This week the assignment for my Food Narratives course was a little bit of an exercise. We were supposed to write a scene involving dialogue, so I decided to share this fond little memory of mine from right before christmas…
Note: Lily is not in the above picture. Steph is on the right, with two friends who arrived for dinner right after all the chaos subsided.
“Kristina! The Oven is on fire!” Voices screamed from the living room as I sat in my bedroom, curling my hair. “Are you kidding me? This better be a joke!” In a panic, I ran to the kitchen to check the condition of the twenty-four ounce steak I had set to broil. “Look at all that smoke coming out from the oven!” I opened the door and thick steams swirled into the air. “It’s ok” I exclaimed, with a sigh of relief. “The oven isn’t on fire. The door must have just fallen shut and made all of this smoke!” For a moment I had been very worried. This was supposed to be a big going away dinner. Not only had I spent more money than a college student ever should on a monstrous size of meat, but this was going to be the last meal that I shared with my roommates. It was nearing the end of December, and everyone was going home for a month. However, I was not going to return because I was switching schools. This was a last supper of sorts. I wanted the meal to be memorable.
I glanced up at my roommate’s faces and was surprised not to see my relief mirrored in their expressions. Lily immediately jumped into action. “Steph, open the windows! We need to get the smoke outside before the fire alarms go off! Everyone grab towels and fan the room.” “The fire alarms won’t go off, everything is fine!” I stated with ease, as I watched the two girls frantically flapping their arms. “Kristina you’re wrong! A few weeks ago Joanna was making pancakes and the alarms went off. The whole fire department came! We just need to get the smoke out, help us!” “You guys. The alarms won’t go off. It isn’t even that smoky anymore!” I exclaimed in defiance. I was anxious to finish getting ready for the night. “So you aren’t going to do anything?” asked Lily. “Nope.” I stood there lazily for a moment, watching the others. “Alright fine, ill help.” I relented, feeling awkward for standing by uselessly. After a few minutes, Lily observed, “Look, it is so much better already! The room is almost cleared out.” “Yeah, I think we can stop now.” Agreed Steph. Just as we dropped our towels and sat down on the couch, we were startled back into motion by the deafening screech of a fire alarm.
“Hide the wine!” In the chaos that ensued, we ran around the apartment, stowing the cooking wine I had bought under the bathroom sink to avoid trouble from university administrators. We grabbed the only clothing items in sight to give us warmth as we evacuated the building in adherence to protocol. As I joined the angry masses outside, I became aware of two things. I looked down at myself and realized that I looked ridiculous. My hair was half done in curls, while the other half was in a messy bun on top of my head. I was clothed in sweatpants, rain boots, and a trench coat. I realized that many of the other girls looked similar to me. Being that it was eight o clock on Friday, most girls must have been getting ready for a night out. The second fact that I quickly became aware of was that it was my fault all of these angry people were forced into the cold at such an inconvenient time.
“I’m so sorry everyone! There is no fire,” I shouted to the crowd. “I was just cooking dinner…” trailed out of my mouth in an embarrassed tone. “So can we all go back inside?” asked a visibly annoyed girl, wearing nothing but shorts and a tank top. “No worries, you guys should all just go back to your apartments, we will wait here for the fire truck.” Said Steph, as the sound of sirens began to go off in the distance. “Oh my god, there’s two fire trucks, and look! Three cop cars. Wow.” She exclaimed, as a mixture of Fordham security, fire trucks and NYPD cars flooded the block. “This is so embarrassing” I stated, as I thought about how I was wasting the valuable time of so many people. “Oh my gosh you’re right!” Agreed Lily. “I wish I got to put my dress on before they got here! I love firemen!” This was not what I was referring to. We observed as at least twenty men poured from their vehicles, carrying every instrument from ladders to axes. “There is no fire, there is no fire!” I exclaimed repeatedly. It turns out that the firemen had to examine the situation anyways. “I was broiling something in the oven and the smoke set off the alarms, that’s all.” I mumbled guiltily as I held the door open for the crowd of men traveling up the narrow staircase to our apartment. “What were you making?” the question startled me. I had been expecting anger, not the amused expression and curious question that was now directed my way. “Um, I was making steak.” By this point we had all arrived in the living room. The crowd of geared up men made our small New York apartment even more claustrophobic. Lily flitted around the room throwing out apologies and making upbeat small talk. Steph and I directed our attention to another man who was trying to ask us something. “Well is the steak done?” “Oh, I honestly don’t know! In all of the commotion I didn’t bother to check on the meat. I was more concerned about not burning down the building.” “Would you like us to check for you? It’s the least we could do. This is the perfect job for me!” exclaimed a man by the stove, who was happily holding up his hands and showing us his flame retardant gloves. Steph, Lily and I all exchanged disbelieving glances as we watched the team effort of the firemen in our apartment. One man opened the door, another swiftly took out the pan, and a third checked to see if the meat was finished cooking. What an image. “Medium rare, just the way I like it!” confirmed a man as he poked the meat with his finger. Steph’s whispered comment mirrored my thoughts, “Oh okay, a stranger just touched our dinner. Who knows where those hands have been!” However, in light of that night’s events, we had no right to gripe about anything. Instead, we idly chatted with the men, who seemed to be in no rush to leave the comforts of our apartment for the unpredictable night ahead. Finally it was time to go. “May we take some candy canes?” Asked a man with a gesture towards the candy filled bowl by our front door. “Of course! You may have as many as you like. We owe you, Merry Christmas!” Lily shouted breathlessly down the hall as she passed out candy and said her goodbyes. “Sorry, sorry, so sorry” I echoed yet again as the last of the men trailed out the door.
Though it may have been an interruption, the catastrophe was averted. “Good thing we cleaned today, or else this would have been really embarrassing!” commented Steph as she surveyed our unusually clean apartment, which now appeared barren without the crowd inside. The steak with wine sauce, grilled asparagus, and cheese fondue was a great success. The night was indeed memorable, though not entirely due to the meal itself.