Tuesday, April 28, 2009

don't be alarmed

Smoke alarms are like friends. A properly working smoke alarm is like a good friend. It doesn't sound off unless it has something really important to say. Sometimes though, smoke alarms act like bossy friends, sounding off for any and every reason. If this describes your relationship, don't disconnect it! There is help for you.

First, try vacuuming it out. Like any relationship, this one requires a little maintenance. Put the soft brush end on your vacuum cleaner and suck out all that junk that's been accumulating for the past few years. You can also try moving the alarm, if it is battery powered. Smoke alarms and toasters don't get along. They never will. Put them too close together, and you have a guaranteed recipe for domestic friction. The only solution might be separation.

If the fixes fail, don't despair - counselling is available. Call your local fire department. They would love to analyze your psychotic smoke alarms. They might even agree to doing a group session, kind of like AA where everyone gets a turn to talk. You'll get the first shot, and you can air your grievances about late night nuisance alarms and chirping batteries. The appliances will have something to say too. Even the shower can weigh into this debate. But in fairness, the smoke alarms also get a chance to tell their side of the story. Years of inhaled smoke from burned toast, or worse, cigarettes. Steam from the shower. Or even the occasional pot left unattended on the stove. "Now that was a valid excuse to let 'er rip." they'll say.

If counselling doesn't work, you may just have end the relationship and go buy another one. I was having lots of trouble with a toaster/alarm incompatibility issue, which brought our normally peaceful home to the brink of domestic violence. Using my absolute discretionary powers, I ruled in favour of the toaster and excommunicated the alarm. The new one works like magic. It rarely goes off - usually only when I really burn something - and it has a "hush" feature that allows me to silence it in rare cases when a cooking experiment goes bad. One of these days, they'll invent a hush feature for the bossy friend . .

If you want to see a funny clip about a bossy guy getting his hush button pushed, click here.

All this talk about cooking gave me the urge to impose yet another recipe on your impressionable mind. Erinn tells me that I should name my recipes so here goes:

Tim's Stew (yes, that's a boring name. one can't always be creative)

  1. Take some stew beef, about a pound.
  2. Fry it in oil, in a cast iron pan at medium heat until it's nice and brown. (note: many folks don't know how to brown meat - it should stick to the pan and be quite dark. Stop frying before it turns black OR the smoke alarm goes off ).
  3. Pour water in the pan, enough to cover the meat. It will bubble and foam. Scrape up all that nice brown stuff that is stuck to the pan. It should turn the water nice and brown.
  4. Pour the whole shoot'n match into a pot, and put the pot on low heat.
  5. Add some garlic (a tsp or two), some salt, some soy sauce (maybe a tbsp) and some Worcestershire sauce (a tsp or so).
  6. Add a tbsp or two of tomato sauce OR tomato juice OR crushed tomato, or something tomatoey.
  7. Add a few squirts of Dijon mustard, and a dozen or so drops of tabasco
  8. Shake in enough basil to cover the whole surface of the stew, and then add a small amount of oregano.
  9. Add more water, enough to fill the pot 2/3 full.
  10. Cover, and cook on very low heat for a couple of hrs.
  11. After a couple hours, add as many diced potatoes or carrots as you think you'd like to eat.
  12. Add more of any of the above flavourings as needed. Do it a little at a time. Lots of tasting required in between. Seasonings are kind of like words - use them sparingly and monitor the result before adding more.
  13. Add some chopped mushrooms and red bell peppers near the end unless your kids object (mine do).
  14. Put a couple tablespoons of flour in a small amount of water and mix until the lumps are gone (unless you like lumpy gravy).
  15. Pour the mixture into the boiling stew, stirring constantly (unless you really like lumpy gravy. Stop pouring before it gets too thick. Add more if it isn't thick enough.
  16. Serve with biscuits (my wife makes those - sorry, no recipe from me).

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