Shortly after I started my second job, I moved out of home. My first apartment.
I was working in the offices of British Gas. Sure, I'm a temp...again...but that's the way the world works, right?
This time, I'm not even employed by BG themselves, but by an agency. But that's a whole different horror story.
So I got a flat. It's large on floor space, but small on rooms. The living space consists of dining/living/kitchenette room. I'm twenty. I think it's classy. Anyway, the kitchenette consists of a sink, space for a fridge freezer (but only a low three footer) and gap where in you should slide a gas cooker. All of this backs onto a bar which faces the couch, and the appliances will face the bay window, overlooking the main shopping streets one storey below.
I furnish my kitchen from the local second hand shop, even get a proper fitter to attach my cooker. I do work for the Board after all.
I then promptly lose my job, because the site closes. The temps: Last to know everything. I'm offered a permanent position in another centre about a hundred miles away. But as I said. Twenty years old. I'm not ready for that.
So I'm unemployed.
But hey, I can "live off the state" for a couple of months.
So I learn to live cheap.
Sausages are cheap. Pasta is cheap. Condensed soup is cheap. (These days I'm actually quite accomplished in the kitchen, but back then? Needs must.)
So I concoct a dish lavish enough for a king.
Then invite my parents around for dinner.
For the sausage thing.
They smile, I serve beer (broke, remember?), and then I can chat and entertain while I cook. Because I'm facing them.
Thing is, I can't get my sausages to do what I want. I know, I know, a more experienced cook would have handled this better, but the thing is I realize that my kitchen isn't flat and my sausages keep lolling to the hot side of the pan and they're cooking too quick and it's all going wrong and FIND A WAY TO FIX IT.
MY MOTHER'S WATCHING HER YOUNGEST SON COOK DINNER IN HIS OWN PLACE FOR THE FIRST TIME.
The look in her eyes is priceless: one of pride.
Think. I've seen cookery shows. Well, Ready, Steady, Cook. It's got cooking in it. Sort of.
Slap the grill (broiler) on.
Put them on the tray, slide under. Wink. Looks like you know what you're doing. Score.
Mother is now glowing with pride at the chef-ery of her son.
Thing is, the sausages are going a bit mental. Keep smiling. They can't see this. It's below the level of the bar. Shake them a bit. They're smoking. But it's okay. I turn and open the window. It looks reasonable because I'm now sweating Niagra Falls. Work the pasta. Look in control.
They're making spitting noises.
Like, really loud.
Right by my groin.
I edge away. The smoke's escaping the window. All seems well apart from the volcano of heat near my pants. Sidle away, three or four feet. Sip beer. Chat. Look in control.
Then there's this WHUMP.
Never heard a noise like it before or since.
I have learned this is the sound of what is known as a back-draft.
The sausages were cheap. Frighteningly cheap. You-don't-know-what's-in-them cheap. And it appears they consist largely of fat. Fat which has leaked into the grill pan. Fat which has gotten hotter than the fires of hell.
And it's caused a small - yet effective - fireball to be evacuated from the grill.
I calmly look to my side, a half smile. I still know what I'm doing. It's all good. The curtains are on fire. I look to my mother, my father, they're in some sort of slow motion pointing thing. I step over to the curtains and quite calmly pour beer down them. I glance through the window and wave to the two people pointing at what, from where they were stood, was a flat burning furiously. I smile and raise my beer, mouthing cheers.
I turn back to my parents who stare in stunned silence.
"I think it's ready," I announce.
Cajun sausages, I claim, with pasta in a cream sauce.
I think I got away with it.
I found out later that my kitchen was flat, and in fact my frying pan was warped.
And it was years before my parents came over to dinner again. They always looked...terrified when I asked...for some reason.