Burton on the Bay
If you would wish another to keep your secret, first keep it to yourself.
Lucius Annaeus Senec
Sorry, Lou, but some secrets must be told if only as an avenue to confession, which, Im told, is good for the soul. Your advice, though, originating back when the calendar was switching from bc to ad, is probably valid to this very day. But I trust my readers to keep my secret.
You see, some secrets are too good to keep though our countrys original sage, Ben Franklin, also agreed with you when he warned in Poor Richards Almanac of 1735: Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead. And methinks thats what I might be if my secret were repeated. Especially to my wife Lois, who, I am glad to say, is on a vacation of two weeks in Cancun.
You see, if Lois knew my secret before she left, chances are she would have gathered up all the satchels in the Burton household up here on the shores of Stoney Creek in North County, filled them with all her belongings and taken up permanent residency in that Mexican tourist spot.
So some secrets are better kept. Get my drift?
When I saw the taillights of the car driving Lois and her lady companions to the airport disappear west on Park Road last Saturday at daybreak, I breathed a sigh of relief if only momentarily. The previous couple of hours had been threatening indeed. I had to keep the wife out of the kitchen, more specifically away from the big white General Electric stove I gave her as a gift a few years back.
My heart sank deeper than the submarine Nautilus, when after a fitful nights sleep, and still dark outside, I heard her rummaging about in the kitchen. I feared she was about to perk up a cup of Java to get a caffeine high that would carry her through her flight, passing through customs and all the terminal inconveniences associated with commercial aircraft travel these days.
I bolted upright should I fake sleep? Or scoot to the kitchen and offer to make the coffee? Or perhaps escape via the window, beat her to BWI to get a one-way ticket to Timbuktu or any other destination on the other side of the globe? Any place but Cancun.
I decided to gamble and headed for the kitchen where I was relieved to find her whipping up her coffee in the microwave. I promised the Lord right then and there, never again would I gripe about microwave cookery in this household. It saved me at least for the time being.
I waited anxiously for 15 minutes after the ladies had departed in the event Lois might return to pick up something she had forgotten. Then I headed into the kitchen. I had work to do. Big time work.
Bubble, Bubble, Boil and Trouble
The sequence of events began the previous late afternoon while Lois was at her desk at Anne Arundel County Community College. I was searching in the basement for a hummingbird mix to attract these fascinating birds to their feeder on the east side of the house when I came across a long forgotten half-gallon tin of maple syrup. Real Vermont maple syrup, top grade, rich amber in color.
Anyone who knows maple syrup also knows the amber is the best, more robust in flavor. The more clear variety is for tourists. Anyone also knows that in price any 100 percent pure Vermont maple syrup is liquid gold.
Being a Vermonter, Im frugal and decided it shouldnt go to waste. I had purchased it intent on consuming it ever so sparingly, seeing Im diabetic. But once I got it home I knew I dont have the will power to manage consumption in a healthy manner. Not with pure 100 percent Vermont maple syrup.
I decided it would be the ideal thank-you gift for my friend Alan Doelp who, in respect for my age, periodically delivers the heavy sacks of bird seed to the Burton home. He likes maple syrup on his waffles and pancakes and I presume as a sweetener in tea. Or perhaps as a substitute for sugar in a whisky-based Old Fashion cocktail.
But I had reservations about the year the syrup was boiled. I knew it maintains quality for years, and if mold or other impurities develop over time, it can be heated and skimmed to restore it to its original state. I also knew that Alan, who has been to Vermont only once in his life, probably didnt know that. He could get squeamish, you know, accept the gift graciously with proper thanks, and then toss it out once out of my sight.
So I decided to inspect the syrup first, heat it up and check it out. The syrup, which incidentally appeared perfect, went into a large pot, which went atop Lois white stove.
Then the telephone rang.
You can guess the rest.
The syrup had come to an eruptive boil. There wasnt much left in the pot. The top of the stove looked like a heap of flapjacks inundated with syrup. The sticky stuff was everywhere, most of it gone down via burner outlets to the hidden bowels of the stove.
I had to meet Lois for a farewell dinner in an hour, which gave me barely enough time to restore appearances of the stove top. The rest would be faced later. All through dinner I worried about the smell and smoke of burned maple syrup if the burners were turned on. I didnt eat much.
Maple syrup isnt as sticky as molasses or honey, but thats like saying the electric chair isnt as bad as the firing squad, which isnt as bad as hanging, which isnt as bad as the guillotine. Something akin to that would be my fate if Lois got a whiff of burnt maple syrup in a smoky kitchen.
Picture Lois big white range beneath its top. Hell, there are unseen catacombs, nooks, crannies and channels to carry off water if a pot of potatoes boil over. Down there, its a scene straight out of the movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The Big Clean-Up
Once confident that Lois was on her plane, I phoned Alan for advice. He said leave it alone. Ants will find it and by two weeks they will have cleaned it up for you. Then turn all the burners on and fry the ants. There will be no evidence left. He knew because he faced a similar problem in his bachelor days long ago. But it has been a cold spring and Ive seen no ants yet. And what if a single ant survived to tell the world?
So with Brillo pads, Old Dutch Cleanser, kitchen sprays, knives, putty knives, detergents, Clorox, face cloths, sponges, spoons and hours of elbow grease labor, by feel alone I have brushed, scraped, washed and sponged more than a quart of sticky goo from the innards of Lois stove.
Ive double-checked the unseen catacombs with paper towels to determine if they turn sticky; Ive said a few prayers. Once this column is finished Ill return to the kitchen, turn on the burners, say a few more prayers and wait hoping no stinky smoke rises from the bowls beneath the grids.
How will you know, dear readers, how all this ends? Well, next Thursday a couple of days before Lois returns, this column should be back again in this space and if its not, well