Come on Baby, Light My Fire…. Or Why Melle Also Did Not Learn to Cook, Either…. Part Two

True story #1.

Flint Lighter
Flint. Yeah. Whatevs.

Supposedly, you squeeze the handle together with some downward pressure and it scrapes something across something else and the flint and it makes a spark and you do all this while holding it near the flowing natural gas to which the Bunsen burner has been attached…. and wah-lah! You have fire. Yeah. Mmhmm. Sure.

When I was in AP Chemistry as a Junior in High School, I was physically incapable of lighting my own Bunsen burner. As a result, I and my lab partner, would hold our Bunsen burners microphone style and sing the Doors song to Eric Whittenburg. Who I had a GINORMOUS crush on. Eric Whittenburg would not know this because the only way I was emotionally capable of expressing this interest in him was by yanking his hairs out one by one from my seat behind him. And playing with his bottom with my feet by tucking them into his chair. If you are friends with Eric Whittenburg, and he has told you stories of this crazy irritating hair plucking girl from Montgomery, AL in the early 90’s…  well… *waves*

Onto my story.

The bitter irony in this is that a flint lighter is the ONLY way known to humanity to light a fire that I find myself incapable of using to light a fire.

In fact, I was am was so expressly talented at lighting fires, that by the time I graduated college, the Fire Marshall knew me by name.

Burning Down The House…

Wall of fire
And for my next trick, I will be engulfing the desk, sliding glass doors, roof fascia and dining room ceiling with a wall of fire…. watch! We can only perform this one once!

Did you know that if you heat cooking oil too long on a burner on high heat that it will catch on fire? Did you also know that you can recreate this incredibly scary nifty scary wall of fire at home by carrying the flaming pan to the porch, setting the pan outside on the deck, and pouring a gallon of Grape Kool-aid on it? Yeap. True story.

Not only that… But when your dad and step mother return home from a mini vacation in Hawaii after leaving you to care for their 5-year-old and newborn 8 week old infant, they will be furious. Not that you nearly burned the house down, killing all of their beloved daughters at once….

But because you singed the fascia underneath the edge of the roof.

In a rental house.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks. This was, however, my last kitchen fire. It wasn’t, unfortunately, my first.

Or my second.

True Story #3, for those who were counting….

I was in home ec. I had jammed the first machine. And rapidly jammed 3 more. Two of them had to be replaced. However, there were no longer enough machines for the class, even working in our assigned groups and sharing. So, rather than a four-week rotation, our teacher moved us straight away into Cooking.

Which brings me to the Good Part.

Cider-brined chicken.
Sunny Anderson’s Cider-Brined Fried Chicken. This is by far my favorite recipe to date. I don’t fry anything much, and never chicken-on-the-bone. But nuggets or tenders? Even pork chops? This recipe has the guys cheering…. YUM!

We had to devise a menu within our group.  We decided on fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and cat head biscuits. For dessert, we would be preparing banana pudding.  The quintessential Southern Sunday Dinner.

I’ve tried for weeks to figure out exactly how to tell this tale. Because you won’t believe me. And I can only hope that someone from Sandy Springs Middle School in Atlanta, GA will come forward and confirm my story…

Where to begin?

The fried chicken the splattered oil on a gas stove and caught on fire?

The biscuits that dried into hockey pucks?

The pudding that splattered the entire height of the classroom… blinds? Because I didn’t know that you had to have the mixer beaters seated firmly against the base of the bowl before turning in on?  Oh… and that you don’t start out on HI?

Or perhaps I start with my partners hair? Which got caught in the mixer beater blades when I lifted the mixer… still on high, mind you… out of the pudding that was shooting to the ceiling?

Why I love to scrapbook…. And Why I learned it first….

So I go home, soak my mom’s white sweater hoping for the singe marks and pudding to wash out. And return to school the next day.

Hopeful as only a child can be.

I walked up, though, and the door was barred, My teacher, bless her soul, was standing there.

Waiting for me.

principal's office door
They’re waiting for you in the principal’s office….

I was sent to the principal’s office. Immediately.  I was assured through my tears (I had never been sent the principal’s office before!) that I was not in trouble. Just that the guidance counselor would like to see me.

