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."