Anniversary of an Amusingly Traumatic Incident

An excerpt from the journal of Emma Vanderpol on September 29th, 2017.

So. I splashed beef stock on my keyboard today. It has mostly revived, so matters could be worse, but the experience was a somewhat traumatic one for both me and the keyboard.

To set up the story, Mom is not currently here, being gone with Charlotte for a CM conference in Seattle; and Friday is the evening for Theology of the Body. I mean, for the Theology of the Body Class. Anyways, most of the time one parent takes me and the other stays behind, so everything is fine. But now, this leaves no one at home old enough to watch the younger kids successfully. The answer, of course, is fairly obvious: Grandma and Grandpa helpfully came down for dinner so they could watch the kids afterward and Dad could take me to class.

That’s great. A good opportunity for Hannah and Justin to get extra books read to them, a good opportunity for me to show off my cooking skills. But I guess I was feeling a little extra-stressed or wanted to look extra good, because for some reason I decided that I should pull stock out of the freezer and thaw it to use in the pilaf Mom had scheduled along with salmon patties and roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

So far, so good.

I found some beef stock in the freezer without any trouble; it was right on top. Then I got down a glass bowl, tapped the upside-down-and-open stock tub against the bottom of the bowl a few times, and decided I’d have to microwave the stock before it would come out of the tub (we freeze our homemade stock in plastic tubs; this one was left over from Mountain High Original Whole Milk Yoghurt).

So things were still looking fine, even if I was starting to realize, amid trying to remember to stir the brassicas and not to let the onions burn and what am I going to make salmon patties with because there’s no prepared sweet potato handy, that it would have been a lot less hassle to just heat water, pull the Better Than Bullion out of the fridge, and stir a few teaspoons of that gelatinous mixture into the water.

But by this time there was no going back, and far too many things to think about to give rational logical consideration to any of them. Like when I told Gregory to hand-wash some spoons because there was only one left in the drawer, and we didn’t have any for dinner—neglecting only to notice that the table had already been set.

When I took the stock out of the freezer, I was interested to note the effects of water’s expansion while freezing. As it cooled, the fat from the stock had solidified on the top, making a shell. Then the liquid beneath had frozen and expanded, pushing against the shell of fat. It had broken through in the middle, making a spider-legged burst of golden stock atop a fat-pale mound. The fat’s seal had broken on the edge, too, and spilled out in a crescent along the container’s edge.

Not that I thought about that for too long.

The broth, interestingly, thawed, under the cordial influence of our microwave, from the middle. And I mean the middle middle, the middle both horizontally and vertically. What I had hoped for was for it to thaw along the edges, so I could just slide the whole lump of it out into my bowl. I had no such luck. Fate and (I suppose) the inner workings of the microwave conspired against me. But I was able to pour out the stock which melted into my bowl, then put the rest back in for a one-minute blip, then—you get the idea.

This was still fine.

But then I got dumb.

This may also be the part at which you are wondering where my keyboard comes into the story, or if that was just a ruse to try to get technology sort of people hooked into a purely culinary story.

I wish that was true.

So, here’s the scene: Our stove takes center stage, with some counter to either side of it. To the left of the stove is the microwave; on the stove is a pan full of not-quite-past-caramelized-ish onions for the pilaf; and to the right of the stove is my bowl of stock, rather unappetizing looking, with bits of unmelted fat floating in it. On the counter next to the stock-bowl (here’s the dumb part) is my iPad, sitting un-prepossessingly on its keyboard.

And this is where I got really dumb. I melted a good part of the stock, pouring it off into the bowl. Then the stock got loose enough to fall out, so do you know what I did?

I held that container of frozen stock up, upside down, a good eight inches above the surface of the liquid stock in the bowl.

The result was predictable, if I had only thought to predict it.




My first impression was, There’s stock all over me! My second impression was, There’s stock all over everywhere! My third impression was, Aaaah there’s stock all over my iPad!

The counter could wait. So could I.

I grabbed a towel and swabbed off the iPad and keyboard as best I could. There was no fizzling. I retained hope. And I swabbed off the island. (The stock on me wasn’t going to come off, not the bits on my clothes.)

At some point, I checked on my keyboard. I looked at it. It looked okay. So did my iPad. The iPad turned on. I breathed a sigh of relief. (Can’t remember if this is literal or metaphorical.) Then I tried the keyboard. It had not found its first taste of stock strengthening and invigorating.

