The air was ashy and my arms began to cramp as I fanned the kitchen door back and forth in an attempted to clear out the room. The windows were all wide open, the only answer we could think of to further ventilate the smoke.
That age old command your parents tell you,
Don’t burn down the house while we’re out!
Yeah, that almost came true some years ago and it involved a microwave and the unmistakable hunger of a brother and sister coming home from school.
My parents had taught us how to properly use our new microwave a few weeks before: setting the timing right and, most of all, not to put metal in the microwave when warming up food. It had come second nature to me and I could use it like a professional almost immediately, but for my younger brother, it was something new that he would have to master. I had always supervised him in his usage of the microwave and up until that afternoon there was no occasion to worry, but that was about to change.
My heart was racing as I ran toward the kitchen, immediately recognizing that the smell in the air was smoke. Even stranger was the fact that my brother was nowhere to be found; leaving the kitchen completely helpless to the horrors that would ensue. I immediately seized the door on the microwave oven, thrusting it open to expose a giant gray cloud, instantly filling the kitchen and causing my eyes to squint from the sudden burst of heat. My hands reached out for the towel closest to me on the countertop and I bravely stretched into the machine, desperate to grab a hold of whatever was the cause of this whole mess. I clutched hold of the plate inside, flimsy and unlike anything I was expecting, and flung it into the sink. As I ran the tap water over the singe now sitting in my sink, I felt my heart begin to race:
What were mom and dad going to do once they found out?
After all, I was the older sister and by that token the more responsible one, so what was I going to do when my parents came home and noticed that the kitchen smelled of burnt…what was that smell? It was then that my brother ran into the room, looking horrified and completely unaware of what had just gone on in his absence. His voice sounded scared and apologetic as he helped me in fanning the smoke out of the room, the windows now all open in an attempt to help get some fresh air back into the kitchen. I only kept asking him how it all happened, what could he have possibly done wrong that made his quesadilla smoke up our kitchen.
Was the timer on too long? No.
I racked my brain endlessly and was about to decide that perhaps it was an error in the microwave itself when the mass in the sink revealed the real reason to this disaster; the real reason why this whole mess had started up in my house. The quesadilla was almost beyond recognition: blacked like tar, the tortilla’s surface dry and chapped from the trauma it had just undergone but there was no mistaking what it was resting on:
My brother had decided to use a Styrofoam plate in our microwave instead of a glass one.
I guess I could not blame him for what happened that day as my parents had never really explained that Styrofoam was also on the no-no list of microwavable objects, but I was even more upset that I had let my brother down by not watching him. Call me crazy, but I still place the blame on myself for this kitchen disaster, knowing that there was a way that I could have stopped the usage of Styrofoam and prevented the whole affair. But it was more of a lesson learned by my brother and to this day we continue to laugh at how we were able to hide the whole affair from our parents for so long.
The second they came home we acted as if nothing had happened; the evidence of the event disappeared in the bottom of the trashcan and never spoken of again. That is, until my mom discovered the photograph of the charred quesadilla and matching plate on my phone some years later, both horrified and amused that my brother could pull off something so dimwitted.
So while it was, indeed, a kitchen disaster, it was only another experience that brought my brother and I closer and further proved that parents should never stop saying that little command when they leave you alone with a microwave.