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Burning desires.

Perhaps I am not meant to be the world's first woman celebrity chef.

Inspired by the wonderful roast veggies served up by my friends Morgan and Richard, and after being assured by them that the recipe was "easy, really easy," I decided a few evenings ago that I could produce something similar.

I bought the veggies and a flat, inexpensive pan. I chopped everything up, added the olive oil and, as instructed, saved the red wine vinegar for later, because, said Richard, "it tends to burn a little." Then I went to check my email. (For your edification, type "root vegetables with thyme" in the search box at

A minute or so later, I heard a strange crackling noise from the kitchen, and upon opening the oven I encountered plumes of black smoke and flames. Horrified and a trifle scared, I did notice that the conflagration was as yet not quite high enough to require buckets of water (thank goodness, because you're supposed to use baking soda, not water) and calls for fire engines, so I wafted it out with a towel and opened two windows. The God of Blithering Idiots was looking down upon me, so the fire alarm did not go off.

Later, I realized that there was some kind of sticky sticker I had not noticed on the bottom of the new pan.

It had obviously melted, helped perhaps by the fact that I had turned the oven to broil rather than bake. The oven was a mess and there were tiny bits of black ash all over the kitchen walls, floor and cupboard doors--and some in the living room.

I may give up cooking all together, except for things I can put in the microwave. Or things that go straight from store to mouth.

Happily, every tragedy has its upside and this one reminded me of Miss Burridge, my Grade 12 English teacher in those dark days when feminism wasn't even a dirty word. Miss Burridge (I'm not sure anyone ever knew her first name) was perhaps five feet tall, about 60, wore a wig and had no eyebrows because she had, some years before, rushed into her burning family home to rescue her mother. Miss Burridge went on to graduate from McGill University with a master's degree when she was barely into her 20s. And she was tough. She could reduce a large football player who'd handed in a shoddy essay to near tears. She demanded--and got--excellence from those capable of it, and she was helpful to those who needed it. Above all, she expected the best from both female and male students. She praised us, girls and boys alike, when we gave our best and excoriated us, girls and boys alike, when we produced inferior work.

She was overheard pleading (unsuccessfully) with the best student in the class, a brilliant girl, to forego quitting school to marry her considerably older boyfriend. We watched and wondered (the feminist movement was still a few years off), as Miss Burridge arranged a send-off--or was it a last effort to get the student to reconsider--complete with a gift, a classic novel, of course. Miss Burridge was, I believe, a feminist, however unsung.

Such was her presence that she dared to read to her Grade 12 English class as though we, the girls in ponytails and boys who were football players, were little kids at bedtime. And we loved it. She kept us spellbound with her reading of British essayist Charles Lamb's "A Dissertation upon Roast Pig," first published in 1823.

It tells the story of Bobo, a teenager in ancient China who liked to play with fire. One day he burned the family cottage down with a batch of new piglets inside. Inadvertently sticking his finger into one of the burned pigs, Bobo of course licked his finger. The taste was wonderful. Happily, Bobo avoided a beating by convincing his father to consume some burned pig. And, for some time, the family cottage was rebuilt and reburned so that father and son might experience the epicurean delicacy of roast pig. Thus was barbecue invented.

I, on the other hand, live in a building where only cats--no pigs--are permitted, so I have to content myself with the concept of roast vegetables. However, I do not intend to set my oven on fire again. Instead, I intend, confident of Miss Burridge's approval, to become famous, if not wealthy, for writing "A Dissertation Upon Roast Vegetables."
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Title Annotation:ON THE EDGE
Author:Cockburn, Lyn
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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