Don’t Go West, Young Man! Or How Tonight’s Dinner Almost Got a Little Extra Protein

On the menu for tonight’s dinner — spaghetti. We prefer ground beef in our marinara. I inspect the ceramic stovetop. Clean and dry. I select the skillet, one with two handles. Clean and dry. In goes the ground beef. On goes the burner. I sit nearby and wait for the beef to begin cooking.

Hisssss…. Pop… Hisssss… come the sounds from under the pan.

Ceramic cooktops are notorious for making quite the little racket if a stray drop of water or two is present when the burner is turned on. Same goes for using cookware with a damp bottom. Lots of racket over a few drops of nothing.

I thought the burner and pan were clean and dry. Must’ve missed something.

Got up. Walked back to the stove. Pulled the pan off the burner. Ran a dry dish towel along the bottom. Dabbed the towel quickly across the hot burner. (Not exactly recommended, effective though it may be.)

Satisfied that all possible sources of moisture are gone, I sit back down.

Hisssss…. Pop… Hisssss…, Hisssss…. Pop… Hisssss…, Hisssss…. Pop… Hisssss…

I walk back to the stove and stare down at the skillet. I let my gaze go all the way around the big pot. Granted, my vision is not what it used to be. And staring at a black skillet on a black stovetop is a bit of a visual challenge. Yet all appears dry. The ground beef is browning nicely. And then I see it, or should I say “them?”

Ants… dozens of them piling out of the tiniest crack in the side of the skillet’s shorter handle.

The ants have a choice to make. Heading due west takes them back to the cauldron of browning beef. Those who run westward are immediately overcome by heat and plummet to their doom on the edge of the burner below. Thus the sound effects coming from the cooktop. Those who choose any of the other cardinal directions still have a big problem. All roads off that handle take them eventually back west toward the hot skillet, where they are met with an ant’s version of fire and brimstone.

Hisssss…. Pop… Hisssss…

A traffic jam of confused travelers piles up on that little handle. Turf wars result in more high dives onto the little orange circle of death.

Hisssss…. Pop… Hisssss…

So far it would appear that none of the little interlopers has made it as far as the inside of the skillet. I’d like to keep it that way. I need a plan. I rake all the stranded travelers off the little skillet handle into that handy dandy dish towel.

About that time Sam popped into the kitchen to hear me muttering something about skillet handles and bugs in the spaghetti sauce. He takes a look at the stovetop and sees nothing out of the ordinary. Just me standing there holding a dish towel looking frazzled and talking crazy.

Well, of course there’s nothing to see now! The bugs who survived Mount Doom are all safe and snug in the dish towel. I unfold the wadded up thing and make my husband look at the insects trapped there, just to prove that I wasn’t hallucinating.

Have I mentioned lately that it’s been a wet summer? It is not unusual for ants to try to take up residence in our house after a prolonged rainy spell.  But this hiding place takes the cake.

Sam stands over the bubbling skillet of ground beef. Stragglers emerge from the crack. Vindication! I decide to show the dishtowel gang all the wonders of Niagara Falls over at the kitchen sink. After a few more minutes of sentry duty the remaining travelers have all been relocated to Davy Jones’ locker.

By this time the beef has browned nicely. Marinara mixed in. Heat reapplied. I put the lid on the skillet, but not before taking a long hard look inside. Should I ditch several pounds of ground beef and a lovely red marinara over the fear of a few ants? Nahhhh… A little extra protein never hurt anybody.

ant spaghetti

© 2015-2016 Our Lives in Stories

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