Betsy Whitt

I read. I write. I think. I live.

The Amazing Exploding Blog Post!

Those of you who are Facebook and/or Twitter friends already know about our flaming oven, but I thought it was worth more than a couple of 160-character update.

Once upon a time (read: Friday evening) a we were at home after a busy day of doing our various busy things. In fact, we were only home for a little while, as Matt was shortly expected at a friend’s house for poker night and I was expecting friends (mostly wives of those at poker) to arrive for a girls’ night in. He planned to eat while playing poker; I fell back on a perennial staple, chickie pa’ pah (read: chicken pot pie). I pre-heated the baking pan for a nice crispy bottom crust, wrapped tin foil around the edge to prevent burned edges, and set my handy-dandy kitchen timer for the requisite baking time.

About five minutes before the timer was supposed to go off, as I was reading on the couch, I heard a faint “pop pop pop-pop” from the kitchen. It sounded a lot like microwave popcorn, but quieter. Maybe something *else* exploding in the microwave?

So I asked, “Matt, are you cooking something in the microwave?” My tone was rather skeptical because, as you may remember, Matt was expecting to eat later and he’d already had a snack.

“No, but you have something in the oven,” he said, as if I were a rather slow four-year-old who would forget that my supper was cooking even though my stomach was trying to eat itself at that point. (I love you, sweetie.) I extremely reluctantly marked my spot in the book, got out from under my cozy blanket on the couch, and went to check on my pot pie, just in case something very odd had happened and it was boiling over.

I feel it necessary to mention that never in all my years of cooking Marie Callender’s most excellent individual chicken pot pies has one of them bubbled over, much less gotten past my tin foil rim AND the baking sheet to make ploppy sizzles on the oven floor that will bake on and set the fire alarm off in a week or so. But I stopped reading and went to check on it Just In Case, secretly hoping the popping noise (which had been going steadily for several minutes since I’d noticed it) was the result of something silly Matt had done and forgotten about. Because I did not want my pot pie to be ruined. I was hungry.

A quick glance through the oven window showed nothing amiss with the pot pit, but a bit of extra brightness down in the front corner of the oven. Maybe something else ran over and now caught fire?

I opened the oven door, and blinked several times.

Me: Um… Matt? The oven is on fire.

Matt (in the living room, unconcerned): That’s not good.

Me: No. The oven is on fire. The metal is flaming.

Matt scurried to my aid with satisfying speed, and by the time he got there I had turned off the oven and was staring in consternation at the heating element, which had actually broken. One end was black (and presumably cool, though we didn’t touch it) and the other end was glowing angry red and shooting off sparks at the end. And flaming, of course. Just a bit at the end, not the whole thing. Maybe a half-inch of the metal was actually flaming, and it wasn’t particularly a huge flame. Maybe an inch tall. But it was in our electric oven. In case you have never used an electric stove before, flames are really quite bad.

Anyway, the oven knob was now turned to “off”, which I expected to mean that the red-hot-ness and the yellow flaming-ness and the throwing off sparks-ness would dissipate. But they didn’t. There was more redness and a bit more flaming, though it did stop sparking as the white-hot area immediately inside the flame began to travel slowly away from the broken end and toward the power source. It was like a very slow magnesium burn.

It was also very alarming.

Matt tossed a cup of cold water on the heating element to cool it down.

Safety note: in retrospect this was a STUPID STUPID idea, but we really thought no power was running through it. Actually, we weren’t really thinking at all. As I mentioned, we were rather alarmed. I am very glad I was not there alone. Regardless, please don’t follow our example. The water did nothing anyway, except run down into all my cake pans in the bottom drawer and then onto the floor in a huge rusty puddle that I had to clean up later.

So the water (STUPID IDEA!) was ineffective, and the flame was still burning its way along the heating element and Matt realized this was all going to go south very fast and he started pulling the stove out from its little nook in the counter so I could reach back and unplug the whole thing.

Everything calmed down right away, and I called my Mommy to tell her we didn’t burn the down the building. Matt sent the landlord an email rather apologetically informing him that we need a new stove (which is supposed to be delivered sometime on Wednesday), and we proceeded with our evening as planned.

For those who are interested, my chicken pot pie was not fully cooked (evidence that perhaps there had been issues for some time before I noticed them) and when I put it in the toaster oven to finish cooking I was completely mistaken in my estimate of how much time it needed–and it ended up charred and mostly inedible anyway. I had ice cream, popcorn, and peanut m&ms for dinner.

Don’t judge me. My oven tried to blow up.

In other news, this week will effectively mark the end of my day job. It hasn’t been the job I signed on for since the middle of June or so, and it’s an entirely amicable parting–in fact, I suggested that it was time for them to stop employing me, given various circumstances. So we will have a test period of me being a Real Writer, complete with external accountability checkpoints because I am like a greased weasel if I try to keep myself on track. And if I, you know, finish things and send them out and sell them, I have permission not to get another day job in the foreseeable future. Woohoo!

Also, I am close to insanely jealous of Neil Gaiman’s library. Close.



  1. Um, Betsy, dear? You do realize the Marie Callendar’s pot pies can be cooked in the microwave, right? ;-)

  2. Well yes, but they’re nowhere near as good that way. And in the case of my pot pie, it had partially cooked and just needed to finish. So the microwave probably would have made a bigger mess of it than it already was.

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