I’m afraid of my stove
I owned many gas kitchen stoves in America, car-camped across the country with Coleman camping stoves, and carried backpack stoves into the wilderness, but after three months of living in my Sansai bungalow, I’m still afraid of my plain old, ordinary, everyday Thai propane stove.
My first attempt to light it ended with one hairless arm, the smell of my own body parts in the air and a snapshot in my brain of four foot flames in the kitchen. I had opened the tank, turned the knob, heard a click and was immediately transported to Hell, which sounds like FWOOOOOMP, in all capitals. I wet my pants, but couldn’t get that liquid onto the stove fast enough. Somehow I, or Buddha, shut off the tank before I made the obituary section of the newspaper.
After changing pants and a three-week Fear of Being Burned Alive Therapy Course, I approached the Hell Stove cautiously. The burner I had chosen to tease was called TURBO. (No manual available, but I assume it stands for Torch ‘UR Butt Off.) I actually got the STANDARD burner to behave and fixed a meal for my housewarming party, though it was almost a solo, house-burning party. Since that day, I only get hissing and clicking, similar to encounters with rattlesnakes in the wilderness.
I asked my landlady’s helper for a stove lesson. She did the same as I, heard the sinister hissing and worthless clicking, backed off in gentle terror and ordered another stove. Alone again with my new stove, summoning all my courage and wearing all the clothes that I own including my leather motorcycle jacket, I gingerly turned the knob: hiss, hiss, click, click. SOS, DD—same old sound, different day. I’m resigned to being the incompetent Farang, but I’m also still alive.
The microwave is fine for warming food from the markets—no horrible hissing and clicking, just safe humming and a bell when dinner’s ready—but it doesn’t work for everything.
I came home late one night and wanted a cigarette, but had no lighter; my neighbors were asleep; my emergency Coleman waterproof matches were three years old and moldy. No lighter anywhere, under anything, in any box, drawer, pocket or trash bags. I looked at the stove but only saw the snapshot from Hell and heard the internal echo of the rattlesnake. No way was I going to be a statistic just because I wanted a cigarette. Brainstorm! The microwave! Regrettably it wouldn’t turn on, with the door open a crack for the tobacco end of a cigarette. The whole cigarette got very hot in there. I burned my lips. At least I have hair on both arms again.
I’m still a stove chicken but I’ve learned it is possible to cook chicken by candlelight if you have several hours to spare and several hundred candles.
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