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Mother's Day Immolation

(Cross-posted from teunc and statements.)

For Mother's Day, I took Banamum out to dinner. I asked her to choose the place, and not surprisingly she picked Happy Valley, a Chinese restaurant in Aggieville that serves very nice huo guo (literally "fire pot" aka "hot pot", shabu shabu in Japan). For those who haven't had this: it consists of sliced meat and veggies that you can cook in a (usually hot and spicy) broth at your own table. They bring you an outdoor fuel burner and plates of uncooked seafood, pork, chicken, beef, noodles, rice vermicelli, tofu, and vegetables such as broccoli, bamboo shoots, and you add these slowly over the course of the meal and let it cook.

About a quarter hour into our meal, Banamum had put in the seafood and we were talking about my summer plans and research projects. She fished out a mussel and put it in my bowl, and was scooping up another and asking whether I wanted it, when I tried to multitask and failed. Three things happened. First, the mussel separated with a slight pop; second, my elbow pushed a paper napkin a few inches forward and it went into the little blue flame under the pot; and third, a small fireball blossomed in front of me on the glass table.

I tried to look nonchalant as I batted at this spectacular little flame. Of course, my inept fanning caused it to burn brighter, at which point Banamum craned her head over. "Whatcha got there, a fire?"

She gestured unhurriedly to my drinking glass and said, "you can douse it... here, take your other napkin and wet it down". I listened, but I didn't wet it down quite enough. The edges of the new napkin caught fire even as the soaked center put out the first flaming napkin. As I was busily getting burnt into a corner of the booth, I thought what an ignominiously funny story it would make if I ended up catching fire myself. I had just decided not to become part of phawkwood's "what not to do" lesson for elementary school kids when Banamum, still offering helpful maternal advice, suggested I pour my whole glass on it. Still unwilling to make a scene, because the burner was blocking the waitresses' view of the fire proper even though it had just about landed in my lap, I took the wet napkin and beat the small flames into submission.

Naturally, at this point the tablecloth had caught fire, so mustered the shred of dignity I had left, took some water, and sprinkled the slightly smoking flame like a priest with an aspergillum.

A few minutes later, Banamum said "wow, I'm full - maybe you ought to turn the burner off so things don't get too hot?" I complied, and without skipping a beat she said merrily, "Oh, good. Now you won't set anything else on fire."

I then finished my meal and left an extra large tip. I can still smell the ash.



May. 22nd, 2006 07:41 am (UTC)
my family has a xmas tradition... well, legend? ... anyways, a story and inside joke

My grandparents and my mother's sister's family and mine were together for xmas at my parents' place.

I think we had already eaten, and something thing had been left/put on the table, like wrapping and stuff...

We were gathered, unwrapping presents nearby, when suddenly, wrapping paper on the dining table caught fire. There were a lot of us there, and there was a sort of moment's panic. Someone noticed the fire, and my Aunt shouted "Water! water!" To the group; to which, everyone was dumbfounded... someone else noticed the fire and said fire, I think i went over and beat at it with my bare hands; my brother went and got and filled a pitcher of water in the kitchen, and doused it. Somewhat typically, my mom complained to my brother about using the pitcher of water, because it mixed with the ash and stained the tablecloth; whereas I had slightly burned my hand trying to smother it in a more futile way... I don't know, i may have tried to use some cloth object to beat at it, but, yeah.

So anyways, now, when there is some panic or some sort, or just as a joke at xmas gatherings, someone in the family will sometimes shout 'water, water' jokingly - the point being, if you shout for what you need, and people don't seen the problem or make the connection, it might be futile, and panic or strong, thoughtless action may in fact not lead to a swift nor effective resolution to the problem. So my brother was sort of the hero there - calm enough to take the time to fill some water, and then willng to accept the problems associated with pouring it on the table (the mess, etc)
To truly deal with a problem with flare and calm, ie like a showman who has a burning platter cooking, and then places the lid on deftly, smothering the fire suddenly, is a pleasure to watch... actually, on that note, my brother is a bartender, and knows some tricks, like lighting zambuca in his mouth (flaming zambucca) and dropping cinnimon on to make sparkles... heheh he's a pain, but he's my lil bro' heheh
Anyways, with flaming zambucca, when your mouth gets too hot, you just close it, and it goes out - the liquid doens't burn, the vapour does, etc
same with gas... if you fall into a lit vat of gasoline... well, you're probabaly toast, but if you dive under, you won't be on fire, only the surface where oxygen is available will burn ... boil alive, maybe...

I think my cute lil anecdote is err... getting off-topic, so, yeah.


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