Sooo I kind of set my cousin's kitchen on fire today.
See, there were all these bananas in the house… Yeah. Bear with me.
There were bananas in the kitchen, going bad. I said I'd make banana muffins with them. They had most of the ingredients on hand, and I bought the other things I needed yesterday.
Yesterday, incidentally, was fairly miserable. We went over to the University Of Oklahoma campus with a laundry list of plans: feed the ducks at the local pond, ride the glass elevator, visit my other cousin at his new library job, ride a bus around campus (which the kids were super-excited about). But the kids were immensely fussy. They whined that it was hot, they whined that they had to walk, they whined when we were going to leave the duck pond, they whined that we weren't leaving the duck pond fast enough. They whined that it was hot in the car and they had to wait 30 seconds for the air conditioner to kick in. They whined that we weren't going fast enough, they whined that they wanted ice cream. They whined that they wanted fast food instead of ice cream, and then when they got it, they whined that they hadn't gotten ice cream. Most of this was the 8-year-old, but they tag-teamed a good bit. Ultimately, we rode the elevator, got food, and then called it a day and went home. Thorn introduced me to the concept of "stable sour," where a horse has spent so much time in the stable that it's balky and hard to manage when anyone tries to take it out. This was the first really nice day in a while, she said, and the kids were stable sour.
This made a lot of sense. I've been there myself. But when we got home, I really wasn't in the mood to bake. So we took the kids to the park and let them run around like wild things for a long time while we talked, and then we unceremoniously dumped them on Thorn's husband, and she and I went out to have a long, talky dinner with my other cousin and his wife.
Today was much better. We went to the zoo, and the kids were pretty chill, even when we had to wait forever in a traffic jam to find parking because everyone else also noticed that the weather was nice and the zoo existed. And even when we had to walk for 10 minutes across a baking parking lot. And even when we had to wait in line for another 10 minutes for tickets, only to be informed that we were in the wrong line to buy a family pass, and had to start over. And even when we chose to not go on the tram, which is their favorite thing, and we wound up hiking all over creation instead. And even when we wouldn't take them on the safari boat ride they'd been semi-promised, because we were running late and had to get back home so I could do a phone interview with Danny Boyle for his new film. I mean, when I was their age, that level of compounded disappointment would have sent me into meltdown mode, but they largely took it in stride. What a difference a day makes.
So even after a day out in the sun, with everyone weary and footsore, I was in a good enough mood to try the banana muffins tonight. I'd wanted to try some hands-on cooking with the kids as a bonding experience, largely because I have such vivid, positive, and important memories of my dad's sister showing me how to make pancakes, and letting me help. But neither of the boys are particularly patient or focused, so year after year, I've dropped the idea. But as soon as I started assembling ingredients, the 6-year-old was mesmerized, and when I told him what I was making, he was flabbergasted and thrilled by the idea of mixing bananas into bread. And even though he tends to be the cuddly, quiet, non-vocal type, he got very verbose very quickly, explaining how his favorite bread is cornbread, and he loves bananas, and bananas in bread make no sense. And he asked me why I had my computer open, and actually listened to the explanation about recipes, and even waited raptly by the ingredients bowl while I went off to the garage to get eggs from the spare fridge. We actually had a conversation, which was lovely. And in the middle of this, I turned on the oven to 350 degrees and went back to showing him how the consistency of the batter changed ingredient by ingredient. He opined that this was the neatest thing ever, but wanted to know how this goo would become bread. I explained about baking it, and he wandered over to look at the oven.
And he asked "What's all this stuff in the oven?"
And I said "Oh, there's nothing in the oven yet, I haven't put anything in there yet OH CRAP."
By this time, there was already rancid smoke coming out of the oven.
And when I pulled it open and the air hit the sullen, oxygen-starved flames inside, we both got a nice big whoof-ing fireball to the face. The 6-year-old, who is often fairly timid and frightened by many things, just thought this was totally cool. I, however, could see that the oven was full of pans and skillets, plus a couple of plastic tray covers which were sitting directly on the heating element, and were thoroughly on fire. By this time, the 8-year-old had showed up to share the excitement, so I evacuated the kitchen of kids, got all the burning plastic into the sink and put it out, and got it all outside. Burning plastic is surprisingly hard to snuff, and the two lids had fallen into at least four pieces at this point, all of which were on fire.
SO THAT WAS AWKWARD. On the bright side, the kids now think I'm awesome: I make actual bread out of mere flour and bananas, and actual fire out of nowhere. On the other hand, who wants to be the houseguest who burns the host's property and fills their oven with drippy melted plastic? Somewhat to my surprise, Thorn's husband was entirely cool about all of it. Apart from letting me know about 20 minutes later that I have some teasing coming my way, and he isn't planning on letting this one go anytime soon.
Turns out they have a SEPARATE stove they actually use for the baking. I'd turned on the storage-stove that's only used at Thanksgiving. And I hadn't even thought to check inside it for flammables first.
The banana muffins, by the way, were delicious.