Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cooking and setting things on fire.

I'm pretty decent at picking up new skills; and cooking is included in those skills.  I cook decently well.  And south Indian cooking isn't exactly the easiest to cook!  So that's saying something.


The interesting part is that I always set something on fire when I cook.  Inadvertently.  This isn't one of those times when things are supposed to catch fire.

The last time I really cooked was about 5-6 years ago - when I was doing my internship with Keithley Instruments in Solon, OH.  That time, I washed a pan and put it on the stove to heat off any remaining water (water + oil when heating = super hot bubbles that pop in your face... they always seem to wait till you are sticking your head over them to pop).  Apparently I forgot how high I set the stove... and for how long.

I eventually poured in some oil.  And it started smoking.  I knew this wouldn't end well.

WHOOSH it caught fire.  But it doesn't end there.  As pretty as the flames were, I had to put it out.  I didn't want to go outside and pop the fire extinguisher (it was a new one in the hall way!).  So I figured I could use some dirt from outside.  But it had just rained - so that'll be too much work to scoop and put in.

So I did the next best thing!  I decided to put it in the sink and turn on the water. 

Yes.  On an oil fire.

Yes, yes I know that using water to put out an oil fire is a stupid idea.  But it's the only thing I could think of.  I also knew that it tends to create a huge fireball when the water first hits the oil.  So I put the fiery pan in the sink, and I turned on the faucet.  Instinctively I pulled the Matrix move of leaning backwards - almost 80 degrees, because I KNEW what was going to happen. 

BOOM huge fireball.  It was exactly like in the movies - like a mini explosion / rising mushroom cloud of fire.  It licked my face as I bent backwards.  Fortunately, no singed eyebrows.  Since there wasn't that much oil, it died out pretty quick.


Point of that - I set things on fire when I cook.  But I still cook pretty well!

The real point of all of this?  Well my parents were coming back from Brisbane, Australia today.  My dad was participating in the World Transplant Games (it's like the Olympics, but for people who've had transplants).  I figure it'd be nice to cook for them (since they really only eat home cooked food) and they'd be too tired to cook for themselves after an 18 hour flight.

Well, it came out well.  The salt was a bit off in one of them - but not too bad for not having cooked in years.

While setting up a garnish for one of the dishes - you heat a bit of oil (it always has to be something with oil - only thing I can set on fire really!  Then again... I don't put it past me to find new things to set on fire while cooking), put in mustard seeds and wait for them to pop.  Then you dump in a couple of red chillis, and pour the whole thing into the dish (Rasam). 

I toss in the red peppers.  And guess what?  WHOOSH.  A nice little mini explosion of fire.  This fire plume went high enough to touch the cooking range's vents (so from my hip to just over my head).  And this flame was blue!  Well, a blue-green really.  So it was pretty to look at.  Fortunately it put itself out pretty quickly.  Silly red peppers were completely roasted though.  Then again, my grandma used to say that "when a red pepper's nice and roasted does it's spicy-ness leak out".  So maybe it was all for the best.  I'm not exactly sure why it caught fire this time.  It wasn't wet.  But maybe some of the oil crackled up and out of the crucible and made contact with the stove's flames?  That could set it on fire I guess.  But blue-green?  That's an odd color for an oil fire.

But hey, they came out well!  Okra Sambar.  Lemon Rasam.  Okra curry.  Some Daal on the side too (really just excess daal that I didn't mix in with the sambar and the rasam).

So next time one of my friends asks me to cook for them (which I'm mostly happy to do - I just hate cooking for just myself - too much work / ingredients needed for 1 person ); just remember to bring a fire extinguisher along with your appetite.

Remember to always practice safe cooking.  I'm a "trained" professional.  Don't try to recreate these awesome stunts at home.

- K out

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