Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Viking Far From Minnesota

Our 1920s era Spanish home came equipped with a vintage stove. It has various compartments and settings and the Antique Stove Consultant we hired to clean it said it would outlast us.

For someone like me, who keeps forgetting which part is the "stove" and which is the "oven," I have had the distinct misfortune for nearly a decade of being burdened by hulking, expensive, industrial stoves.

Unlike my allergies to cats and pollen, this affliction has not been a lifelong problem. I was happily reared on mid-range American-branded electric ranges. Turn a switch, stare at the black coil until you are not sure whether the glowing red color is because it has finally heated, or because you are hallucinating from not blinking for so long. Either way, let's face it, spaghetti and Campbell's condensed soups leave little room for nuance and thrive on a 1970s Amana Cooktop. And the company's loopy cursive logo stamped near the analog clock (perpetually stuck at 10:47) makes the process feel so elegant.

So when my family moved into a vertically sprawling, Victorian-era Brooklyn Brownstone, I was skeptically intrigued by the fact that the owner promised that a custom-designed $10,000 Viking stove would be delivered shortly after our arrival. Of course, she was too discreet to tell us the stove cost that much money (but thanks, Google!) and, since we were paying her rent, if we had been armed with that information, we would have wondered why we were giving any rent money at all to someone apparently not in need of money, since she was blowing $10,000 on a stove for a house she was not even going to live in. 

The home's owners were in Europe, and I won't bore you, kind readers, with the story of how many hours I was stuck negotiating with New York delivery people to get this mammoth appliance through the narrow 19th-century doors. Nor will I excerpt snippets of the emails describing how the exact shade of purple* was selected by her BFF who is a color consultant for J Crew. What I will share is that I contracted Shingles--yes, a stress-related ailment--during this period of my life. 

Well, for all the build-up over how life would never be the same (presumably in a good way) with the arrival of the Viking, I have to say that pasta boils the same whether it be on a $500 electric stove, held into place with masking tape, or a $10,000 J Crew-inspired job. The owners had apparently spent months obsessing over whether to get the configuration with the griddle attachment and, bless their hearts, opted for this bonus. Now, I don't recall any part of any parenting manual that indicates serving children food cooked Denny's-style. If children in my family are such gourmands that they require a breakfast item that is warmer than cold cereal, well, I am guessing there is room at Wolfgang Puck's house for a few new members.

The griddle attachment would probably have sent my immune system into another round of Shingles, had I not been on heavy meds to get rid of the first bout. I thought, hey, we have a $10,000 stove that we did not pay for, and it has a griddle attachment--let's make pancakes! Given my lack of experience making home-made breakfast items, and my reading of the Viking manual which indicated that the griddle was specially constructed so that food would virtually slide off, I was sure we were in for an idyllic, carbo-filled morning. Who knew that a simple mixture of floury stuff, milk and eggs could produce a substance that would adhere so strongly to the griddle of a $10,000 stove? I literally spent months attempting to scrape burnt residue off the griddle, for fear that our high-strung, globe-trotting landlords would sue us or, worse, mock us for our un-Viking-worthy cooking prowess. Eventually, after paying the crazy nanny/cleaning woman extra money to attempt to remove the remaining char (Fail!), I ordered a brand-spanking new griddle, at a cost of many hundreds of dollars, and socked the "old" one into a closet.

Ironically (or, perhaps, fittingly), shortly after the stove was delivered, I hosted a Make-Your-Own-English-Muffin-Pizza Party. I had never before conceived of such a party and, frankly, wouldn't recommend it based on my experience. So, with a kitchen stocked with a $10,000 stove, my guests probably assumed we would be cooking these kid-friendly meals in the fancy oven. They would be wrong. After hearing about how quickly and hot that Viking fire burns, and the knowledge that many of the kids at the party had parents with law degrees, I opted for a toaster oven party. 

The toaster oven in question had been bought that week from a local, family-run store on the quaint main drag of our neighborhood. I typically am an online shopper/delivery kind of person, especially since we were carless and the house had more steps than the Spanish ones in Rome. But I was trying to be a good neighbor, and the store's Brooklyn-surly owner said he would deliver it. 

Long story, short: Toaster oven pizza party with 20 people in the early evening, NYFD, Engine 220, with four firefighters in the late evening. Moral of this story: Thumb's down for small, multigenerational family stores;  big-box chain stores rock. 

And, of course, there is always the microwave.

*Not the color's real name

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