Three Stove Top Incidents That Changed My Life

Recently when the TharpSter Mom was summoned from the mountain range office she manages in order to visit the Editor, Publisher, and Chief Muckity-muck here at corporate earlier this month, a stove top incident brought back some repressed memories which could only be dealt with and expunged via the miracle of a smart-assed compilation of wordy, run-on sentences accented by a few images lacking in the narcissistic flavor reticent in a majority of a lot of today’s cell phone pictures.


For the record, the organization has decided to whole heartedly endorse the use of the Oxford comma.  It’s smart, clean, and  speaks with that precise command of the Englitch language which is insisted upon here at your favorite website here on the worldwide web.  In addition, we find that for those of us without a neck (a genetic trait found at least in yours truly and his little brother), the collars and button lines of the Oxford comma stay crisp throughout the day as we languish in a cubicle, ensconced in poor posture and the hope that the lottery investment will payoff well before we succumb to some cerebral event in said fabric covered box.  Of course, the aforementioned cerebral event will take place amidst the challenging, ambitious, and relief delivering cubicle flatulence experienced shortly after lunch where we consumed the cafeteria’s best attempt at nachos without so much as making a frigging serving of guacamole available to help kill the taste of the nachos themselves.  Certainly they’ll make lettuce available to put on top of chile con queso to satiate the misguided pallet of what one can only guess is that of a Yankee.  The practice alone of putting lettuce on nachos is a sheer act of racist heresy with tinges of coprophagia in the humble opinion of your favorite blogger on the whole worldwide web.  For the love of all that is holy, why not just put an effin’ pickle on a chicken sandwich or mayonnaise on….. anything?



On background, it should probably be documented here and now that my virgin foray into the world of preparing the various parts of recently deceased beasts, varmints, and critters came by way of browning a one pound chub of ground meat (bovine) on top of the stove, and then subjecting it to the awe, the 20th century wonder, and the deliciousness of Hamburger Helper in preparation for mastication, digestion, and eventual elimination.


Cheeseburger macaroniCheeseburger Macaroni.


Sans lettuce.


For all tents and porpoises, I didn’t like cheeseburgers or macaroni at the time.  Technological advances in the preparation of macaroni in the waning years of last century have made it more palatable to me, however I’m trying to avoid that shit like pickles and mayonnaise in my efforts to dispense with my pronounced corpulence.


I have some thoughts on why Mom got the wild hair to show me how to cook back then.  Those thoughts are not really very conducive to the line of bull I’m feeding you here today, and the ultimate outcome resolved itself with my ability to go beyond the mere act of peeling back the foil to expose the tater tots when it comes to making something to eat.


grill status


Since that point where Mom reached back on years and years of policies and procedures passed down through several generations of really white ancestors in order to impart in me the understanding that elevation and altitude can have an impact on how some things cook, I can recall three particular incidents involving cooking on top of the stove which generated indelible impacts on my life.  Granted, one of those incidents just took place a few weeks ago shortly after I hit the ripe old, progressed, and less than impressionable age of 46, but rest assured there’s a certain level of indelibility there.


Disclaimer:  Although I’m referring to these incidents as “Stove Top Incidents”, it should be understood that I’m not referring to the brand “Stove Top”, which gives us delicious, fluffy, and filling stuffing to cram, shove, and insert deeply into the gutted carcasses of the dearly departed souls of our friends within the poultry community.  No, instead I’m referring to the incidents which took place as a result of something being prepared on top of the stove, such as Cheeseburger Macaroni, mashed potatoes, steel cut oatmeal, or a plastic drink pitcher used most likely in the TharpSter domain for iced tea or Kool Aid.


Stove Top Incident #1 – The first incident on deck from the memories recovered out of the harrowing events of Stove Top Incident #3 took place just a few years after I learned to cook.  I was 12 and my little brother was 10.  The summer of 1980 would be marked as the first one where the two of us were left to our own devices without any adult supervision during the day.  We didn’t have the internet to seek out porn, so we had to rely on a carelessly discarded skin magazine in some trash can residing in the alley behind our house.  That never happened, so the extent of our access to porn was relegated to dirty jokes about various body parts (male and female) which featured big ugly veins.


