I Swear, I Don't Know How the Fire Started

You’ll have to give me a minute to catch my breath. I’ve been holding it ever since this afternoon’s broker’s open house, waiting for the bidding war to escalate.

I have now come to grips with the notable lack of escalation, or of any bids whatsoever. We do have five showings and a general open house scheduled over the next few days, which I guess is good. I will put my plan to burn the building down for the insurance money on hold until we’ve been on the market and without bids for at LEAST a week. It’s only fair to give the realtor time to earn his 5%. Also I should probably give my upstairs neighbor ample time to vacate the premises.


Thus, we will continue to live in our sparse surroundings, now made even worse by the presence of a foul odor that makes both our eyes itch. An olfactorally gifted broker detected a whiff of dog during his tour of the apartment, probably because pet dander is embedded in every surface, porous and non-porous, and advised the purchase of these Febreeze thingys that sit on the counter and suck smells out of the air. I’m not sure they’re sucking in smells so much as emitting counter-smells, because now it smells like we’re trapped inside a bar of Irish Spring.

Irish Spring commercials make it seem like that would be the BEST THING EVER, when in fact it makes me wish I didn’t have to constantly inhale air to live.  I tried to counter the counter-smells with an odor offensive of my own (shallots cooking in vinegar), but then the Febreeze thingys were all like, “WE CANNOT AFFORD A FOUL ODOR GAP!” and upped their production. I don’t think this is a war I can win.


Living in an apartment that’s for sale means that buyers can appear at any second to inspect your home and silently judge you by your tchochkes, which means things have to be very, very clean at all times. That’s why I chose a simple salad for tonight’s dinner – roasted mushroom and quinoa salad with goat cheese and caramelized shallot marmalade from the Bar Americain Cookbook. Post-dinner clean-up really was a snap, in part because I’m such a fastidious cook* and in part because the prep only necessitated

  • A pot for the shallot marmalade
  • A pot for the quinoa
  • A half-sheet pan for the roasting of the mushrooms
  • A small bowl for the mixing of the vinaigrette
  • A medium bowl for the tossing and marinating of the roasted mushrooms with the vinaigrette
  • A large bowl for the tossing of the greens with the remaining dressing
  • Various knives, tongs and implements for the stirring and tossing and prodding
  • Two plates for the dining

*Note to newbies: this is a giant lie.


If I may continue to quibble for a minute, why the trend of putting every ingredient in a dish in the title?* If I’m going to make the dish I’m going to read the recipe, and I’ll eventually find out what all the ingredients are; there’s no need to blow your wad up front.

Dear Cookbook Writers and Publishers,

Please expend less energy on needlessly long titles and more lobbying for as many color photos as you can afford to print, because that’s the thing that REALLY makes us want to cook the dish.

Mildly Irritated Cookbook Users Lucky Enough to Not Have Other Major Life Issues About Which to Publicly Complain

Yes, I know I’m also culpable, but I know I do it and acceptance is the first step in reform.

*The restaurant corollary: listing the dish’s ingredients but offering no clue as to preparation. Real life example from a place down the street: “Fluke, Carrots, Tabasco, Roe, Cilantro.” Maybe I’m just the dullard who doesn’t like surprises, but COME ON. Is there no happy medium any more?

jammy jam

So: dinner. Was it pretty? No. Was it good? Sure. Was it “Holy shit, it just took an hour and a half and seventeen pots and pans to make a goddamned SALAD” good? Eh. I mean, you can’t go wrong with a roasted mushroom, especially a shitake. I’ve never met a caramelized allium I didn’t like, and you can crumble a young goat cheese on top of pretty much anything. Tasty part + tasty part usually = yummy whole and Bobby Flay knows his shit, so this wasn’t really a shocker.

To sum up:

  • Dinner was good but uneventful.
  • Making a salad should not involve any equipment other than a bowl, cutting board and knife and should take 20 minutes or less. Otherwise, it is not really a salad and you are a liar.
  • I think the power of Febreeze is about to give me a nosebleed.
  • The only way to really get rid of the dog smell is to burn all our upholstered furniture, but then the buyers would just be all, “We’d like a thousand dollar credit because of the giant couch fire in the backyard.”

