Lessons “Learned” from the Kitchen Matriarchs

November 22, 2010 § 4 Comments

“Always remember to watch out for steam.”
“Steam is extremely hot, so always be careful around it.”
“Never look directly over a pot when you dump out the water.”
“Be mindful of where your skin is and where the steam is going.”

These are the words that reverberated through my head last night as two of my fingers on my right hand were scalded by a sudden and unexpected blast of steam.

Everything was going fine.   I was making a new-to-us beef stroganoff recipe last night for dinner, and, surprisingly, I had made it all the way to the end of preparation without incident.  The smells were mouth-watering, the sauce actually looked to be the correct consistency and color, and the noodles were as soft as you could possibly want them (without ruining them, of course).  My timer started to beep, so I removed all items from their respective burners, and reset my timer for a couple more minutes to allow the sauce to set properly.  During these couple of minutes, I silently celebrated a successful new meal.  So often when preparing a new-to-me recipe, I bungle it in one major way or another and end up feeling defeated and frustrated.  This time, though, I thought, I have actually succeeded!  Good for me! When my timer for the sauce beeped again, I brought the noodles over to the sink to drain.

The culprit

I had made my noodles in a specially-made pasta pot–one of those pots that has a draining lid so that you don’t have to wash a colander. Everything was going fine. The lid was secure, my face was away from the steam billowing forth, and I was very nearly done. When all of a sudden, a burst of steam issued from the right side. Directly on my fingers.

I probably had a moment when I could have thrown the pot down in the sink to stop from scalding myself. But I didn’t realize exactly what was happening…and I didn’t realize it would keep happening. I did ultimately throw the pot down in the sink, fortunately keeping the noodles safe inside, and immediately doused my fingers in cold running water. I also screeched an obscenity, although I’m not sure which one, and that caught Robert’s attention. Despite my insisting that I was fine, he came running into the kitchen anyway and offered help.

For the rest of the night, my hand rested under a bag of ice and water. When my skin burned from freezing, I removed the bag…only to experience yet again a burning sensation so strong that I could have sworn my fingers were in flames. Robert gave me a couple of pain pills (from when he received second-degree burns at work this summer), and soon I was able to pass out and sleep. I awoke this morning with some tenderness, but I won’t need any more medication or ice.

The worst part of this was the intense feeling of shame and humiliation. All those quotes that began this post? Those are the quotes from my family’s Kitchen Matriarchs–my grandmothers and my mom. They have all, at one time or another in my childhood, told me to watch out for steam. For a little over 29 years, I took heed of their warnings and avoided steam with a kind of caution that can only be described as paranoia. Last night? Last night, I got lazy. And I got burned.

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§ 4 Responses to Lessons “Learned” from the Kitchen Matriarchs

  • Tim says:

    The trick with steam is that it can’t be predicted. Sure, if you want to think about the angles while you’re draining your noodles, you can kind of predict where it will billow, but even if you’re running all the angles in your head, there will always be that one time when it does what you don’t expect. I’m always skittish whenever I’m draining something for Jen, and I always hold the pot by the extreme edges. And then I grab a hot pan sitting on TOP of the oven without an oven mitt. Yay me!

    I’m glad your ministrations kept the damage from persisting seriously past the first evening. Burns of any type suck.

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Lol, thanks Tim. That makes me feel better. I guess no matter how careful you are in the kitchen, accidents will still happen sometimes! Robert burned his hand very badly while working this summer (the second-degree burn mentioned earlier in the post)–he was about to drop a pan of ribs, so he grabbed it with his other hand…the one that didn’t have a pot holder on it. The pan had just come out of a 500-degree oven. And he had a latex glove on. That started to melt. It was terrible. So, I guess I’m fortunate that I haven’t ever done something that bad before! I felt so sorry for him–his recovery took weeks.

      Today, two days after the burn, I’m feeling great. My fingers are still reddish, but they are no longer painful AND I can wash my hands with warm water without burning! 🙂

  • Tonia says:

    I stupidly reached across my electric water kettle to unplug it a few weeks ago. That was the worst pain I’ve ever felt from a burn. Steam is no fun! 😦

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Oh lord, Tonia! That really must have hurt like hell! I was so surprised that steam could hurt that bad, and that it would continue hurting so much afterward. I mean, I’ve burnt myself on hot metal before (oven rack, curling iron, etc.), but essentially after running the burn under cold water, the pain would start to subside. With this steam burn, I literally could not escape the pain. Until Robert gave me pain medication, lol.

      I guess now we know and we’ll learn from these experiences! (At least, I hope!)

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