I’m not sure what I tried to type, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t anything in particular, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this.

4 56y789JLOUY

When I’m trying to type something as a test, I don’t usually use that many numerals. And whenever I tried to hit the space bar, the keyboard (I think) thought I meant some keyboard direction to go home or activate the across-system search, or something. I don’t actually remember. It was traumatic. Also, the caps-lock was on and wouldn’t go off, no matter how much I pushed the key. I found that especially traumatic, for some reason.

As it was the only thing I could think of (and dinner could spare me for a little bit), I found a plastic container and the tub of rice that the little kids sometimes use for a pouring activity. I put the keyboard in the container, and tucked it to bed, begging it to recover, under a nice blanket of rice. Then I returned to dinner, trying to figure out what I would do if my keyboard died. I really didn’t want to buy a new keyboard.

As it happened, dinner turned out well. For a part of this I thank Dad, who came down and asked if there was anything he could do. ‘It would be nice if some shredded sweet potato could materialize,’ I said, not really meaning it, but being in the throws of wondering how to pull together salmon patties without having sweet potato. Then (a big round of applause for Matt Vanderpol, please!) Dad shredded sweet potato. This was awesome.

As I say, dinner turned out well. It was on the table less than ten minutes late, and there was still plenty of time to eat it before I had to leave. My Theology of the Body class also went well; but when, during the evening, I thought about my keyboard (or lack of one), I was wont likewise to think of a few lines from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: “Life is most unnerving / for a servant who’s not serving / he’s not whole without a soul / to wait upon.” I was probably dramatizing how I felt, but I didn’t feel quite whole, either, without a keyboard: with the idea of not having a keyboard, even if I didn’t need one at the time.

Well, I got back from my class, and after seeing Grandma and Grandpa off (if you read this, thanks for the kid-watching!) one of the first things I did was to check on the keyboard.

One of the first things I noticed was that the caps-lock light was off. But this didn’t push me far either direction, because I could think of three possibilities: the battery had run out, the keyboard was feeling better, or—shiver—it had passed beyond mental illness to full peace. I took it out of the rice, brushing off grains from between the keys, and was very, very, very, glad to find that when my hesitant fingers pushed the on/off switch off and then back on again, the power lights blinked their friendly blue and green. The keyboard even connected to my iPad, waking the tablet up when I pushed a key, and the numeral keys worked, unlocking the iPad as they ought.

This was news to gladden the heart, but I wanted to know just how much I had gained. I opened up a note in Drafts, and started typing.

The quick fox jumps oer the lazy dog. The quick fox jumps oer the lazy dog. THE QUICK FOX JUMPS OER THE LAZY DOG. 1234567890-`:”<.?

THIS é []\4pa

All the key strokes up there are intentional; almost all the keys worked. All the letters except v. Which, I consoled myself, was not such a bad key to lose, after all. It would be far worse to lose e, or something like that. I don’t use v very often, do I?

So I started typing some more, and discovered that it is “command v” which operates the “paste” function on my iPad. Oh, well. I can use the on-screen command for that. I can use a couple more taps and be thankful that I have the rest of the keys. Besides, with iOS Eleven, I can drag and drop text. And when I want to type words with v in them (such as my last name), I can use the onscreen keyboard, or let the very-helpful autocorrect do its work, or just copy the letter and paste it, like I’ve done several times in writing this. I’ll put the keyboard back to bed in its rice tonight, but even if v doesn’t come back, I’ll be okay. I also discovered that the 4 occasionally thinks I’m getting lonely and pops up without being asked. A cute habit enough, at least while fresh.

Then I tried to use “function 3” to pull up the onscreen keyboard so I could type a v, and discovered the one other key that doesn’t work. The function key.

That stock had a sense of humor (or was it a work ethic?) far exceeding my expectations.

While I wrote this, I had in mind using it as a blog post, but somehow never posted it. Well, here you are now.

The keyboard written about here has since succumbed completely (under what specific affliction I remember not), but it still serves—it was the sort of keyboard which also functions as a stand and cover, so now it supports and guards my iPad, with another keyboard set on top of it.  Partly because the upper keyboard is a long-term borrow, I try to exercise great caution with regard to liquids around it.