Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Firecracker shrimp

To this day my sister claims that she didn't almost burn down the house.

But I know better.

For a couple of years, back when I was a teenager and my sister was a pre-teen, we fell in love with shrimp chips. (If you've never had them, Chinese restaurants used to offer them, sometimes as an appetizer and sometimes gratis. They were colorful, deep fried chips that looked like colored styrofoam and tasted like shrimp. Very crunchy, very addictive.)

They came in a bag and looked like colorful, uneven poker chips. But drop them in boiling oil, and in seconds they puffed up into a delicious chip.

One day my sister put a pot of oil on the stove, cranked the burner to high, and walked out of the kitchen. Our stove took awhile to heat up, and she had other things to do.

About five minutes later I happened to walk past the kitchen. Flames were shooting out of the pot, licking at the bottom of the cabinet above the stove. For some reason there was a cookie sheet on the counter and I, thinking much more quickly than I normally did, put the sheet on top of the pot. The flames were instantly extinguished.

I began yelling at my sister. "You almost burned the house down. There were flames shooting out of the top of the pot of oil you put on the stove."

"I didn't put the pot there."

"We're the only two people in the house, and I didn't do it. That leaves only you."

She nervously glanced at the stove. "Don't tell Mom."

I glanced at the cabinet above the stove. The finish on the bottom was burnt and peeling, and the odor of smoke hung in the air. "I think she'll figure it out herself."

Needless to say, my mother never bought us shrimp chips again, and I haven't had one to this day. But there is no cabinet above our stove now, and I've been thinking...