Our Atari wouldn’t arrive for a few more years, and the convenience store stationed a mile up the road which featured arcade games like Asteroids, Donkey Kong, and Pac-Man hadn’t been built yet.


Instead, we had to rely on other things to pass the time. The cable line-up consisted of the one station out of Casper, Wyoming where we lived, five out of Denver, and HBO.  HBO wasn’t a 24 hour a day outfit yet.  It would come on for about 15 minutes each day around noon to run trailers for its upcoming movies.


We had a few summer courses at the Junior High School in the mornings where we gave the wood shop teacher a reason to flinch.  We took an art class which gave us an avenue to create masterpiece clay sculptures of blue toilets with yellow and green flowers on them.


flowered toilet


We also had a supply of one pound ground meat (once again, bovine) chubs with a collection of various flavors of sloppy joe mix and Hamburger Helpers.  Back then, I think the only Hamburger Helper we ate was Cheeseburger Macaroni.  There was a variety of sloppy joe flavors we could choose from.  The pizza flavor was pretty good.


Of course, in the event we didn’t want sloppy joes or Hamburger Helper, we had 10″ Tombstone pizzas to eat as well.


If one were to ponder where things started going wrong with our weight, please understand that we didn’t have an Ivy League edumacated First Lady at the time to tell us how to eat nutritiously.


At one point towards the end of summer when the healthy supply of one pound ground meat chubs (bovine) were starting to create some poor eating habits, Mom came home from work one afternoon for lunch to find my brother putting the finishing touches on a skillet of Cheeseburger Macaroni.  In essence, he had removed it from the simmer stage, and it was ready for mastication, digestion, and eventual elimination.


The timing was perfect.  Mom had come home for lunch, and it was ready when she got there.  She could eat and head back to the office without having to waste any time.  So Mom came into the kitchen and commended her youngest on his timing of the matter.  She got a bowl and spooned some of the bovine cheesy goodness out of the skillet.  She then got a spoon and took a bite.


Did I mention that my brother and I used to salt our food at ridiculous levels at the stage where we were browning the one pound chubs of ground meat (bovine)?  We had determined at some point during that summer that leftover Cheeseburger Macaroni tasted better if the sodium element of the dish were “enhanced”.  Since we were the only ones eating it, Mom and Dad didn’t really know about our guerilla warfare techniques of salting our food.  Once again, since we didn’t have a First Lady to tell us we were doing it wrong, who knew that it was bad for us?


Upon taking a bite of that salty, bovine, and cheesy goodness, Mom provided direct and immediate feedback to my brother in a manner that would inspire the likes of Gordon Ramsey and Simon Cowell many years later.


“Geez, why don’t you put some salt in it?!”  Mom wasn’t to pleased that her short window of opportunity to eat lunch had been spoiled by what was more adequately characterized as Salt Burger Helper.


My brother completely missed on the underlying message behind the feedback.  He looked at her soberly, and proceeded to follow instructions by adding more salt to the salty cheesy goodness which resided in the skillet on the top of that stove.


Mom experienced physical manifestations after witnessing that particular event.  She threw her head back so hard and fast at the same time she was rolling her eyes that she had to wear a neck brace for a week just to relieve the strain.  She also had to have the prescription in her glasses adjusted to help move her eyes back into a position where they face forward instead of up and to the right.  They had been stuck there as a result of the eye roll.



I learned a life lesson that day.


Sarcasm works best when the victim doesn’t realize it’s happened at all.


Stove Top Incident #2 – I don’t remember all of the details of the second incident short of the following:


– It was Easter, 1985

– I was tasked with cooking vittles, and mashed taters were on the menu

– I hadn’t made mashed taters before

– The preparation of mashed taters does not involve browning a one pound chub of meat (bovine) accompanied with a box of Hamburger Helper

– Verbal instructions were provided to me on how to make them

– Verbal instructions were not followed correctly

– Burned taters on a stove top have a distinct smell

– Burned taters in a stock pot on the stove top and a distinct smell in the house were the key indicators that verbal instructions were not followed correctly

– Lunch was ruined

– An argument ensued

– Pretty sure I stormed out of the house

– I haven’t made mashed taters since


I learned another important life lesson that day.


