An Element of Surprise

It was the day of the annual Christmas pot-luck lunch with my work team and boss at our home. Everyone relaxed and socialized while I finished my part of the meal, which was, as was tradition, roast beef with mashed potatoes and Yorkshire Puddings.

The potatoes were mashed, the meat was carved, and the gravy was made. The side dishes were warmed up, and all that remained was to cook the Yorkshire Puddings. So I put the muffin tins holding a little oil into the oven and turned the temperature to high. As I prepared the batter, I listened for the sizzle of the oil reaching smoking hot, which is always my cue to get the pans out of the oven and fill them. But, unfortunately, the fat didn't sizzle, and when I opened the oven door, it was stone cold! The rest of the stove was evidently working, but the element had hung in long enough to cook the meat and then died!

With a sigh, I adjusted the plan. There was nothing for it but to break the news there would be no Yorkshire Puddings this year. At least everything else was hot and ready to serve. Faces fell in disappointment, but some in the room seemed to feel a sudden call as though born for the occasion. Then, gleaming with purpose, a Stove SWAT Team rose to its feet and headed for the kitchen.

Everything in me wanted to stop them, to bar the kitchen door and guide everyone to the table, but I could see that a mission was on. Already there was a man on his knees in front of the open oven door, head deep inside, with helpers hovering close at hand. The element was burned out, he confirmed. Another member of the Stove Swat Team said they'd go into town and be back in "no time" with a new one.

I looked at the cooling meal and, clutching at a skinny straw, went to find our son-in-law, who happened to be downstairs. He came up and joined the Stove SWAT team. He quickly surveyed the situation and went to the garage, where an old stove was handy. He took out its element and brought it in. Someone went downstairs to turn the power off and said, "I think it's off."

 Our boss could be counted on to have a story for every occasion. And, in the days before phones had cameras, I always had a camera ready to capture the day in photos.

Triggered by the person saying they thought the power was off, my boss launched into a story about the week before when he removed wiring for a reno. He had turned the switch off on the panel a few days earlier and, with that in mind, cut the wire with confidence that it was off. But he was wrong, and as sparks flew, he and his wire cutters both got a good jolt. He survived the shock unscathed, but the wire cutters were severely deformed and only useful afterwards to illustrate the story.

As our boss regaled us, someone reconnected the stove element, and I reached for my camera to capture the scene. As the flash went off, the entire Stove SWAT Team leaped away from the stove, sure that the man inside had gotten fried. Shock just as quickly turned to gales of laughter.

We eventually ate the meal—with "all the fixings!" And I am telling this story because it has been "on the back burner" for too long.


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