Chapter 3: The Test Drive
[Read the continuing saga from the beginning here.]
Arriving home one day to find the gas shut off in my West Village apartment building, I ran out and bought a one-burner hot plate for $29.95. The one with two burners cost only $10 more, but what did I need two burners for? The gas would be turned on again in a day or two, I was certain, and the prospect of finding a place to stash the two-burner model in my tiny apartment was as daunting as the temporary shut-off.
For hot plate aficionados, here are the specs: Sky Appliances, Hornilla Electrica, Modelo SS1520, 1000 Watts, Adjustable Control Knob (1 to 5), Metal Drip Pan, Easy to Use, 110V, 60 Hz. Two further specs caused me some concern: 1) “Household Use Only,” and 2: “Continuous improvements made in product development may result in slight differences between the photograph on this box and the actual contents.” As opposed to the imaginary contents? And what would those be?
As I unpacked the box, I strained my eyes to see if there were “development” differences between the picture on the box and my model. I couldn’t detect any. As I set up the hot plate next to my refrigerator, I noted approvingly how little space it took up on the counter. It looked cozy next to the blender and the food processor, kind of like a garage next to a pair of high rises.
Damned if I wasn’t proud of my new contraption, especially how downscale it was, like something one might cook on in the Third World. Luckily, I could count on the electricity being available 24 hours a day, which is something you can’t count on in Bamako or East Timor.
I filled up my teapot–which resembles a black-spotted Jersey cow–and placed it on the heating element, which resembles a black snake ready to spring. Gunning the machine like a biker doing a wheelie, I turned the knob all the way up to 5, keeping my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t immediately set off the circuit breaker. It didn’t. Nevertheless, the hot plate made little creaking and groaning sounds as it heated up, like wind in the sails of a frigate.
I’ve never cooked on an electric stove. I’ve always been an advocate of gas ranges, and scoffed whenever anyone mentioned that they were saddled with an electric stove. Thus I was surprised to find the water in the cow coming to a boil more quickly than it had on my gas range. Weird. 5 minutes, 34 seconds, with the pot full. For boiling water, at least, the hot plate was proving more efficient than my ghetto gas stove. Could these results be extrapolated to other aspects of the cooking experience?
Next: Eggs and then curry
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 2, 2009