Monday, March 26, 2012

Bonfire of the Inanities

Generally when we think of food on fire, we think of a standard method of cooking over a flame, which can often look like this . . .

. . . or, with a little help, like this . . . 

. . . which can turn into a serious problem, like this . . . 

 . . . and eventually burn the restaurant to the ground. Or the rims.

Happens all the time. A little too much cooking oil, and a simple household wok . . . 

. . . turns into Deepwater Horizon, the mother of all cooking oil fires:

Never put a fryolator on top of an oil well.

Some kinds of cooking require a flammable cooking medium, one reason restaurant fires are so frequent. Grocery stores, on the other hand, don't seem to burn that often. There isn't that much in them, apart from the building itself, that will catch fire. A cheese fire? Not likely. Ditto for baked beans, soup, ice cream, frozen lasagna, even salsa picante for that matter. Granted, something could start in the baking section and the flour could go up, but it doesn't seem like a major liability.

But perhaps it is, at that. The Des Moines Register reports that a Waterloo teenager was arrested on first degree arson charges when a Walgreens clerk found a smouldering bag of beef jerky and blew it out. In a creative moment the adventurous lad had stolen a lighter, lit the jerky and exited the premises while being recorded on a security camera. The article makes no comment on the more egregious commercial malfeasance of  making (and selling) food that is flammable.  

When an act is so clearly deliberate, it also begs the question whether it was intelligent. Seems as though burning jerky, since it will burn, is not the dumbest thing in the world to do. It's clearly safer than eating it.

In another recent kids-playing-with-fire story, Reuters reports that "Smoking Slovak Children Burn Down Castle." Two local boys, aged 11 and 12, attempting to light a cigarette with safety matches, set fire to grass at the base of Krasna Horka, a 14th-century castle in eastern Slovakia, which in turn set the castle afire. "The castle's roof burned down completely, as well as the . . . bell tower. Three bells melted," the museum associated with the castle reported. 

So two preadolescent children have inadvertently accomplished what entire armies of Mongols, Cossacks, marauding Ottoman Turks, vengeful Hungarians, persistent Rumanians and any number of tourists over the centuries had failed to do - breach the castle. Like I've always said, it takes a village to raise a child, and just a child (returning the favor) to raze a village.

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