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Baking soda saves the day. February 26, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Usually when I make pasta for supper, there’s a nice little bit left for my lunch the following day.* But unfortunately, I’m not the best at reheating it. Luddites that our friend Ben and I am, we have no microwave. So I’ll typically put the pasta in one of my heavy, wonderful cast-iron LeCreuset pans with a little broth or milk (depending on the type of pasta sauce) to prevent sticking. Then I’ll turn it on the lowest flame our gas burner can produce, put on the lid, and wander off.

This is not what you’d call a smart move. Inevitably, by the time I remember that I put the pasta on the stove, the bottom’s burned onto the pan. You’d think one or two experiences like this would be enough to teach me, but I just can’t make myself stand over the stove when there’s so much else to do. I have found that, if it’s not actually burned, turning off the heat and letting it sit for five minutes with the lid on tends to cause it to release its death-grip on the pan. But if it has burned, I scrape off what I can, fill the pan with soapy water, set it in the sink, and await the arrival of the ultimate solution: Ben. Being stronger, he can usually muscle the burnt part off the pan, and thanks to LeCreuset’s enamel coating, my pots and pans have been able to stand up to the abuse. 

Now, there is a solution to this problem: Baking the leftover pasta rather than reheating it on the stove. I don’t know why this works, but if I put the pasta in an oven-proof container and cover it with aluminum foil, it never burns. But I hate the waste of gas and electricity involved in heating the whole oven just to warm up a half-plate of pasta. And our toaster oven has disappeared under a mountain of medications for our dog Molly, not to mention the peanut butter and bread required to administer said meds, canned dogfood, cans of beef gravy for her dry dogfood, etc.etc. At this point, I’d need a grant to launch an archaeological expedition in order to unearth it. (Poor OFB has been missing his Sunday toast, but for some reason, he keeps declining when I offer him one of Molly’s peanut-butter sandwiches instead.)

Unfortunately, a couple of days ago I really managed to char a pot of pasta. Our friend Ben scrubbed and scrubbed, and there was still a hideous blackened layer on the bottom of the pot. And wouldn’t you know, this is the one pot I use every single day. It’s the perfect size and weight. I’ve had it since I got my first job and my first apartment. I was not ready to give up on it without a fight! But what to do?

I was almost at wit’s end (not a long journey, for me) when a small glimmer emerged from the gloom and a tiny voice somewhere in my brain murmured, “You know, if you put baking soda in the pan with enough water to cover it and boil it, then let it sit, that gunk will come off.” I can’t remember when or where I came upon that tip, but I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I tried it. (I’ve also read that you can use a fabric-softener sheet in much the same way to loosen burnt-on food, but I think I’d rather put the pot to work in our greenhouse than think about adding fabric softener to our diet.)

Before I made our supper, I boiled the baking soda in the pot, then turned it off and let it sit until we’d finished and OFB was preparing to wash up. (Talk about a great arrangement! I cook, he cleans. Good deal!) And this time, when he tackled the pot, the gunk came off. Thanks to baking soda, my favorite pot was saved!

You all probably don’t burn stuff on your pots the way I do. But if you ever do, remember to reach for the baking soda. It works!

* Unfortunately, this could not be said for last night’s menu. I had made a pasta sauce with sweet onion, sliced mushrooms, diced red and yellow bell peppers, and sliced black olives, sauteeing everything in a mix of olive oil and butter, then squeezing in some lemon juice and tossing in a generous amount of really fresh feta cheese and a little shredded white Cheddar just before serving. I’d also made a big pot of fresh sugar snap peas from the farmers’ market and a huge salad. Before my stupefied eyes, OFB somehow managed to engulf his plate of pasta and sugar snaps, most of my plate of pasta and sugar snaps, and all the leftover pasta and sugar snaps, along with a big bowl of salad. I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear that he still appears to be alive this morning.

          ‘Til next time,




1. Becca - February 26, 2009

James and Ben must have about the same metabolism. I made the Spicy Thai noodles last night and had to pry the last helping out of his hands (I was really hungry!)

And, your pasta dish sounds wonderful.

Spicy Thai noodles, oh yum!!! If you’ve posted this recipe, please direct me to it. And if you haven’t, you must. Pleeeeeeeze…

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