top of page
  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

"Burnin' Down The House"

Maybe it was listening and dancing to The Talking Heads' rockin' song "Burnin' Down The House." Or more likely, it was my foggy brain that seems to be getting foggier by the day. Or maybe it was my subconscious screaming to get the hell out of a foot of snow (at least) and over a week now with temperatures dipping down into the single digits.

Whatever the reasons, I've almost succeeded in burning down our house not once but twice, all within a month's time. It's been freezing around these parts. So, what better time than to light a fire in a wood-burning fireplace? I gathered the wood, opened the flue, turned on the gas starter (It's cheating, I know. But my days as the family fire starter are long gone.) I'm certain that I opened the flue because a gust of Arctic air whipped into the living room and, for a moment, I thought that I should bag the fire but, not, I was determined to heat things up. After struggling to get a flame on the supposed easy-to-use long lighter perfect for starting up the barbie or wood-burning fire, I put the lighter to the few pieces of kindling, and voila, I had a roaring fire on its way.

Well, not exactly. That wind I mentioned howled as it blew the flames in every direction. And then the smoke. The smoke was everywhere. The fire alarms started blaring. My husband came barreling down the front stairs, flew into the kitchen, and returned with a bucket of water, and doused the fire.

The fire was out, but the jungle of smoke permeated the house on all three floors. While I called ADT to ask how they might help and eventually hung up because there was nothing they could do, my husband started opening windows. Not a few windows but every window in the entire house. Did I mention that the temperature was by then in the single digits? A chilly house was within a matter of minutes turned into an igloo.

Need I say more? It took hours for the smoke to clear, and sleeping that night with the soot and stink everywhere was a challenge. And I was in the dog house. Come to think of it, that's where I should have slept.

Okay, so I'd done my best imitation of a pyromaniac. It would never happen again.

Yeah . . . not really.

I'd been frustrated with not finding an online dance class during the Pandemic. I missed my three-times-a-week contemporary jazz classes. Big time. I figured I'd open the link my beloved dance instructor had recorded back in June. I pulled back the rug in my office, took off my shoes and socks (I tried dancing in my jazz shoes that I’d left in the car since March, but they stuck to the wood floor), and linked to the Vimeo video on my desktop which has the biggest screen in the house. I was shocked at how much I’d forgotten and then how quickly my body memory kicked in. So far, so good. I finished the warmup such as it was and tried to pick up the combination.

I was in the midst of bumbling my way through when I looked at my watch and realized that I’d cut it close with the brown rice cooking on the stove. As I walked down the upstairs hallway, I started to smell smoke. By the time I made it to the kitchen, the stink was overwhelming, there was thick smoke everywhere, and the pot of rice with six cups of water had turned into a burning inferno. I spent the next hour or two “airing” out the house which was made more difficult because my husband had sealed all the windows on the first floor.

I opened the back door, found one window in the kitchen to open, and then raced back upstairs. We all know that hot air rises, and rise it had—into our bedroom, into every room on the second floor, and then up to my husband's studio on the third floor! Talk about Deja Vu on steroids.

My friends will tell you that I'm not a cook, and they'd be correct. But this Pandemic messes with us and as a sassy senior in her mid-seventies, I decided to learn to cook more than just broiled chicken legs, meatloaf, and a veggie wok. That was my first mistake. My second was to be distracted when I had rice cooking on the stove. Full disclosure: I forgot to turn the heat down after bringing the water to a full boil.

Getting back to "cooking" for me is like getting back on a horse after taking a big fall. I'm going to whip up some meatloaf tonight and maybe sometime in the foreseeable future I'll cook up some fluffy brown rice.

1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Sue Hepker
Sue Hepker
Feb 12, 2021

I loved this post! So easy for me to visualize. I hope Alan took the wonderful picture at the top of this post!

One of my first memories of cooking in Chicago was leaving the toast in the toaster oven and forgetting it was there. The result was a blaze in the toaster oven, and me running around the kitchen shrieking and flapping my arms like a chicken, until I ripped the toaster from the counter and threw it into the snow. Incredibly, I continued to use the toaster oven for years after that...

Rice is tricky, if you have attention deficit disorder ( as I do). Best bet is to buy a rice maker that switches off itself when…

bottom of page