David had some dental surgery last week. After 8 months of wrestling with an infection, the endodontist finally performed what we hope is the last procedure, leaving David with several stitches in the roof of his mouth. He’s not one to complain a lot. He says it only hurts when he talks, eats or drinks. He’s been eating a lot of soup, pudding and ice cream and a lot of oatmeal for breakfast. Yesterday he tried dry cereal, but it hurt, so I offered alternatives this morning.
“Do you want to try dry cereal again, or do you want something else?”
“What’s something else?”
“I think I have enough oatmeal for today or I could make pancakes.”
“How about pancakes,” he said.
I need to go to the grocery store, but I found enough ingredients for a couple of orders, and there was a partial bottle of maple syrup in the back of the refrigerator. The only microwave we have is in the RV, so I poured the syrup into a small saucepan, turned the burner on warm to take the chill off and began assembling the ingredients for the pancakes. My big electric skillet is in the RV, so I turned the oven on low to keep the pancakes warm while I cooked them in shifts in a regular skillet. Everything was proceeding according to plan until…
I opened the oven door to take out the waiting pancakes and the warmed plates and my hand hit the handle of the saucepan. Time slowed down, and my life passed before my eyes. I stared at my hand that was now covered with a sticky brown liquid. I noted the growing puddle on the stovetop and idly wondered if there was enough left in the pan for the pancakes. I watched in wonder as the viscous liquid trickled down the inside of the oven door, leaving trails of a soft-crack candy-like substance. What remained in liquid form dripped through the crack at the bottom of the door and split into two streams with half seeping into the utility drawer and the rest forming a pool on the floor.
But as any southern cook knows, the meal must go on. I rinsed my hand, put half the pancakes on a plate and poured the remaining syrup into a small cream pitcher.
“David, come and eat.”
He said grace, and I excused myself to the kitchen. I wiped up enough of the spill to stop the spread and put the rest of the still-warm pancakes on a plate. I had a mess to clean up, but I didn’t have to do it hungry.
After I cleared the table, I gathered cleaning cloths and my friend Winky’s miracle cleaner – half Dawn liquid and half white vinegar – and went to work. I removed burners and drip pans and lifted the cook top. I wiped up syrup and chased tiny bits of uncooked pasta that had missed the pot. I guess that’s my penance for committing the cardinal sin of spaghetti preparation by breaking the strands before cooking them. I scraped the crusted residue off the oven door and took the muffin tin that was half full of syrup out of the utility drawer. I removed the drawer, mopped the floor underneath and went back to check for missed spots. The dishwasher is running now, the kitchen is put back together, and there’s a collection of sticky rags and towels in the laundry room, so everything’s pretty much back to normal.
We leased this house out the last two years we were in Florida, and when we moved back to Texas after being absentee landlords, it was uninhabitable. The carpets were chewed, stained and otherwise abused, and one of the bedrooms was coated with a thick layer of nicotine. We pulled up all the floor coverings and treated the sub-flooring before new carpet and tile were laid. We used gallons if Kilz and more gallons of paint, but hints of organic aromas still linger, especially on humid days. I use lots of sprays, candles and other air fresheners, so you never know what our house will smell like. But in case you’re wondering, the scent d’jour at the Brendle house is Dawn vinaigrette with a hint of maple. Glade, eat your heart out!