The Chips Are Down
Deep Fat was on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. He was unhappy again…
He had once been the pride of the worktop but all that was now in the past and Deep Fat had been confined in the cupboard as a reject for more than three months. He was bitterly sad at the fate that had befallen him and remembered well the day when his usefulness appeared over. That day had started with such high hopes. He had looked out through his viewing window and noticed that Mrs. Abercrombie was putting on a pair of Marigold gloves. ‘Oh there’s going to be a bit of cleaning done today, good,’ thought the fryer. ‘It’s about time. Please, please let it be me. My oil hasn’t been changed for months.’
Mrs. Abercrombie moved towards the worktop and to Deep Fat’s joy lifted him up. ‘Oh this is filthy,’ she muttered, noting the dirty congealed oil that was clinging to the outside of the electric fryer. Then she noticed the anti-odour filter in the top of the machine had changed colour through overuse and the first thing she did was unscrew the protective top and throw away the dirty filter. Deep Fat couldn’t have been happier. ‘At last, at last,’ he kept thinking to himself.
The next thing for Mrs. Abercrombie to do was to remove the inner basket, which could be tilted for easy draining due to Deep Fat’s sophisticated design, and then pour out all the dirty dark brown oil that filled up half of the bowl. It was a messy, greasy job and Mrs. Abercrombie was worried at first whether or not to pour the old oil down the sink. Seeing no alternative she did anyway. Using plenty of kitchen towel she mopped up the remaining deposits of oil from the bottom of the bowl and then washed the bowl with hot water until the inside gleamed its silver colour again. Next she popped the basket in the dishwasher and got to work with a special cleaning rod to clean out the oil drainage tube which Mrs. Abercrombie found more difficult than she had anticipated due to the thick globs of congealed oil in the tube. When she was satisfied it was clean she examined the condensation tray at the back of the fryer and then used soapy water on the outside of the machine for a sparkling nearly-new look. Mrs. Abercrombie stood back, admiring her work. ‘That’s better,’ she muttered. ‘Much better.’
‘Much better,’ thought Deep Fat. ‘It’s nothing short of a miracle!’ It was the first time Deep Fat had been so thoroughly cleaned since he had been bought two years earlier at the out-of-town discount store. Usually it had been out with the old oil – in with the new. But this was something else. He was beaming, even his temperature light had had the dirty oil cleaned from it and now was a bright red jewel. He couldn’t wait to be plugged in again. Deep Fat’s mind started to wander as he wondered what kind of oil he would be filled up with.
He preferred sunflower to ordinary vegetable and had always dreamed of being an olive oil man. But he knew that would never happen because it didn’t make the best chips and let’s face it that was all he was really used for. Anything would do though because it would be clean and fresh and Deep Fat could once more live up to his reputation as a top-quality Sango DS 178. As Mrs. Abercrombie turned Deep Fat this way and that, admiring her work and wiping down parts of the fryer here and there it seemed there was contentment on the worktop.
The whole operation had been watched with the usual indifference that came naturally to both the gleaming chrome Kettle and the Toaster who for years had regarded themselves as the king and queen of the worktop. ‘I see old Deep Fat is getting a make-over,’ the Kettle whistled quietly to the Toaster.
‘About time too, dowdy old thing. All that dirty fat clinging to him. It’s unhealthy and so is the service he provides. All those chips he cooks it’s not good for you. I don’t know why the Abercrombie’s got him in the first place.’
‘Don’t bitch on, you’ve always been a bit jealous of him because he has a bigger footprint than you on the worktop. I like him now he’s looking clean, I could do with a bit of de-scaling myself,’ the Kettle said quietly.
Deep Fat sat there in his pristine splendour waiting for the new oil to be poured into him. The dishwasher cycle finished and Mrs. Abercrombie pulled out the shiny clean basket and fitted it perfectly into the aluminium bowl. ‘Well don’t we look a pair,’ thought Deep Fat. Then a fresh anti-odour filter was popped into the lid of the fryer. ‘Now for the oil,’ smiled Deep Fat. ‘Which one will it be? Eeny.. meeny…’ He was so happy.
But no oil was forthcoming. Instead Mrs. Abercrombie wrapped the lead and plug around Deep Fat’s body shell and before the fryer even knew what was happening, opened one of the kitchen cupboards and lifted him up and plonked him right on the top of the highest shelf. ‘That’s better,’ mumbled Mrs. Abercrombie. ‘I don’t think we need that old thing. Now I’ve got more workspace.’
The chrome Kettle and Toaster were open-mouthed at what they had seen. ‘Did you see that?’ whistled the Kettle quietly.
‘Of course I did,’ replied the Toaster with a smirk from his two top grill openings. ‘And about time too. Banished from the worktop and up on the highest shelf of the cupboard where he belongs. He was dirty and smelly and had no place down here with us. There are too many gadgets in this kitchen as it is, if you ask me. At least now we’ll get a bit more room.’
‘Do you think he’ll ever come back?’
‘Come back,’ said the Toaster with exasperation. ’Of course he’ll never come back. He’s up on the top shelf. He’s finished, he’s a reject. Best thing for him now is to go on an Internet auction site and try and find a new worktop.
‘Well I feel sorry for old Deep Fat. I know you never liked him but he kept himself to himself. And I don’t think it’s looking good. This could be the beginning of a completely new spring clean and heaven knows what could happen next, we could be up on the top shelf ourselves before all this is over.’
