What’s for Lunch: a burnt pot and some baking soda

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October 15, 2007

Today my lunch is utterly unremarkable—canned soup and some crackers—but what’s simmering on the stove is nothing short of a miracle. See, I was supposed to be eating homemade celery root soup right now. Only I left it on the stove for 6 hours yesterday, thinking I’d turned off the burner before I went out. Instead of soup, I had soot: all the water in the soup evaporated and the celery and onions stuck in a quarter-inch-thick mass over the bottom of the pot.

Mind you, my arm’s still in a cast, so the kind of scrubbing it would take to get the gunk off is out of the question. It looked like I was just going to have to chuck the pot and buy a new one. But before doing so, I decided to try boil off the black stuff using baking soda. And it worked!

The first round, I filled the pot 1/3 full, added 2 Tbs. baking soda and let it simmer and fizz for 15 minutes. Then I poured out the sludge, scraped what I could off with a spatula, and started again. Right now I’m waiting for the timer to ring on my third and final round. The pot is as good as new. I’ll just have to wipe it out with a sponge.

The whole experience (except for burning the soup) pleases me to no end. Not only have I managed to salvage something I thought was lost forever, but I did so in an eco-friendly way that worked even better than if I’d used bleach, scrubbing powder or even oven cleaner. And all it cost me was a little hot water (poured on the weeds outside…see last week’s post about blanching) and some baking soda.

—Mary Margaret Chappell, food editor