She Who Must Be Obeyed

She sits there in the middle of the kitchen island, resplendent in her trendy stainless-steel garments. She is the Queen, without whom no one is fed, and she expects to be treated with adulation and reverence or else she’ll turn on you at a moment’s notice. Like her mother before her, she is demanding and requires high maintenance at the most inopportune times.

“Put in a downdraft oven,” they told us when we built our home in the late 90’s. “Such a clean look with no more ugly vent hoods,” they said, but no one mentioned the feeble ventilation that would leave our upstairs bedroom smelling of sautéed garlic and onions. For days.

This one comes by it honestly. Her mother was a Jenn-Air, an appliance family known for its crankiness, and she demanded constant attention from the day she arrived. “I want a new motherboard, I want a new fan, I want another motherboard, I want a new control panel, and you will recut the damn granite before I go back in that slot to cook Christmas dinner.” Three months later she sighed and said, “That’s it. I’m done. Find someone else to slog away in this hell hole.”

The appliance gurus told us we had only two options because they’re not making  many downdraft ovens anymore. (Duh…I wonder why?)  The coronation of Queen Kitchenaid required the granite to be cut yet again to meet her just slightly different dimensions. “Here’s what I expect,” she told us upon arrival. “I will take as long as I want to preheat and if you complain, I will take even longer. My skin is delicate, so don’t you dare splatter me with that dreadful acidic tomato sauce or nick me with one of those horrid cast iron pots you insist on using or I will be scarred for life. My burners have two options—scorching high or non-existent. I don’t believe in a slow simmer. You will cut a new hole in the floor to align my fan with the vent because I don’t have the same plumbing as my mother, thank God. And as far as cleaning, I require a spa-like water bath for several hours and then I want to see you on your hands and knees with a scrunge. Mom put up with that abusive high-heat cleaning business, but I will have no parts of that. We’re now environmentally correct, you know.”

The other appliances, sigh and roll their eyes. They are ever faithful servants, working without the slightest complaint since 1997. They’re not fancy, still clad in their black plastic coats, trendy at the time. The dishwasher has a dial instead of digital controls and can be rather noisy but never asks for anything. The frig is equally loyal, partly because he knows that when he dies, there will be no unit now available to fit in his space. They feel sorry for us because of having to deal with the Queen.

We’ve had about four years of peaceful coexistence. I tend to her as she wishes to the best of my ability. But recently, I’ve been hearing pre-heating complaints. An odd screech here and there and then it disappears. Ah, just like that strange noise in the car—turn up the radio so you don’t hear it. Perhaps something’s loose, I tell myself. If it was anything major, it wouldn’t go away, right? Until this afternoon when the occasional screech turned into a full on she’s-going-to-blow-Captain Kirk-rattle which didn’t stop until I turned off the oven. Of course, her timing is perfect—right before bake sale and holiday cooking season.

Google informed me that it was probably some kind of bearing in one of the fans that had worked loose or broken. Are you kidding me? After barely four years of playing by all her rules, she pulls this kind of crap? I gave her a time out to think about her choices for a few minutes and then hit the preheat button again, bracing for a return of that horrible grating noise. This time she complied, and grudgingly allowed me to finish my baking project. “OK,” she said, “Since you already have the chocolate melted, you may finish for today, but nothing else. I just haven’t been feeling like myself lately, and I think I need to see a specialist, preferably soon. Or else you can just forget about Thanksgiving.”