Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It Takes a Village...

...to turn on my oven.

A big reason we chose this apartment was because it has an oven. I can't tell you the number of places we looked at that only had stove tops. I'm sure when it's 120 degrees in August I'll understand why this is so common. But I started imaging all the goodies we'd be missing out on -- peanut butter blossoms, roasted asparagus, homemade mac-n-cheese, short ribs... ok, clearly I'm hungry. So lucky for us Onda had an oven. I soon realized that having an oven and using an oven were two very different things.

I should've known this oven was going to be trouble when my real estate agent couldn't figure out how to light it. (A gas oven isn't new to me; a gas oven you have to light is. Oh and this comes after hearing an awful story from my sister-in-law's friend who burned off her eyebrows, eyelashes and outer layer of her corneas-- yes corneas-- trying to light a gas oven.) Ultimately someone from the gas company had to come out and show me how to light the freakin thing. That was in October...two whole months before I actually used it. What do you think happened to all that oven-lighting knowledge??

Which brings us to last night... I had put off using the oven for 2 weeks. With Christmas dinner approaching, I refused to let the oven win and decided a test meal was needed so that I didn't spend all of Christmas Eve trying to figure out how to use the damn thing. I get my rickety long lighter (the one that came w/ the place) and start fiddling around with knobs and shoving the lighter in the hole... and end up with nothing but gas fumes.

Then I realize, this what neighbors are for. So I knock on my neighbor's door and guess what? She, like the rest of hte Asian population in HK, only has a stovetop and can't help me. She recommends I ask our security guard, who I drag up into my kitchen and quickly realize she knows less than I do. At this point, I'm thinking we'll be having spaghetti and meatballs sans meatballs... but then Nina -- sassy name for a security guard, no? -- tells me she's going to find someone who can help me. It's 7pm and I know the gas company is closed, so I figure Nina's trying to gracefully bow out the situation.

Lo and behold, there's a knock on my door 30 minutes later and it's Nina with a middle-aged white couple. (I guess only the gweilos care about ovens.) Well, Peggy and John -- my Aussie neighbors from the 15th floor who have an electric oven, take over the situation. Peggy oversees the dial while John handles the lighter. It takes about 12 tries -- all with Peggy telling John he's not working the lighter properly and warning me that my sauce is about to boil over -- and it took. The oven was lit. Nina applauded. I let out a cry of joy. You would've thought they had just revived Victor from the brink of death. It sounds weirdly dramatic, but I had this surge of love. I loved Nina for being so persistent in finding somoene to help me. I loved John for getting it lit and I loved Peggy for managing all of us during the crisis. This would have NEVER happened in NYC. EVER.

The good news is that I now know how to use my oven (made some banana bread tonight just to practice) and feel like I've found surrogate grandparents here who will always be willing to help me if I need it.

Now if I could only figure out how to determine the temperature of the oven. My oven dial reads 1-8, not 250 - 400 degrees. Anyone have a guess as to which number 350 degrees Farenheit is?? If so, please please clue me in. (My banana bread called for 350 degrees and I had it on 6 for the recommended time. Ended up being way undercooked and had to bake it for an additional 25 minutes.)

The moral of the story is that there are really great people in Hong Kong and I'm actually starting to meet them! I'll let you know how my beef burgundy and pumpkin pie on Christmas Eve turn out...


  1. OK - I am going to send you an oven thermometer so you can properly cook banana bread!

  2. ha-- you're the best!!! thanks! i think i've gotten better at guestimating... made a few things since and they haven't been awful. ps - -are we skyping sat morning your time?! hope so!