Chapter 20
The Crematorium
I love to cook.  Some of you will know that I was once, a lifetime ago, a High School Home Economics teacher.  Cooking and sewing are some of my favorite things to do and hand in hand with the cooking is the entertaining, which I know I have talked about previously.  Every weekend (bar very few) we have people over for one meal or another and I, given the required amount of time on my own, love to research the recipe, shop for the ingredients and if the ingredients allow it, harvest from my own garden to prepare an awesome meal.  These are usually meals I couldn’t make unless other people were coming over as the two fussy eaters that I live with wouldn’t be happy being served it as a regular meal.  Now whilst most of my creations revolve around the glamorous six burner barbecue which allows me to be outside and surrounded by friends as I cook, some accompaniments are best prepared in the oven, otherwise referred to as, you guessed it The Crematorium.
When we bought the house we were so pleased to see that the kitchen had been remodeled, whilst not in our style it was to say the least serviceable.  It contained the basics of cupboards, drawers, a large pantry with a light that comes on as you open the door (gotta love that), more cupboards, an oven, cooktop, more cupboards and a dishwasher.  Whilst the cooktop isn’t gas as I would love it to be, it does the job and whilst the oven is there in its little niche in the wall, it is constantly on duty.  Yep it doesn’t turn off.  Here we are approaching the end of our third year of ownership and we STILL have an oven that is hot all the time.  Whilst this works well to dry the tea towels that are hung on the door and to keep rust away from the oven trays that live in it, it really isn’t ideal.  Downside number one is cleaning an oven that you cant touch the inside of for fear of singeing off your arm hairs.  Therefore it remains uncleaned (I swear thats the reason!).  Downside number two   is the amount of electricity that it must be chewing up remaining ON all the time and its total non compliance to everything safe to do with electrical equipment, especially things that are hot.  
The worst downside though is the oven’s complete contravention of the international table governing appropriate cooking temperatures and recommended cooking times for various dishes.  When it comes to baking I need to do a conversion of my own, not from imperial to metric but from metric to volcanic!  Divide cooking time in half and adjust temperature down by 100 degrees, and even then stand by the oven in the last third of the cooking time peering through the grease laden glass to observe the colour of the dish before it goes from golden brown to black in a matter of seconds whenever it feels like it.  I have literally cooked a quiche without physically turning the oven on!
Some of our poor friends who to their credit are always polite have had to endure the most beautiful homemade cheese and pesto bread, but soft fluffy insides only because the cremated crust was inedible, garlic toast which once again has to be eaten inside out, muffins that look like spewing volcanos because the outside crust cooks first and the molten inner pours out of the conical fissure to harden as a strange protruding.  Just weird believe me.  This week it was corn muffins or johnny cakes, a packet mix I spied in a shop full of USA produce and reminded me of my time in the States on student exchange.  I made up the very simple recipe, loaded the muffin tray into the oven, set the timer and walked away (and now you see my folly) for just a minute to have to race back when I smelt the black smoke billowing out of the cracks in the oven door.  
The only dish I seem to not have any worries with is the potato bake (old fashioned I know but goes well with a big juicy steak on the BBQ), which because it is covered in foil and quite liquid for most of the cooking time, can withstand the torturous temperatures and doesn’t blacken as other things would.  Every other dish is either a labour I don’t have time for or brings a disastrous result.
Now I am aware that we have many priorities in this house all of which require time and money.  Of course we need to have chains sharpened at $30 a pop, new chains for $45 (almost two a month), petrol for the mower, engines serviced, mowers replaced, pool water tested and litres of acid and kilos of salt bought every week, bigger better chainsaws, compressors that are newer than the one we bought two years ago… but look, if I am to cook spectacular dinners every weekend I must be given the right tools to work with, any tradesman worth his salt would have to agree.  
So now, we are on the hunt for a new oven as it has finally taken on the priority it deserves and I swear when the installation of the new oven and the exorcism of the old one is complete, I am going to give it a bit of its own medicine and throw it into our weekend bon fire and incinerate the volcanic beast good and proper!
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  1. I had a good laugh reading this…. I have not had a working oven in almost 18 months (it is now the baking tray cupboard) but prior to the big melt down of the beast had to endure many a burnt on top and raw under sides which drove me crazy! Now I do all my baking/ roasting in a convection microwave. Would love to have a good oven though….well really a new kitchen if I had my choice – but I guess this has to go on the list. Enjoy your shopping hope you find a great oven and enjoy making and baking in it!

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