Toasting My Oven Fears

This article was published in the January 2015 issue of the Irish American News under the “Guilty Pleasures” column.

It’s the New Year, time to turn over a new leaf.

For me, that means making a confession to you, dear readers.

For the past year, I’ve been sharing stories with you about food, culture and how to make this and that. What you don’t know is that I am, in fact, afraid of my own oven and have not used it since I moved into my apartment more than five years ago.

You’re probably wondering how I feed myself. I do so by using the stovetop and my crock pot (I don’t have a microwave either).

It all started the first time I tried to use the oven, during the first week we moved in. While it was heating up, I pulled out the broiler drawer to see gas flames extending down, just centimeters from the linoleum floor. It startled and frightened me so much that I immediately switched off the gas, never to turn it on again.

The gas company sent someone to look it over, this intimidating beast, and they did so thoroughly, staring it down, noting there’s nothing wrong with it. This oven certainly isn’t about to burst into flames, like Moses’ burning bush, even though I fear it might at any minute.

It is old, though, this oven of my nightmares. The knob that is supposed to indicate temperature is arbitrary and regularly falls off. The heat it generates, which I discovered the first and only time I had it on, sets off our smoke detectors, making me question where the fire might be.

At work, I’m the butt of jokes. Once my colleagues discovered my fear, they offered to stage an “oven intervention,” almost like the reality TV shows where women are restyled or hoarders are saved from their self-induced plight. I know this fear comes from inside. The oven is a symptom, not a cause of this real, but irrational dread.

All in all, it’s a very silly state of affairs. I hope that with this official resolution set, I will be able to overcome my fear of this oven without going up in flames. All the dishes I love and miss cooking—Shepherd’s pie, Midwestern casserole, whole roasted chicken, pork tenderloin—and want to share with you are tied up in this mess.

And so, as I raise my glass, warm from a hot toddy, a perfect cocktail for a cold January evening, as I say a silent goodbye to my oven fear and hope for the best the next time I switch on the gas.

Hot toddy ingredients

All the makings of a hot toddy.


Hot Toddy

Saviors of the kitchen-phobic, Hot Toddies are sophisticated and comforting, and most importantly, involve minimal interactions with flame or potentially hazardous machinery.

2 shots Irish whiskey

8 oz. boiling water

1 slice lemon

4 cloves, insert into lemon slice

Sugar to sweeten (optional)

Combine all ingredients in your favorite mug and enjoy!

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