It was plainly explained that they did not feel that Home Economics was a good fit for me. That perhaps I should look into Journalism or Yearbook staff.

And so I did.

I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I’ll Blow Your House Down!

Lego Man
Hot. And you can keep him when he’s done putting out your fire…..

That wasn’t my last fire. Not even that year.

The morning after Thanksgiving, I put cinnamon rolls in the oven for my little brother and myself. Mom was at work, but I can still hear my panting in my ears when I called her.

“MOM!”  *puff puff puff* “The oven’s on fire!”

“What’s that puffing sound? What are you doing?”

“Trying to blow it out!”

The entire office staff of the apartment complex my mom managed (and where we lived) RAN to our building while sirens could be heard wailing in the distance….

We got a few years farther before the next big fire.


toaster on fire
Toaster Down!

Cinnamon toast in the toaster oven. Sleepy college kid. Cartoons. Waiting. Went back to sleep, I did.

Woke up the cat howling and flames shooting out the toaster oven. No more appliances in the dorm.

That big fire in the grease pot while I gave my baby-est sister her bath.

My life has been a series of Fiery Events, one after another.

And that…. That is why I didn’t learn to sew… or cook actually, in Home Ec.

What about you? Were you ever careless… or like me, flakier than a pie crust… when it came to kitchen safety?

Or were you always cautious and careful, never making mistakes?

I personally like to think that all my early mishaps have made me the cook I am today. And the seamstress. (I’ve just recently decided that I *am* a seamstress…. not a sewer…. This is more than  a hobby…. it’s a passion.

You might even say it’s a burning passion….

And because you asked…

shank button
These little loops are perfect for using on clothes.

Some of you emailed me asking what I meant about those loopy back buttons with the safety pins?

Apparently they have a name. (See… no home ec!)

They’re called Shank Buttons. When they fall off, you just hold them back where they belong, and run a safety pin through the loop from inside the clothing. Or , if you’re like me, you snip all the buttons off everything new you buy as soon as you get it home and replace them all immediately with safety pinned shank buttons.


No more getting caught with your proverbial pants down.

You know. When your button falls off.


4 Replies to “Come on Baby, Light My Fire…. Or Why Melle Also Did Not Learn to Cook, Either…. Part Two”

  1. LOL! Melle, you’re cracking me up! I’m scared to death of frying anything. I blame it on Mom catching the stove on fire 3 times in one year, dropping one flaming pan on her foot, and ruining our pool table when she flung one pan out the kitchen door. She finally learned what baking soda was for, and I don’t believe she has ever been without a box since then!

    I took home ec, but we learned how to knit, make souffles (which. I. hate dislike intensely), and sew, only we had to use our Mothers’ sewing machine because our school didn’t have the equipment! My sewing machine is on the fritz, and I am in tears because I have to learn how to use a new machine. I am SEW not liking the change! lol But I will take a shank button any day of the week. 😉

    1. I wish I lived closer. I really think you could fix your machine if you had someone to walk you through it.

      True story? The Very. First. Time I used my machine when I bought it, I broke a needle off. Not just broke it, either. I jammed it into the bobbin case. Then when I went to get it all out, I DROPPED IT! Into the bowels of my machine!

      That’s why I think we could get yours working again. I know you said the needle was down in there somewhere. If you turn your machine up on its side, are there screws holding that bottom plate on? If so, just unscrew them! As long as yu don’t lose any parts, you’re plan is to take it in anyway. Might as well get your hours worth of repair money! The worst than can happen at this point is 1, you lose a screwm or 2, you can’t fix it. Which either way, you’re no worse off.

      But honestly, I think you could get it out.

      I turned mine upside down and shook it! Yeap. Shook the darned thing! Eventually all the pieces of that needle came flying out…. but ugh! I was in tears the whole time! After that I did have to adjust my tension to get it right again. And no, I don’t recommend hanging your machine upside down and shaking it like you’re performing an exorcism on a regular basis…. but I think you’re safe to at least pull the bottom off and see what you see in there. You should be pulling the bottom off to clean it regularly anyway!

  2. Hilarious! I don’t even remember much of home ec, but more because it bored me and I was trying to get into wood shop class instead. Of course, now I do both.

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