ANNE C. HEYMEN: Learning to beat the heat

I suppose after 57 years I should have expected it, but I was not really prepared. The heating elements in my oven-in-the-wall died.


During their 57 years of service, the elements served me well. They broiled, they baked and they did everything I asked.

Oh, there were warnings. Several years ago when the appliance repair man came to fix the washing machine he said to his newly hired assistant, “See that oven. It’s old, but I can get parts for it.”

Time passed, and the oven kept on baking and broiling. Then, one recent late July evening as I was revving up the broiler for an evening repast, I heard a strange noise — kind of a bang. I thought little of it. However, upon returning to the kitchen to prepare to broil pork chops I was greeted with a sad, sad sight. There, hanging down and showing signs of being badly charred was my beloved broiling element. The oven light was on indicating there was electricity to the appliance. So I tentatively felt the baking element, and it too, although not charred, was anything but warm.

I called the appliance guy, and yes, he could get the parts, which he did. A day after my initial call I was in business again.

I was elated about the turn-around time. Yet, I’m still challenged.

I am challenged because after 57 years and kind of getting the hang of how the oven works, I am forced to start over anew. By that I mean, these two elements are hot, hot, hot. Maybe the best way to explain it is to provide examples. First: I baked some crescent rolls the way I always do — on parchment paper and for the allotted length of time at the prescribed temperature.

Wrong. When I went to check on them the bottoms of the rolls were crunchy black/brown and the parchment paper was a crunchy brown, as well.

Then I cooked some chicken tenders — also on parchment paper. I lowered the temperature, but obviously not low enough because after just a little over 10 minutes the tenders were more than tender and ditto the parchment paper.

I just baked a batch of brownies, and instead of the prescribed 350 degrees for 28 minutes, I baked them at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, and they’re done.

So, okay, I get it. I’ll have to adjust everything and experiment. I know that’s the key. My problem is the math. It has never been my strong suit. When I was a freshmen at Stetson University and they gave us tests to see where our talents might be, my adviser said: “Well, we don’t have enough math teachers right now, so we’re not wasting our time on those who just don’t get math.” End of story: I graduated from college without ever completing a math class.

So you see my problem.

My best advice. If I ever invite you for dinner, it might behoove you to inquire: “What’s for dinner and are you making it in the oven?”

Anne C. Heymen was associated with The St. Augustine Record for 49 years in total before retiring in February 2014 as features editor. Her column runs in The Record on alternate Saturdays.