Pliers have become my new best friend when I cook. I fished them out of the tool drawer in the kitchen last November when I set my stove clock back to Eastern Standard time. That was when the knob broke off, leaving a useless little gray appendage protruding from the clock face. The clock is part of the stove timer and the knob was used to set both the clock and the timer. It sounds like a dumb design, but it worked well for 22 years, ever since the stove was new.
Now, when I want to set the timer while the rice cooks or the popovers swell and bake to golden brown, I reach for the pliers and apply them to that miserable nub of a shaft.
Yes, I know the timer is basically dead, but it still works — with a little life support from the pliers. I am reluctant to let go of the timer because I like its brash, insistent howl. When it goes off with an endless, hurrah-boys buzz, I pay attention. I can hear it all over the house. If I don’t turn it off, it will buzz for as long as the electricity keeps coming through the wall. The other thing I like is that it isn’t digital. It works with cogs and gears and parts that move according to the mysterious impulse of electricity. Those parts have held up well. The fatal flaw is the cheap white metal the timer shaft is made of — bad stove DNA. But the stove itself has been the best of friends. It has a window in the oven door. It has two large and two small burners. The burner controls are at the top of the stove and are easy to see and get at. The numbers on the clock face are large enough to see easily from across the room. Whoever designed the stove understood practicality.
Yes, I bought one of those little manual timers that has a knob you turn to set the number of minutes the bread needs to bake. But, heaven help us all, when the time is up it RINGS like an old fashioned telephone. I could have opted for a digital timer, but then I’d be warned by BEEP-BEEP. I do not want ringing and beeping in my kitchen. I want that insistent, impolite buzz to shove my attention firmly back to the fact that the turkey is done.
It’s probably time to buy a new stove. The burners aren’t quite as vigorous as they once were. But, hey, who is? I think the timer may be reluctant to give up the ghost. I say this because one night several weeks ago, I woke at 2 a.m. to hear it grinding out its “check your oven” signal. I hadn’t touched the timer that day, so why it went off I cannot say. But it did and it was creepy. Maybe it was calling for help.
For now, I’ll keep the pliers handy. The day I have to add a hammer and a screwdriver to my arsenal of cooking utensils is probably the day I’ll throw up my hands in defeat and go off in search of new stove — if I can find one that doesn’t beep.