I am almost ashamed to write this.
I cleaned my oven.
That’s not the shameful bit. The shameful bit is how long I let it go before I got around to it. I love cooking. I especially love baking. My oven is like the heartbeat of the home. It works really hard in the background. I expect it to keep everything ticking over nicely. Keep pumping out the breads and cakes and pies. Keeping roasting the meats and vegetables that fuel us. But a bit like my heart, I take it for granted. I don’t look after it. It’s a clogged artery setting itself up for a heart attack any day.
I’d had enough of looking at it. I decided to do something about it. I didn’t want anyone seeing where I bake these cakes. I hung a tea towel across the door so I couldn’t see how dirty it was through the glass window. Little Paddler kept pulling the towel down and peering in at the baby reflecting out. How she could see anything through the grease on the inside is anyone’s guess. I hung two tea towels. She flung them both down on the ground. I was going to have to take more drastic steps. I was going to have to scrub the oven clean.
This was not a job to be undertaken lightly. Lots of my old dishes had cracks and had leaked juices and oils onto the base of the oven. They had crusted over. The glass window in the oven door was brown. I wasn’t even sure whether it was clear glass originally or tinted. I hang my head in shame. The odd wipe out every now and then just wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore. I was going to have to bring out the big guns. But I had used the chemical oven cleaners before and I have to say, I am not a fan. They stink and cut the back of your throat and the inside of your nostrils. They come with warnings about well ventilated areas and eye protection and not to breathe too deeply. In fact if you can not breathe at all while using them, then all the better. I didn’t want to use them again. There must be a gentler way. (Preferably one that didn’t involve loads of elbow grease.)
Perhaps there was. I opted to try out the miraculous marriage that is bread soda and vinegar. First I wiped out the inside of the oven and took the shelves out. I mixed up a cup of bread soda with one third a cup of water until it formed a gloopy sort of paste. (That would be a technical term – gloopy). This paste I then rubbed in everywhere in the oven except for the heating elements – steer clear of them. I plastered it into corners and onto the inside of the door. I got an old toothbrush and rubbed it along the shelves before putting them back in at the bottom of the oven. Then I shut the door, hung up a tea towel infront of the glass so no one could see in and left the house for the day. You could do it just before going to bed and leave it overnight.
When I came back I wiped the oven out with a damp cloth and then sprayed plain old vinegar everywhere (except the elements). It fizzed up for a bit and I kept wiping and spraying. After a while I reckoned it must all be fine and left it to dry. I could still see this vague white powdery film coating the oven’s insides. I couldn’t shift it. Disaster. Then I remembered how I use to clean the microwave when we had one; with a bowl of water and half a lemon left to steam up inside the oven before wiping everything down. So I improvised. Into a small bowl of water I put a lemon cut into halves and a handful of cloves, stuck it in the oven and cranked up the heat for twenty minutes. After that I wiped the whole thing down again. Result! Shiny clean oven and it smelt gorgeous too. Time to get baking.