Sheltered Islander: Island Kitchen Tips from One Who Knows

Kitchen Fire
Be wary of cooking on Shelter Island, Photo: RyersonClark/iStock

There’s a terrific little booklet I get every month called The Dollar Stretcher. It’s full of handy tips, and it always makes me laugh when I imagine the implementation of these suggestions in my life. This month it has an article about preventing kitchen fires.

#1. “Be aware of flammables. Don’t put oven mitts or kitchen towels anywhere near the stovetop.”
But that’s where we all keep them. I can’t put them in a drawer, they’re already stuffed. Wait, I got it, the fridge. It’s never full. I’ll use a shelf in the fridge for oven mitts and towels. Plus there’s the added advantage of having pre-chilled mitts to grab hot pans.

#2. “Dress Appropriately. No loose or baggy clothes in the kitchen that could catch fire. Do wear a tight fitting apron.”
Okay, there goes my Garfield sleepshirt, and the rest of my clothes. So I’ll cook naked except for an apron, and a bra. I can’t have one of the girls falling in a frying pan while I’m reaching to turn on the stove light. There’s no way I’m going to explain to a doctor how my breast got sautéed, and why it smells like garlic and butter.

#3. “Don’t leave the kitchen if you have something on the stove.”
Well that’s easy. Where can I go dressed in a bra, apron and giant Ninja Turtles slippers? I can’t even answer my front door. If somebody comes, I’ll have to yell, “Come back later, I’m cooking naked in the kitchen.”

#4. “Know your smoke points. Oils with low smoke points catch fire on high heat.”
Really? What cook doesn’t know this? When the grease starts smoking, you yank the pan off the stove, throw open the back door, grab the broom, wave it under the smoke alarm to shut it up. If that fails, use the broom handle to knock it down. Memorize smoke points? Please, I’ll confuse them with my Weight Watchers points and eat an osprey.

#5 “Dispose of grease responsibly.”
Somehow, I think this excludes pouring bacon grease into a coffee can that I keep on the stovetop to fry eggs.

#6 “Use appropriate cooking utensils.”
I have to reverse this: Use cooking utensils appropriately. I use spatulas to beat back bacon thieves. Long serving forks can defend a roast or turkey from a hungry man. Wooden spoons don’t leave marks when fighting off children from fresh cookies. And a large pan lid and barbecue tongs can defend a giant pot of steamed clams until the enemy overwhelms you. I know so many ways to use kitchen tools that I could hold off a Navy Seal in a kitchen fight.

#7 “Watch for smoke, it could mean something is about to catch fire.”
In my house it means dinner’s ready. And nowhere does the article tell you to keep a box of baking soda on the stove to snuff out fires. The box just says to call 911 for a grease fire. Oh, won’t the Island guys be happy if I called for that.

“Yes, Captain, we’re at Flynn’s, one of her clam fritters caught fire, and, something’s weird. She’s just wearing an apron, and she’s got oven mitts in the fridge, and she took her smoke alarm out with a broom. So what should we do here? Okay…”

“Boys, Cap says she makes great fritters. She deep-fries them in Crisco. We’re confiscating the fritters and giving her a warning to let us know ahead of time the next time she makes fritters so we can put in our order.”

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