I've reached my maximum stress threshold at work. One of the reasons is that I currently begin the workday at O'Dawn:thirty. Of course schedule math is never that simple because you have to keep borrowing backwards in order to eventually get to where you need to be. (If that made any kind of sense to you, you're just the sort of person I like.) What that means is I leave the house 35 minutes before that, set the alarm an hour before that, which means I'm doing as much as I can the night before so that I can hit the snooze button at least once before absolutely having to tear around the house like a mad thing in order to leave on time.
One of the tasks I've been attempting to do ahead is preparing a big batch of something or other that I can quickly reheat and eat each day during the week. I try to do this on the weekend because I'm absolutely comatose when I get home Monday to Friday. You know the sort of thing: big pot of soup, huge batch of chili, a chunk of roasted something or other, and so on. (In fact, if you have any suggestions, please do let me know, as I've reached the end of my big-batch-repertoire and would dearly love to not have to eat chili again.)
Yesterday was Cooking Day. My plan was to cook a vast number of sausages in the oven, and roast a big tray of vegetables at the same time. (I was going to do a big bowl of rice as well, but forgot to buy rice, so it will have to be quinoa or pasta.) (Don't you find this all so very interesting? Bear with me... we're getting - ever so creakingly slowly - to the point.) As a treat I also cooked up a package of bacon for the week's breakfasts.
Let your nostrils help you imagine what my kitchen smelled like at around 1:30 on Sunday afternoon. Sausage and bacon cooking away, along with cauliflower, and onions, and other aromatic bits and pieces. Nice, huh? Tempting when you're at a brunch buffet, but not exactly House & Home worthy. My mom used to put on a pot of vinegar water to steam. It's meant to cut the odors, and it also turns out to be beneficial, health-wise.
I, however, had a brilliant idea. Why replace sausage-fog with vinegar-vapour? Why not go for what smells lovely in the first place? So, in a pan with a little water I dropped a few cinnamon sticks, a few pods of star anise, and a handful of cloves, setting them to gently steam on the stove top. It smelled so good!
Then I walked away.
I spent an hour or so in the living room, reading a really good book about a shepherd from the Lake District in England. It's a fascinating read.
But then I noticed an acrid smell. Like something burning. And burning thoroughly.
That's right, dear Reader. If you noticed I wrote, "in a pan with a little water..." and realized that 'little' was going to be an important detail, you were on to something. I had allowed the pot to steam dry, causing the lovely, aromatic cinnamon, anise, and cloves to burn themselves right to the bottom of the pot.
Do you know the best way to remove burnt-on goop from the bottom of a pan? A little baking soda and, you've got it.... vinegar. Let it sit a bit, then add water, and gently heat. I found myself steaming the house with vinegar and water after all.
Mom always knows best.