Monday, March 5, 2007

From toaster oven to toasted oven

When the directions on the box of your family taco dinner kit include, "WARNING: DO NOT HEAT TORTILLAS IN TOASTER OVEN BECAUSE THEY CAN IGNITE," you should heed that advice.

I know because I nearly burned our house down.

It was the day after one of our favorite meals, tacos, and we had leftovers for lunch. Jerry likes soft flour tortillas and I like the hard corn ones, so we usually buy a taco kit that includes both. When it came time to reheat everything, it seemed silly to warm up the entire oven for three little shells. And the microwave wasn't an option. I knew they'd either become too hard to chew or rubbery and not separate when I tried to take a bite.

Enter the toaster oven.

Now, I should preface all of this by saying that I've never caused a fire in my toaster oven. A frying pan? Sure. Just ask my college roommates about the time I had to hold a flaming pan out the kitchen window while screaming for help. The regular oven? Almost. Just ask my mom about the time my friend Katie and I started making pumpkin seeds in junior high and then decided to go to the mall and leave them smoldering for hours. And hours. One of those electric skillet thingies? Don't even get me started.

But the toaster oven? Let's just say it would be very difficult to choose my favorite piece of equipment in my kitchen -- almost as hard as deciding on a favorite flavor of ice cream -- but the toaster oven would be right up there in the top five. It toasts! It bakes! It broils! Waffles! Hot sandwiches! Tater tots! And much, much more!

No, the toaster oven has never let me down. It does it all. If it had feelings, a sense of humor and could compliment my butt in a pair of jeans, Jerry just might have a little competition.

So when I needed to reheat my three measly taco shells, the toaster oven looked at me and said, "Fire? Psh, I can handle it. BRING IT ON."

And everything was going fine for the first few minutes. We had gotten out all the condiments, reheated the meat and poured drinks. Jerry's soft tacos were constructed, on a plate and ready to consume. But just as I was reaching to open the toaster oven door and pull out my victorious, perfectly browned shells and construct my own meal, it happened.

Sooner than I could say, "Oh shit," I saw one of the shells turn black and ignite. And those suckers burn fast.

Within seconds, all three of the shells were little furnaces of flames. We had been using the counter space right in front of the toaster oven to prepare our meal so it didn't take long for Jerry to notice, too. Well, his proximity and the fact that I started screaming some incoherent rant about "Ahh! Ahh! Oh my ... SHIT! FLAMES! WHADDOWEDO?! WHERE'S THE THINGIE? SERIOUSLY, WHERE'D WE PUT THAT RED THINGIE? THE FIRE THINGY! CRAAAAPPPP!"

I think what I was trying to say was this: "Excuse me, Jerry? In case you haven't noticed, I accidentally set my taco shells on fire. Would you be so kind as to help me remember where we put the fire extinguisher?"

Instead, he just started blowing on the flames from above to keep the fire from spreading to the cabinets.

Fortunately, I had a moment of clarity and remembered that the fire extinguisher was in the little pantry nook on our basement landing. It's cool and dark, the exact requirements for storing such an apparatus according to the label on the side of the package. (And if you even THINK about wondering why I heed some package directions and not others, I will drive to your house and hit you over the head with my charred toaster oven.)

Anyway, as I was frantically sprinting back up the basement steps, fire extinguisher in hand, trying to figure out how to remove that infuriating plastic red pin that prevents it from working properly, I didn't mentally prepare myself for the nearly 2 foot-tall flames that I would see lapping at my genuine wood cabinets when I rounded the corner to the kitchen. I think I lost about 30 seconds because the sight stopped me dead in my tracks as the image of my entire house being engulfed in flames slammed me.

Fortunately, Jerry reached out and grabbed the device from my hand, ripped the pin out with his teeth, stood back and gave the toaster oven a quick blast.

Then he realized his fully constructed and perfectly unburnt soft tacos were sitting on a plate in front of where he just sprayed a stream of deadly toxins.

"Ah! My TACOS!" he yelled, taking a second to move them to another counter before blasting the toaster again.

And as soon as those suckers had ignited, the fire was out. Other than a black soot mark that I can easily clean up, my amazing 102-year-old cabinets were spared.

Then I realized I was standing in a cloud of smoke and fire extinguisher juice and started gagging on my way to prop open the back door and stand on the porch.

As Jerry used pot holders to bring our smoldering toaster oven outside, I just started laughing.

