On Oven Cleaning

The brand new oven in our brand new house spent approximately one week in it's pristine virgin state.

Then I found some beautiful rhubarb at Pike Place Market.

Why, you ask? Because when you find beautiful, in-season rhubarb at your famous local farmer's market, you buy it, chop it up, and bake it into delicious strawberry-rhubarb pies. And when you're in a rush to get said pies in the over so you can do a zillion other things around the house before your toddler awakens from her nap, you forget the cardinal rule of baking fruit pies: put something (tinfoil,  cookie sheets, something, anything!) underneath the pie tins.

Sure enough, an hour later I was fanning the new smoke detector with a kitchen towel, cursing the hood fan and watching ooey-gooey sticky pie filling blacken and bubble on the bottom of the oven.

For a moment, I was all like "damn, now my oven is dirty." Then I went back to living my life.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and what pops up in my Facebook feed but this handy post:

Remembering the gluey mess adhered to the bottom of my new oven, I clicked. And then promptly remembered why I don't click on these things.

No, I did not get infected with Ransomware (hi, tech buddies!)

Instead, I got to enjoy this opener:
When was the last time you cleaned your oven?
Be honest.
Would you be embarrassed if a neighbor … or your mother-in-law, opened it up?
The horror!!!

Then I threw up a little bit in my mouth.

First, why on earth would one of my neighbors ever look in my oven? Even if I were to have neighbors over (which will probably happen...never), they have no business going near my oven. It's my goddamn kitchen, thank you very much. And you know what? If some busybody neighbor decides to stick his or her head in my oven to judge its cleanliness, I will judge them right back for having the nerve to go poking around in my house.

Second, honestly, I give less than zero fucks if my mother-in-law sees the stickiness on the bottom of my oven. My mother-in-law keeps a clean house but also uniquely understands the realities of trying to work full-time and maintain a house and parent a toddler. The only thing that would happen if my mother-in-law noticed that my oven was dirty is that she'd want to know where I was hiding the pie.

My mother-in-law is a smart woman.

Which brings me to the general point here, which is that this is not 1950, my name is not June Fucking Cleaver, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry over the fact that in 2016, people are still publishing articles like this. The fact that I'm able to keep the easily visible parts of my house neat and orderly with the assistance of some excellent cleaning people (Seattle folks, let me know if you want their number, they are the best) is a borderline miracle. The inside of my oven is literally dead last on my list of "things that must look pristine."

Do you know what makes me care about keeping my oven reasonably clean? My smoke alarm. Because if my oven is dirty, it burns, which creates smoke, and then the alarm screams at me like a banshee. The ones in the new house even loudly announce over the shrieking that "A FIRE HAS BEEN DETECTED!" Then my kid wakes up, and my dog looks like I'm torturing her, and I have to stand on a kitchen stool frantically waving a towel like an idiot while cursing a blue streak (don't you know it haha), and chaos ensues.

That is a reason to clean your fucking oven. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Oh, and here's a bonus! Because while I do not want to have to abide by ridiculous retrograde expectations for maintaining my household, I do think that pie is an important part of life, and it's rhubarb season. And also so that you can say your own fuck you to the man and make a mess of your oven!

Smitten Kitchen's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe (amended with crumble topping)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
  • 1/2 recipe All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough or single pie crust. 
  • 3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if tiny
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca (I just used tapioca flour, same amount, and it was great!)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Crumble topping
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
    • 3/4 cup light-brown sugar 
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar 
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
    • 1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • In a bowl, mix all ingredients except for butter. 
    • Cut 1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter into pieces. With your hands, work in butter pieces, until large clumps form (it should look like damp sand).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a well-floured counter, roll half of pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. (I like to fold my gently into quarters, to transfer it more easily, then unfold it in the pie plate.)

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl. Mound filling inside bottom pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter. Sprinkle generously with crumb topping (you'll need about half of the above recipe).

Transfer pie to a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. When full cool (several hours later) the juices gel.


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