Spanish project gone wrong

It started as a Spanish class assignment and turned into a kitchen fire. Three sophomores and a junior were attempting to cook a fried Mexican dish in the Sylvester kitchen on Friday, October 23.

The students filled the bottom of a pan with oil, put a lid on it, and worked to prepare other ingredients. After a while, they removed the lid and noticed flames inside the pan. The students were not initially worried because they thought it was normal to see flames. However, within ten minutes, the flames grew much higher, flying out of the pan.

The cabinet had caught fire and the ceiling was getting black. The flames didn’t extinguish when the students put the pan off the stove to cool. Facing a serious threat, the students then took the proper steps and handled the situation well: one student called campus security while another made his way upstairs to the resident counselors, who were not in at the time. In the meantime, a third tried to put the fire out with the fire extinguisher, but he got some blisters in his arm, so the second student took the fire extinguisher and put out the fire.


Eli Morris / photo

This was one student’s first encounter with real fire inside of a home. “It was a progression of thought,” he said, referring to the change from the idea that the flames were normal to sudden fear. The students did not have to pay a fine for their mistake. “We took the proper steps and never left the fire unattended,” he explained. After the threat was gone, a student stayed and cleaned up the kitchen, as did the housekeeping team after him. Now it hardly looks as if there was a fire in the kitchen. A new cabinet will be installed soon.

Aside from the Sylvester incident, there have been issues in different houses on campus concerning kitchen use, especially with stolen food. Sophomore Sarah Benjamin, a resident of Brooks house, said she had two ice cream sandwiches in the freezer of her kitchen and within two days they were both gone. Benjamin doesn’t understand why people lack mutual respect and take other people’s food.

Joe McNabb closed its kitchen for a week due to theft from the fridge. Senior Ginny Tonkin, the Joe McNabb House president, is annoyed about this first-time situation. “It’s been a big deal to close it up. But the goal is to send a message to people,” she said. Tonkin would like to open it back up. A house meeting was held Thursday, November 5, in which it was concluded that the kitchen would be reopened. However, if there is any other case of theft in the kitchen, it will be closed for the rest of the quarter.

Another problem is leaving messes in the kitchen for others to clean up. Sophomore Cameron Baker, the Ferguson house president, said that the kitchen was locked for a week. “This happens three or four times every quarter. The kitchen usually remains locked until somebody is willing to clean it up, even if he didn’t cause the mess,” he added.

Senior Alice Stanley, the Sylvester House president, said that the Sylvester kitchen never had to be closed. However, there is usually a time or two in a quarter when it gets messy. “I know it is a problem that is popular around campus. … I really wish people could be dependable to just wash their own dishes,” she said. Nevertheless, Stanley is not aware of any kitchen theft recently. “We’re pretty good at communal living,” she added.

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