We’ve lived in our condo for a year and a half now. We moved from a house that we’d lived in for about twenty years. Our house had a big yard, lots of room, plenty of natural light, and appliances I’d picked out myself – including an amazing stainless-steel gas range I got a killer deal on. The family that bought our house insisted we leave all the appliances, including my beloved range. I was heart-broken at having to say goodbye to it. Getting use to my new electric range in the condo was one of the hardest things about moving. Though I’d used an electric range before, I’d been cooking on a gas one for a long time. So, I had a very steep re-learning curve. Of course, it didn’t help that, for some reason, electric ranges seem to have two temperatures – “raging fires of hell” and “barely lukewarm armpit.” One of the first things I tried to cook was pasta. It wasn’t some kind of fancy Italian pasta either. It was basic Kraft Dinner Macaroni and Cheese. Yeah. Simple, right? Easy, right? No! It came out chewy and sticky. The frustration was more than I could take. Through streaming tears, I told my husband, “I don’t know how to work this damn thing! I can’t cook on it! I’m not going to cook anymore!” Granted, my overreaction was due more to the stress of moving and a variety of other difficult life events I was going through at the time, but the struggle was real.
I had better success with the oven and often resorted to bake-able meals in those early days. Even that, though, seemed like cooking with some strange “European” appliance. Everything…and I mean everything…seemed to take exponentially longer to cook. I persevered, though, and baking got a little better, a little easier. Apparently, all I needed to do was lower my expectations and double the baking time for any lovin that came outta this stupid oven.
The range continued to be a challenge. The peak of the aforementioned learning curve culminated in what will forever be known to my family as “the Easter ham glaze debacle.” Easter dinner was the first holiday meal I tried to cook on this devil device. Holiday meal preparation has always felt like a “spinning plates” performance set to The Sabre Dance, and my inability to master the use of the new range amped the panic factor tenfold. I was somehow able to complete every part of the meal without great incident…until it came time to make the glaze for the ham. I was trying out a new recipe. It was one I’d seen on a cooking show – a sweet and glossy orange maple delight. It would be the crowning jewel of the main dish, our holiday ham. I put the saucepan on a smaller back burner to simmer and let the glaze reduce while I finished up the other dishes. I had only turned my back for a moment when I heard hissing and fizzing from behind. I turned back to see waves of brown cascading over the sides of the saucepan like (in the words of Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil) “hot liquid magma,” coating the entire screaming hot cooktop and instantly hardening into a thick black crust.
I panicked and started trying to wipe the mess from the still piping hot cooktop with the scrubby side of a soapy sponge. Steam wafted around me as the wet sponge’s nubby plastic side began to burn and singe. “Shit, shit, shit!” I exclaimed as I felt my self-restraint dissolve into tears. How the fuck can cooking on a modern appliance bring a grown woman to tears? I ask you. How can such a thing occur in today’s world? In the end, I decided to leave the mess and finish preparing the meal. Miraculously, the food turned out well and everyone enjoyed it. Still, a year later, this cooking fail has left me scarred.
It’s been a year since my ham-glaze-hell-on-earth incident, and I’ve become accustomed to my sub-par range. I’ve boiled ears of summer corn on the cooktop without incident and heated taco shells for Taco Tuesday weekly. I’ve prepared baked birthday macaroni and cheese for my hubby in August. I’ve even prepared a full holiday meal for Thanksgiving – roast turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings. I’ve made my signature dishes (that same mac-n-cheese as well as my corn casserole) to pass at the Christmas Day celebration hosted by my daughter in her new home. I even made Easter dinner numero dos, albeit only for two thanks to the Covid-19 quarantine. Yes, I did, indeed, make another ham with glaze. The recipe de jour this year was a sweet tea brown sugar glaze, and, no, there was no “debacle” this time around.
It’s taken over a year to get use to cooking on my electric range. I still miss my old gas one. I miss a lot of things. I’ve been through a great deal of change in the past few years and little of it has been comfortable. I left a profession that I worked in for almost twenty years. I’ve lost friendships. I lost both my parents. I left a house that I lived in longer than any other place in my life. It was the place where I raised my children. My life has felt strange and unfamiliar for long time.
There is comfort in the familiar. The job you’ve been going to since you graduated from college. Your family. The friends you’ve known forever. The house you’ve lived in for years. The range you’ve cooked dozens of holiday dinners on. Familiar feels good. It’s warm and easy. Some people find change exciting and interesting. I do not. It’s hard, for me, and stressful and I often fight it. Not having my parents around will never feel quite right, but I’m adapting to it. Working in a job that pays half of what I made in my former profession hasn’t been easy, but I’m getting used to it. Living in a two-bedroom, one bathroom 880 square foot condo has been an adjustment. Cooking for two on the electric range in our condo will never be the same as preparing meals for a family of five on a bad-ass gas range in a two-story family home on an acre lot in a quiet neighborhood. Change is hard, but if you grit your teeth and can endure it, I’m convinced you emerge further evolved than you once were…and that’s a good thing. This thought reminds me of a portion of the song Everything Will Change by Gavin DeGraw.
Back when it used to hurt
Took you a little while just to find the words
Losing, well, it sometimes burns, but you keep moving on
You’ve got to grow strong like you’re leading the nation
Got to make the best out of this situation
Get your hands up like it’s a celebration
And you keep moving on
Singing hey, before it gets too late
Before the night is over, before the world’s awake
Everything will change
Hey, I feel it coming on
Starting like a fire, tonight you lit the flame
Now everything will change
Yes, adapting to cooking on an electric range after cooking on a gas one is a purely first world problem and not at all a true traumatic, life altering change. Still, for me, it’s a symbol. It’s a symbol of resilience. It’s a symbol of my will to “fight” when I’m feeling defeated, overwhelmed, and beaten down. Yes, it “took me a while to find the words,” but they’re found now and Change has been embraced. So, do me a solid, Change, okay? Return the fucking favor.