it off and started the recipe from scratch because if something doesn’t burn you, it makes you wiser. And at the end of the day, this is how I felt:
3. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS..
If you are unable to contain a kitchen fire, your safety is important so evacuate the building and call 911 or the fire department. If, per chance, you live in a place where “911” is the imaginary number that only people on T.V. call, then evacuate the building and call on Jesus.
Anyone else have similar experiences? Leave a comment below and share.