Beans don’t burn on the grill, but taters do.  It’s best to just let others prepare them.


Stove Top Incident #3 – Did I mention that the TharpSter Mom came to headquarters for a visit earlier this month?



Click on the pic to see the comments
Click on the pic to see the comments

She did.


Birthdays were celebrated.  A picture of a lady playing a violin featured on a display shelf at Best Buy was mocked by Junior, the music education student.



A double wrapped Freebird burrito was introduced to a very hungry lady wearing a Cookie Monster shirt who hadn’t eaten in hours due to her presence on an airplane run by an airline who won’t give out a lousy pack of peanuts.


burrito wrap


A road trip to the west Texas branch and the two northern Texas branches of the organization ensued.  By the way, a state vehicle inspection in the northern Texas area costs more than double than it does anywhere else in the state.



Pool ducksDucks were spotted in a pool.



In the midst of it all, I was introduced to steel cut oats.  I had never heard of them before, but it would seem that Mom eats them.  The process for cooking them involves bringing water to a boil, dumping the oats in there, and letting them sit over night.


So at bedtime one night, we boiled the water, threw the oats in, covered it, and turned in for the night.


The next morning, imagine our surprise when we went into the kitchen and found some golden haired harlot sitting at the table preparing to chow down on the oatmeal.  She made some comment about the steel cut oats at the neighbors’ houses were either too hot or too cold, however ours were just right.  She then went on to ask the more poignant question.  “What’s this blue shit on top of the oatmeal?”


blue oatmeal


That’s right people.  There was a blue film on top of the oatmeal.  In all of her years of preparing that stuff, Mom had never encountered blue oatmeal before.  At the same time, Wifey’s mom had encountered it before.


Sadly, we didn’t know what caused the blue to occur.  Even sadlier (that’s a word, I just made it up) neither of us had the presence of mind at the time to Google something like “blue shit in my oatmeal“.


Editor’s note:  For what it’s worth, if you Google that particular phrase, you will not get the answer you’re looking for.


Regardless, Mom obviously continued to be vexed by the presence of Cookie Monster blood in her favorite breakfast food, so she looked it up.  I’m guessing she used search terms which weren’t so colloquial.


It would seem the presence of primordial goo residing on the oatmeal was harmless (as blue goo goes), and ultimately the result of the pH factor (for the uninitiated, pH stands for Paul Harvey) of the water combined with properties in the oats.


Go figure.


And now for the rest of the story.


Obviously (or obliviously, take your pick) life lessons don’t come at the age of 46 as much as life reminders do.  With the chemistry lesson which reared its ugly head over the oatmeal, I can only say I was reminded of one thing.


When shit happens, take a picture.  In the blogging world, the mantra “Pics or it didn’t happen” stands firm and unassailable.


Earlier I mentioned an additional incident involving a stove top.  Mom wasn’t present at the time it took place, so it seemed to be pretty innocuous as life changing stove top incidents go.  At some point nearly 20 years ago, we were living in an apartment, and I placed a heavy plastic beverage container on a hot burner.


In retrospect, the entire incident left me flashing back to burning something else on the stove several years before.  I couldn’t get mad like I did before, though.  It’s not like Wifey had provided me with specific instructions on how to avoid burning the plastic pitcher when placing it on a hot coil.


Regardless (or irregardless if you’re so carelessly inclined), it would seem that all of our lives are impacted in one way or another, for better or worse, by plot incidents which present themselves as seemingly moot.  Yet still, they take on the persona of a bad Ashton Kutcher movie and perpetrate a butterfly effect on us for the rest of our lives.


Call bullshit all you want on those life lessons I picked up over the years from the chaos math which came out of those incidents.  Even still, they happened and I changed as a result.




Randy Tharp

TharpSter is a husband to one woman, a father to two kids, a master to two dogs, an occasional cubical occupant, and unable to make up his mind on an adequate theme for this website.

One thought on “Three Stove Top Incidents That Changed My Life

Type something witty and eye catching right here: