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El albergue

El albergue

Saturday, October 8, 2011

In-Home Pyrotechnics


Who says you have to leave home to experience the stunning wonder of fire displays, right?  Why not just enjoy them from the comfort of your own kitchen?  Doesn’t that sound lovely?

We had our first opportunity to witness this phenomenon the first time we tried cooking anything in our new piso (apartment).  The stove is gas, with none of those fancy automatic lighters that I got used to back home.  Instead, we had to scrounge up a mechero (cigarette lighter) in the silverware drawer, and do an anxious little dance with around the burner as we slowly turned on the gas, hoping desperately the whole time not to burn our nervous little fingers with flame from either the mechero or the burner.  The very first time I did it, the burst of blue flame in a perfect circle so surprised me that I automatically shut off both the mechero and the burner.  After the first couple of tries though, we have all become adept at turning on our stove, perfecting the angle at which to hold the lighter and the speed at which to turn up the gas – and we now all daily perform little fire shows in our kitchen, the finger dance of nervous anticipation culminating in the beautiful display of perfect rings of blue flame.

And then, of course, are the fire displays that are quite unintentional.  Don’t worry, no one has tried to light the stove after leaving the gas on for a while, but we did have a rather interesting show when we tried to turn on our oven…

On Thursday, like the poor students that we are, we were trying to make cheesey garlic toast in the oven to go with our hard boiled eggs and simple salad.  And since the oven is electric, we plugged it in and twisted the knob in what seemed to be the direction of “on,” of which we were mildly unsure since all the markings had been rubbed off some time ago.  A few seconds later, I realized that the warming plate (also electric and fed by the same plug) on the stove was also accidentally on, and not thirty seconds after turning it off, “BANG!!”  There was a bright flash coming from the direction of the plug, we all screamed, and the entire piso was plunged into complete darkness.  Heart thumping, I groped my way to the door and out to the portera’s (concierge’s) little communication window, which I knocked on earnestly as I called out to her.  She seemed mildly amused by our fright, since she knew it was just the circuit breaker that had gone out, so she showed us how to turn it back on.  Upon the flipping of the switch though, there was another bang, flash, and blackout…apparently we had forgotten to turn off the oven.  So we turned it off to the best of our reckoning and even unplugged it just to make sure.  Up went the breaker switch, on came the lights.  Under everyone’s watchful eyes, I tried plugging it again, only to snatch back my hand and leap away in fright as the plug yet again emitted a stunning flash and bang and we were once more plunged into darkness.  By that time, the portera was thoroughly convinced that our oven didn’t work, offering to bake our toast for us in her oven and counseling us never to try using our oven again, which was pretty easy advice to follow since I had dropped the plug behind the stove in my last fit of fright.

So fireworks…yes, I still believe that they are beautiful, but maybe they’re best when not lit up in the small confines of one’s own home.

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