The baked-on funk stank is, in fact, the reason I had my head in the oven. I was trying—heroically—to clean it without using toxic chemicals or the “self-cleaning” function, which I remember from browsing through the manual that came with the brand-new oven at my previous dwelling (I’d picked up the booklet to learn what the oh-so-intriguing “Sabbath” button on the control panel was for) is also a toxic endeavor—so much so that the instructions specifically warned to remove all pet birds from the building as the fumes would kill them, canary-in-the-coal-mine style. There was a picture of a bird lying dead at the bottom of its cage illustrating this point in the booklet—how could I forget the lesson? And if it’s not safe for pet birds, how can it possibly be safe for kids or cats?
The last time I’d tried to use the oven, it smoked me and the kids and the cat out of the room (thanks, dear husband, for the blackberry pie! It was as delicious as it was drippy in the making!), so “clean the oven” moved up the to-do list from “Should Do But Realistically Never Will” to “Do Today, No Matter How Unappealing and Disheartening.”
I found instructions from numerous women online who are better homemakers than I (I own a vacuum, but I seldom can motivate myself to use a vacuum) and got in there with a box of baking soda and a spray-bottle of water and some rags and an attitude of forced optimism. This task is gratifying! The oven will gleam! It’s honest, purposeful work! My husband and small children and cat will totally notice and appreciate this!
It took me literally all day—from 7am to 7pm—what with the baby crying every time I put her down—not an “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired” cry but an “I’ll be damned if you’re going to give that oven more attention than me” cry—and all the other tasks associated with living with a toddler and a newborn, few of which are conducive to simultaneously cleaning an oven. Why can’t they just invent an oven that cleans itself with the touch of a button while everyone’s doing more interesting things?
Twelve hours and numerous permanently blackened wash rags later, the oven looks…exactly the same as it did before! Okay, not exactly. The funk is less topographically significant—and the oven no longer smokes—but it’s not like the oven looks clean or new or anything. Oh well. No one's really going to go looking in there anyway.