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There is a scene in my book that involves an explosion. Not of a bomb. Not of a gas tank. Of a Pyrex dish.
Without ruining the scene for you by giving you the when/why/how this happens, I’ll simply say I was looking for a way to throw a wrench in my main character’s plans. That’s what writers do – we take our main character and her goal, and we try to throw as many hurdles between those two things as possible. So when I tried to dream up a small bump in the road, I considered my own cooking experiences and thought, “Aha! An exploding Pyrex dish! Perfect!”
Because, you see, I once blew up a Pyrex dish. I didn’t mean to. I had been cooking for years and should have known better. But I did, and here’s how it happened.
My husband and I had been dating for a few months, by which point I had already cooked him a steak dinner and a pasta feast. I had not, however, attempted his favorite home-cooked dish of all: roast chicken. He always raved about his mother’s roast chicken – which, by definition, meant I should steer clear of this dish at all costs. But due to either foolishness or ego, or possibly both, I decided to try anyway.
Using Ina Garten’s recipe for “Perfect Roast Chicken,” I tucked the bird into my rectangular glass dish on a bed of sliced onions, stuck the whole thing in my tiny electric oven, and set the timer. Ninety minutes later, the chicken was done.
I should probably take this opportunity to explain that my kitchen was a tiny, galley kitchen with no counter space. Not limited counter space – no counter space. There was an electric range, a sink, and an area where my dish rack sat. That was it.
So when I removed the pan from the oven, I placed it on the only available surface: one of the electric cooktop burners, the old-fashioned coiled kind. Sure, I had just used that burner on high heat, but the coils were no longer red. And anyway, the recipe called for boiling the drippings in the bottom of the pan, so the residual heat would be a good thing, right?
Wrong. I placed the dish on the hot burner, transferred the chicken to a plate, and took the plate into the living room, and seconds after I returned to the kitchen, the dish exploded. Glass shot across my kitchen in hunks and shards, blasting through my kitchen and into the living room. The sound was terrifying – like a bomb had gone off. My heart raced, and my hands shook uncontrollably. By some stroke of luck, I’d been standing in front of the refrigerator when this happened, so I avoided a face full of glass, but even that bit of luck couldn’t calm me.
I called my husband in tears, explaining what had happened, and he raced over to my apartment with a broom and a dustpan and helped me clean up. The chicken, by some miracle, was spared, so after picking greasy pieces of glass out of the shoes in my closet, we ended up eating a roast chicken dinner as I’d planned (though my hands still trembled as I cut up the food on my plate).
Was the chicken as good as his mother’s? I’ll never know. But the lesson I learned that night has stuck with me forever: never try to outdo your mother-in-law, and never, EVER put a glass dish on a hot stove.