"Did that really just happen?" I asked. And we stood there in our socks, with the burnt remains of one of our wedding presents and laughed.

It took a good hour to air out the downstairs, but I'd consider that a victory compared to the disaster it could've been. The next day we replaced our toaster oven AND our fire extinguisher.

And now I can say, without hesitation, that my favorite appliance for my kitchen is "that red fire thingie."


Amy said...

haha I pictures the whole thing in my head very funny... lucky it didn't get too out of hand!

Thanks for stopping by on my xanga :)
Writing does help me to find myself more and more but i'm not 100% sure yet maybe in time I will.

Kristin said...

Holy crap! I've never heard of such a thing happening in a toaster over. Although that makes me realize I do not have a red thingy and I should.

Tiffany said...

I never knew that could happen!! Wow! Glad you were quick on your toes ;-)

Erin said...

Maybe it's because I'm a reporter, but your post left me with one question: Why do they ignite in the toaster oven but not in a regular oven? Is it because the space is smaller? The heat more concentrated? This calls for some experimentation.

But, at least you were warned that the tacos may burst into flames...

aisha said...

hahaha... wow. Glad you stopped it before it spread-fire is funny only when contained(friend's house caught fire last december. funny many weeks later, not so funny in the moment).

I'm suddenly very glad I've never liked crunchy tacos. :)

How'd Toby handle the towering inferno of toaster oven?

Anonymous said...

hey i have a similar story about igniting a burger from wendy's in the happens. not thinking things totally through before doing will do that to ya. afterwards though it was funny for me too...after the flames were gone of course.

ajandmac said...

oh my gosh!

that is hysterical!

im so glad you both acted quickly and saved the day. who knew taco shells were so flame-friendly? way to go!

Anonymous said...

I really want a toaster oven now.

HTTP:// said...

I'm really glad you guys are ok....

But while reading, I couldn't stop laughing at the observation my 12-year-old brain was making.


Forgive me? :)

Anonymous said...

hahahahaha that story cracked me up. a month or so ago at my work, you might know of it since your from around here, bill grays... i wasn't working but saw the videos of one of our fryers lighting on fire. like big flames and everything. and rather then go grab the fire extinguisher, the manager and everyone else stood there with their cell phones taking videos of it.

Jennifer said...

OMG that was scary and funny all at once. I'm glad it wasn't worse and everything turned out ok!!

Maria said...

Taco shells?!? Who would have thunk it?

Once when I was a little kid I put a hamburger (complete w/ wrapper) from Wendy's into the microwave, pushed the 'minute plus' button and then watched as it burst into flames.

That was the day I learned that microwaves and aluminum foil don't mix.

the "extinguished" plainsman said...

"And those suckers burn fast."

Good that you didn't reach for the "digi-vidi-cami thingie" first!

I'm kind of suspicious of those hard shells now, too. Probably the high fat content combined with all that fiber!

Anonymous said...

Best part:

Chelsea said...

Ohmigah! I'm glad you're ok! And I'm glad I read that because I NEVER read those packages.

And thanks for the advice on my Dad, I think I really do just need to not question whats going on with us.

Dave said...

Yet another reason why soft tacos are BETTER!!

Emilee said...

now all you needed was toby running around, barking and trying to eat the fire extinguisher juice. glad everything turned out okay though!

shimajan said...

hmmm i think my mom puts taco shells in the toaster oven. i should probably talk to her about that..

i nearly burned my apartment building down last year.. except i didn't have a fire extinguisher! but the firemen who showed up did... =)

Ray said...

Ohmygoodness, if that was me I would have been going crazy. Lucky you that Jerry was there to help you. Glad nothing bad really happened.

Take care, Kelly.

April said...

Another awesome post to complete my very wonderful day, Kelly. =)

It gave me a flash back to when I was still in the Philippines and I "took over" cooking some food. Nobody told me or at least I didn't hear them say that when you're frying tomatoes, turn down the heat... all I know was the frying pan was all in flames and I was out of the kitchen door screaming at the top of my lungs. I left the freakin' thing. hahaha. Luckily, our househelper was "further experienced" than me.

I never thought Tacos and Toaster Oven aren't compatible.

Thank God for the Red Fire Thingy.

I wonder how Toby reacted though. =)

Petra (aka oneka) said...

At times your life is so much like a hit sitcom... This was so hilarious, though at the same time I'm happy that nothing worse happened.

I suppose those warnings are there for a reason, eh... ;)