Diary of a renovator: cold comfort

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am

If designing my kitchen was tricky, choosing appliances to kindle creativity was humbling. I craved tools that would allow me to put away childish things and push me to provide adult fare.

No more instant noodles, mushroom omelettes or curry-in-a-hurry. I was destined to become Delia, Julia, possibly even Nigella.

However, technology mixed with stupidity and stirred by anger made me a demented goat instead of a domestic goddess. One week after my oven was installed, I stopped photographing it and started planning menus. Naturally, guest No1 would be the boyfriend.

So in a half-renovated house equipped with a gleaming kitchen, I pulled from the fridge all that would produce a memorable meal. But then I messed up the time. It wasn't that I misread the clock or thought 17.00 meant 7pm. My mistake, it dawned on me as I tried to heat the oven, was in assuming I could sail a luxury liner when a banana boat was beyond my control.

'Why was it taking so long to come on?' I wondered, convincing myself it would soon be dangerous to stick my head inside to see what was wrong. Half an hour passed. No heat could be detected apart from that rising from my head. Goodbye, roasted aubergine. Forty minutes of twiddling and the mercury still refused to rise. Sayonara, baked fish. After an hour it was adios, dinner.

Was there a master switch no one had told me about? Maybe the oven had been installed incorrectly? Could I have bought a lemon?

The last thought moistened my eyes. I had spent months working out what to buy and could dither no longer. So for the third time I strode into Koda Kitchen. The polite people there didn't seem to mind that I had chosen Siemens' least expensive electric oven. Despite being the most economical model, it included a pizza setting, three types of grilling, rapid heating and 3D hot air (wouldn't that make it take off?). Cheap for them was pricey for me. But I had been frightened by stories of the door falling off the oven of a friend's friend and dishes ruined because of dodgy fuses.

The boyfriend had suggested I buy an oven without fancy functions and a mate urged me to reconsider my choice, but I believed there was no alternative. 'Anyone who does much cooking will spit on electric ovens because their heat distribution is so random,' she said. 'You'll never bake a decent cake again, never mind a souffle.'

By 8.30pm I was convinced I'd never even defrost a TV dinner. Anyway, I was now only interested in making origami from the pages of the instruction manual. The table was bare, Koda Kitchen was closed, and the boyfriend was late because he had been 'distracted by a poem'.

By the time he arrived I was on fire. 'There's no dinner. The thing doesn't work. You're taking me out.'

An empty bottle of sake propped open the instruction book at: 'Before using for the first time'. I had read that page so many times it was seared into my brain. If I had one. While I was putting on my face to leave the house, the boyfriend let out a three-note 'Ahhhhh'. 'The oven's set to switch on automatically tomorrow morning at 7am,' he said.

Suddenly I realised why the temperature selector had refused to recognise my command. My cheeks turned puce.

'Duh!' I cried.

'Ever heard of slow cooking?' I should have said. 'Dinner will be served at breakfast.'

If you have renovation-related tales you would like to share, e-mail Xiu Fang at features@scmp.com