I’ve mentioned before that no one in our house cooked much during my childhood. There was lots of corned beef hash, fish sticks, grits with eggs, sandwiches and canned or frozen stuff. There was occasionally some amazing macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs if there was a special occasion, and both Mama and Grandmama made good (hamburger-laden, non-spicy, in no way associated with Italy) spaghetti sauce. They both worked outside the home when my sister and I were little, and ease of preparation was a big influencer of the meal choices made at our house.
The stove in our kitchen back then was a small gas model. I’m guessing that it was from the 1940’s because that’s when our house was built, and no one back then replaced anything unless it was really broken…especially at 4201 Blossom Street. The oven was tiny…nothing like the big ovens we have today, and the broiler was a drawer that pulled out below the oven. We never had a toaster–I was raised on real toast that was made under the flame of that broiler…the pats of butter pooling up in distinct quadrants. If we were lucky we were treated to cinnamon toast, the sugar caramelized under that same flame. I remember being so proud of myself when I was old enough to learn to relight the (eternally pooping out) pilot light. There was always a little danger involved, which made it a very grown up thing to be allowed to do.
When my little sister was about 7 she got really ambitious one day and decided that she would surprise Mama with early morning breakfast in bed. We were all wakened by the smell of something nasty burning, and we rushed into the kitchen to find Lynnie (still ‘Lynn’ at that time) at the gas stove, on her tiptoes…trying desperately to scoop up the remains of a (now liquid) Tupperware bowl that she had decided to use to cook scrambled eggs. The smell of (certainly toxic, maybe radioactive) burning plastic hung around in our kitchen for quite a while.
I was 9 when it was 1967 (the Summer of Love), and I decided that I just wasn’t groovy enough. Solution…well TIE DYE, of course! I armed myself with a box of Rit dye (purple!), a pair of rubber gloves, and I had my plain white t-shirt meticulously prepped with all those annoying rubber bands. I mixed up the dye and water, and had the solution heating up on the stove (the ‘stove-top’ method is recommended for darker colors–I follow directions well). I was just getting ready to dip the shirt into the grape Nehi-colored mixture when…BU-BLAM!!! A huge plume of steaming, dark purple hell…complete with white and yellow glass shards…engulfed the stove and everything else within about a yard! As it turns out, the only container in our kitchen that was large enough to accommodate my project was a huge, yellow Pyrex bowl with a white interior. Suffice it to say that Pyrex and direct flame don’t play well together. (Come on, it had the words ‘oven proof’ stamped on the bottom, and at least I knew better than to use TUPPERWARE, for Gods sake!)
I (miraculously) wasn’t hurt, but I was immediately, completely mortified as I realized that I had done something that my sister would typically be guilty of! It was right at that moment that my grandmother came running into the kitchen…she had just driven up to the house and actually heard the explosion from outside, as she got out of her car! The look of absolute horror on her face was the scariest thing I think I’d ever seen, and I knew I was a dead girl.
I was, needless to say, a bit surprised when she ran up and threw her arms around me…hugging me hard! I was afraid of being punished, but she was just scared that I’d been hurt, and was relieved to find me in one (purple-splattered) piece.
That stove had a bit of a lavender cast for a while, but it was none the worse for wear, and it lasted until we finally moved out of that house in the late 1970’s. My sister turned out to be a really good cook, and she makes macaroni and cheese that’s so good it makes me tear up a little. I never did get my tie dye, but whenever I see a display of Rit Dye, I cringe a little…and I try to avoid Pyrex whenever possible.