If anyone has a few hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in their pocket, I’m happy to send you our listing as long as you promise not to think less of me because I own a Domokun piggy bank.


11 thoughts on “I Swear, I Don't Know How the Fire Started

  1. Isn’t selling a house absolutely hellish? It’s so irritating when you have to be cheerful about being evicted from your own home at a moment’s notice, just so some idiots who really aren’t going to buy the place anyway can tramp through it. I always wonder if they’re judging my taste in…well, everything. To be fair, I totally would in their place. Also, it’s really hard to keep the house all nice and clean during the work week! I have a job, people, and I live here. Can’t I leave the dishes unwashed tonight? (Nope, because you can be sure three sets of non-buyers would come through the next morning.)
    Also, I heard that febreeze was originally invented for people who needed to neutralize bad odors in their houses, but it failed miserably because people whose houses smelled terrible couldn’t smell it anymore (and had no honest friends, I guess). So they perfumed the shit out of it (double strong perfume because the febreeze neutralizes the smell) and marketed it to people who didn’t have awful smells to cover up. Marketing FTW.

  2. LOL. Maybe you could just quit your jobs and go into the bread-baking business. Get rid of the Febreze and spend all day baking bread for the lookers.

    Also, I loathe selling houses. Especially one I’m currently living in. Especially with toddlers who don’t seem to understand the concept of minimalism. Especially with a dog and a cat who don’t keep their fur on at all times. I feel for you!

  3. Thanks to your mention of Irish Spring, I now have that damned whistling song from those 70s-era commercials going through my head.

    Now on top of that, by saying what I just said, I seriously dated myself.

  4. I’m not buying a house now, but if I smelled Febreeze, I wouldn’t consider making an offer. To me, the Febreeze smell screams “I am trying desperately to cover up a bad smell that I can not fix. You may not be able to fix it either.”

    How about one of the ionic air cleaners instead? it won’t freak out potential buyers, and would probably allow you to breathe normally ( except for selling panic) in your own home. I have one of the small ionic air cleaners in one bathroom, because I could not make the smell of mildew go away – not by cleaning, painting, etc. It doesn’t introduce a smell, it really does eliminate them, in my experience.

    Sorry if this is depressing, but you shouldn’t have to suffer from a “fix,” especially if that fix might be turning sellers off instantly.

  5. @laura, yeah, i totally judge the people we bought the place from. they had godawful taste in paint colors, and are obviously bad people.

    @melissa, i wish. i may make some cinnamon rolls before the open house on sunday.

    @rachel, i happy to say that i have no idea what you’re talking about.

    @refchef, i hate you.

    @bev, DAMMIT. maybe we’ll pick up one of the ionic thingys this weekend.

  6. i would like to second your ban on overly long recipe names. i’ve now gotten to a point that when someone asks what i’ve made for them i shorten it the the most obvious thing (cookies, cake, shut up and eat it already) i’m not out to tell them my life story in baked goods.

    that said, i’ve found that sprinkling everything upholstered and any carpeting with a blanket of baking soda, letting it sit for about 20 minutes and then vacuuming it up really gets rid of weird smells. or maybe i’m just delusional.

  7. I’m with Bev on this. Anytime I have looked at a house where they were burning scented candles during the showing, or that smelled like air freshener, my first thought was that they were covering something up.

  8. Ok, we just bought a house (or, well, we haven’t closed yet, I guess I shouldn’t count any chickens), so we’ve been tromping through other people’s homes for a few months, and any time I’d smell a scented candle, I’d just immediately assume they smoked a lot of pot.

  9. Good luck with the Febreezin’ and the tchotchke-showcasing.

    The listing of ingredients as a title thing, I see it a lot if I ever end up at fancy restaurants. It’s a little sneaky though because they’ll be all ‘spinach, chilli, lemon, olive oil, salt’ and I’ll be like oooh, sounds great and then I need to get a cheeseburger afterwards because I’m starving still.

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