Goodness knows I've found many things to do in the past to avoid having to clean my filthy oven, a chore I despise--fun things, like trimming my toenails, emptying the trash, and straightening the cluttered dining table for the fifteenth time in one day. Husband will ask if something in the kitchen is burning, to which I will reply, "It's fine, it's just something burning off the bottom of the oven!" My thinking is that whatever has fallen to the bottom of the oven will, eventually, be cooked--incinerated--to the point where it eventually becomes nothing. It never quite works this way. Instead, I'm left with a layer of blackened bits that I practically have to maneuver around with a paddle in order to allow for something new in the oven--something I want to cook and eat. I'm sure you must be thinking, a) doesn't she have a self-cleaning oven?, b) hasn't she ever heard of spray-on oven cleaner?, or c) can't she just shut up about it and set to work with a little elbow grease? No, yes, and yes. I don't have a self-cleaning oven, and anyway that process is somewhat toxic. Ditto using the spray-on stuff. And the whole point is that I'm trying to get around the elbow-grease option.
However, I have lately found The Answer to the oven-cleaning problem: drag out not cleaning it for so long that finally something goes wrong with it and you have to get a new one! See, a repair guy came out two weeks ago for some other purpose--I don't know, I can't be bothered to remember what it was, as jetlag was an issue that day--and he messed with the gas connection in the kitchen. After that, the stovetop was fine, but the oven stubbornly refused to function at all (maybe it went on strike due to bad working conditions). Husband made one phone call, and presto--a new oven appeared, and all at government expense! We're drunk with the power. Husband had somewhat-jokingly informed our housing liaison that we Americans need our ovens. We're all baking maniacs, you know--constantly whipping up pies, cakes, muffins, lasagna, roasted potatoes, homemade pizza--mmmmm, thinking about all that baked goodness is almost enough to get me in the kitchen right now! But back to the broken oven.
A new one didn't exactly materialize immediately. Last week, an oven exactly like the old one made an appearance, then almost concurrently, the repairmen from the gas company made their appearance to get it installed properly. Incidentally, one nice thing about Japanese repairmen is that they're not going to bother you--no potential assaults or thefts to worry about, just maybe a form for you to sign, or an inane question when they first arrive, like "Where kitchen?" (I call it a castle, but our house ain't that big). Three men (or two--I'm not sure where the other one went) worked in my kitchen for over two hours, and I grew crankier the longer they stayed. They were supposed to be done in one hour, but there they were, still--standing, quite literally, between me and my afternoon cuppa tea or coffee. Chocolate, too. Leave, already, I thought--but make sure that gas connection's all set before you go!
Of course I just smiled and made unnecessary mini-bows whenever I peeked in to observe their progress. It turns out there wasn't much progress. Despite a couple of hours' work and doubtless a great deal of earnest effort, there was a problem. I learned this when one of the repairmen, after hanging around my kitchen for those two-plus hours, handed me his cell phone. Our base liaison was on the line to let me know that oops, this new oven would not do, wouldn't do at all--and we'd be getting another new one tomorrow. I wouldn't even be given the chance to muck this one up and not clean it! Well, so the new non-working oven sat unused, until the other new one came, and the repairmen showed up, same time next day, and stayed, again, for about two hours. The difference was that this time, the (American brand, Japanese size) oven came with some little adapter things, which apparently allowed the gas guys to hook it up according to code--which seemingly also involved installing a new gas connection. Whatever--I'm just glad to have a working oven. So far I haven't cooked much in it, but I've spilled mozzarella cheese, fifty-cents-a-bag french fries, and some reheated pan-fried pork. Know how college students work on a "base tan" before a week of fun in the sun over Spring Break? No fun in the sun here, but I'm working on a base coat of my own.