To a Crisp

LONDON—“Nikhil, watch the toast. I’ll be right back,” I told the other occupant of the kitchen, as I ducked out to get some honey from my room. Earlier that day, I had been attacked by a sudden craving for honey on toast, and I was finally ready to satisfy it.

When I returned to the kitchen less than a minute later, smoke was pouring from the toaster and Nikhil was gazing absentmindedly out the window. I swore loudly and yanked the power cord from the wall, causing Nikhil to jump in alarm. “Dude! Didn’t I tell you to watch the toast?!”

The windows in the kitchen have restrictors, presumably so that if there’s a fire you die by burning alive instead of by jumping from the second floor. The air thick with smoke, I removed two black slices of bread from the appliance and replaced them with soft white ones. Within seconds, the toaster was spewing smoke again.

Another bout of swearing and cord-yanking followed, but I wasn’t able to save my precious toast, which had once again been sacrificed to the gods of charcoal. As it was by now impossible to see across the room, I opened the door to the hallway so that the smoke could clear out. Dumb move. Within seconds, the fire alarm went off and all hell broke loose.

On the street outside the dorm, surrounded by several dozen disgruntled occupants of the building, I watched mortified as two fire trucks pulled up with their alarms blaring and a troupe of firemen leapt out. I felt horrified at having woken people up from naps and caused the firemen unnecessary trouble. Worst of all, I still hadn’t eaten my toast.

Once the building was declared safe and we were able to go back inside, I found out that the mishap had occurred because the toaster hadn’t been cleaned properly. A new toaster was installed; this one refused to turn on. Later that day, I managed to locate a kitchen with a toaster that was neither intent on murder nor dead, and finally ate my toast.

As I’ll be cooking a lot of my own food this summer, I learned a valuable lesson: don’t leave the kitchen unattended. Even the simplest things can go up in flames—just ask my toast.