Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oh shit, is that smoke?

I came back from a trip to the supermarket AND wet market loaded with one week’s supply of essential foodstuff such as vegetables, rice, pork, potato crisps and coconut juice*.

As I approached my apartment, I noted an odd smell.


It was nearly noon, and if I did not leave soon I’ll not be able to get back by 1 pm. The cleaning lady was due to arrive at 1, and I did not want to make her wait.

I turned up the flame on my duck soup to get it boiling sooner, and went to brush my teeth. Teeth brushed to perfection, wriggled into my jacket, I picked up the bag of rubbish and stormed out of the house.

--end flashback--

When I linked the odd smell to the smell of burning stuff, my brain switched into a panicked loop. “Not my stove not my stove not my stove not my stove not my stove not my stove not my stove […],” it chanted to no one in particular. The trance-like chanting took up much of my mental resources, leaving little processing power for my motor control. I had to fumble with the key about for a while before getting the door opened, and was greeted with a dense white haze filling the upper half of the apartment. The haze was so dense that it was impossible to see more than 2 metres ahead.

I rush to the kitchen to find a blackened pot over a furiously burning gas flame, white smoke issuing out of the lid’s little vent. Whatever water in the pot had been boiled dry long ago, and the smoke jetting out of the pot (and subsequently filling the entire apartment with layers of haze) was vaporised duck fat and protein.

The windows and balcony doors were thrown open to ventilate the place, and within a minute I could actually see from one end of the apartment to the other. My adventure, however, was not over.

From upstairs, I heard someone shouting. Shortly after, there was a frantic banging on my door. I found a man asking if everything was ok- he detected a strong burning smell from upstairs and came to see if there was anything wrong. I had to explain it was a kitchen incident; all is fine and thank you so much for your concern. He asked again if everything is ok (to which I said it’s fine) before turning to go.

Several minutes later, the doorbell rang. This time, it was a guard. Someone had called the building management about a strong smoky smell, and he was tracking down the source. He had checked all units from level 17 till he reached mine (there are 3 units per level, I live on level 10). Again, I explained that it was a kitchen incident and it’s under control.

A thoroughly unpleasant experience it was.

* coconut juice is one of the most fantastic drinks I’ve seen recently. Unlike coconut water which is a light, clear liquid, this coconut juice is diluted and sweetened coconut milk. It’s rich, fattening and comes with a flavourful punch. A very soothing drink, perfectly suited to calming the nerves after a smoky scare.