As an ( expat ) foodie, have you ever done something so dangerous, that afterward you’re stunned by the stupidity of what you’ve done?
I like to think of myself as a person of normal intelligence, but unfortunately a few humbling events proved this conviction to be wrong. One such an occasion took place in Indonesia where for a couple of years I lived the happy expat life with my man and our two daughters: I was stupid in the kitchen. Very stupid. And it involved pumpkin bread, I kid you not. Let me serve up the story of what I did:
Very Expensive Pumpkin Bread
The food in Indonesia is scrumptious, and we enjoy lovely seafood and luscious tropical fruits all year around. But as every expat knows, sometimes you hanker after something you can’t buy or cook in your new expat environment.
So when the holiday season comes around, I want pumpkin bread, which is a traditional American confection I have come to adore. There are many such breads in the USA with fruits and vegetables as part of their ingredients: Applesauce bread, banana bread, zucchini bread, date bread, cranberry bread, and so on. These breads are not actually bread as we normally think of bread — the yeasty variety. They are sweet loaves and have a cake-like texture. In my native Holland we would call them koek.
Locating the ingredients
I manage to obtain a can of pureed pumpkin from the American commissary in Jakarta. This was easier said than done since we don’t live in Jakarta, but in the provincial town of Semarang, sometimes referred to as the armpit of Java (because of the sweaty tropical weather). The canned pumpkin and my precious whole wheat flour arrived by plane, carried by my loving husband who on occasion visits the capital for business reasons and then goes shopping for me.
All the above is just a set-up to prepare you for the drama of the story to follow, and possibly as a psychological excuse for my bird-brain stupidity.
So here goes:
In a joyful Christmassy mood (in spite of the tropical weather), I put together the batter for my pumpkin bread. I add ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves — spices that always put me in a holiday high. Who needs drugs, really?
I pour the finished batter in the buttered baking pan, put it in the pre-heated oven and set the timer for the requisite 1 hour baking time. So far, so good. Soon the house smells heavenly, the air fragrant with the scent of spices. About half-way through the baking time I go back to the kitchen to get an even better sniff up my nostrils and to peek through the oven window at how beautiful it’s starting to look. If you are a baker, you will know what I mean. You will know the satisfaction of creating a masterpiece.
So I go down on my haunches and look in the oven. The bread is rising energetically, but horrors of horrors, the gas flames have gone out. This cannot be! The gas tank has only recently been replaced. I know it is not empty.
My precious pumpkin bread is going to perish, collapse from lack of heat. I grab the matches, open the door and relight the oven.
Which explodes in my face.
I’m left with no eyelashes and no eyebrows and I have burned cheeks, hands and shins.
I slam the door closed. The oven goes merrily on burning, saving my pumpkin bread.
Me? Well, I’m spending a sleepless night with ice packs on my shins and hands. The god of gas had mercy and I have no serious burns, but I sure look funny without eyebrows and eyelashes.
NOTE: The shame of it is that I grew up with gas, was lectured by my mother and the entire nation of the Netherlands about the proper way to handle gas. And still I did this utterly brainless thing. Scariest of all is the thought that if I can be this idiotic, what other dangerous things might I do in a moment of insanity?
PS: And here’s another stove crisis, set in Ghana.
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Have you ever been stupid in the kitchen? Do you have the guts to fess up to a brainless deed you’ve committed? No? You’ve never done anything idiotic or dangerous? I am so impressed, but I’m not sure we can be friends now.