‘You worry too much, that’s your problem. They would never get rid of us. You are tea and I am toast. We are absolutely irreplaceable. We are the top dogs round here. Every kitchen worktop in the world has a kettle and a toaster. Deep fat fryers, umph, they were just a flash in the pan. Now they are yesterday’s thing. We rule this worktop. That’s the way it has always been and that’s the way it is going to stay, mark my words. You get too steamed up, that’s your problem Kettle.’
And it seemed like Toaster was right. Three months after Deep Fat had found himself consigned to the top shelf, Kettle and Toaster were still on the worktop their chrome shells gleaming as wonderfully as ever. At the time of his incarceration Deep Fat had tried to put a brave face on things. He expected to be back down on the worktop in no time, but as the days went by he realised it might not happen as soon as he wished. Then he had a dreadful thought. ‘What if they are planning to put me on an Internet auction site. I’ll never live it down. Branded forever as a second-hand fryer. It’s not worth thinking about.’ But that didn’t seem to be happening either and eventually Deep Fat started to despair of his situation. He cursed oven chips. Slowly their recipe had been improving and their fat content dropping. The fact they were ludicrously priced for a piece of potato homogenised with sunflower oil seemed to be overlooked by the millions of mums who bought them for their kids. How disgusting to mix in the oil with the potato,’ moaned Deep Fat, rattling the basket inside his bowl. ‘Give me a Maris Piper any day, nice and thickly cut, the correct temperature setting of 190C and I will turn out a potato chip fit for a king.’ Then he started cursing the Abercrombies. What fools they had been. Here was a top-of-the-range Sango DS 178 and all they used it for was making chips. Didn’t they know that at 160C he could fry squid, scampi and sole or turn it up another 10C and there was perfect chicken cutlets or sardines, aubergines or courgettes. And how about deep-fried mushrooms or artichokes at only 150C. But no, all he had ever been expected to make was chips. At first Deep Fat wallowed in self-pity. He would waste time thinking of reasons why he should be on the new granite worktop. ‘I belong there, I deserve it,’ he would mumble to himself over and over. ‘I have never failed in my duty to provide food for this family, and this is how they treat me…this is how they treat me.’
After the self-pity he became morose and after that he became lonely. He had never liked the conceited Toaster and didn’t have much time for Kettle but at least they had been there with him. Occasionally he would nod good day to the juicer or sniff in the aroma of the coffee machine and he always had a sneaking admiration for the honed and toned lines of the lean, mean, grilling machine. But now he was all on his own in the darkness on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. How was he going to get out of this one? He had no idea. The days and nights blended effortlessly into one. Now and again the cupboard door would open and Deep Fat would try and attract attention by rattling his basket as furiously as he could. ‘I’m up here,’ he was trying to shout. ‘I’m up here.’ But it was no good. It was just one of the Abercrombies getting crockery or plastic containers from the lower shelves. No one even seemed to look up at him. And then the cupboard door would be banged shut again.
That had been going on for three months, three months of despair. And then one day the cupboard door opened and an object came hurtling through the air. It hadn’t even been placed, but had been thrown up on to the top shelf. And it struck Deep Fat on the outer shell causing a zinging noise as it bounced off. ‘Steady on. What’s going on here,’ cried Deep Fat, thinking he was under attack. ‘Wow my shell’s scratched.’ Then the cupboard door banged shut again and everything was plunged back into darkness. ‘Who’s there?’ said Deep Fat. ‘I know someone’s there. Name yourself… Come on, who are you?’
‘Deep Fat, is that you Deep Fat? I’d know that bass voice anywhere. It is you isn’t it Deep Fat?’
’So what if it is, I’m the one that’s asking the questions. Who are you, throwing yourself around like that? You’ve scratched me you know, scratched my outer shell.
‘Sorry, but it wasn’t my fault believe me. I was chucked in here against my will… But don’t you recognise my voice. It’s me… it’s Blade… Blade the electric knife.’
Blade, the electric knife, was a Bay Long Advanced Design Electric knife BL6693b made by the prestigious Bay Long company at their factory in Taiwan. It was manufactured from quality material and enjoyed an enviable reputation. With two sets of serrated twin blades, one for meat and one for bread, that pulsated at high speed for a steady even slice it is considered by many to be best in class. Ergonomic and balanced it had a locking blade switch on the handle, a mighty three metres of power cord complete with cord wrap, and a safety button to make changing the blades simplicity itself. But best of all it came with a perfectly matching top-of-the range carving fork, all of which fitted neatly into an elegantly designed wood block to grace the finest of worktops.
Deep Fat had rarely seen Blade out of his wood block unless he was carving, and he had never seen Blade without his partner Forque. It was simply unheard of, they were the premier couple of the worktop. Forque would always be there by Blade’s side, deeply imbedded into the joint of meat, holding it steady as a rock as the high-speed knife cut away slicing as thinly or as thickly as was needed but always perfectly even.
They were a tour-de-force as a couple. And Forque was astonishingly beautiful, fabulously designed and well-balanced to hold.
‘Blade is that really you?’ said Deep Fat with astonishment. ‘What are you doing out of your block, and where’s Forque?’
‘It’s me OK, Deep Fat,’ mumbled Blade, sounding crest-fallen. ‘It’s me all right. Sorry about scratching you on the way in here, but there was nothing I could do about it. That Abercrombie guy threw me in here in a real rage. I wish I could see you, it’s so dark in here.’
‘I know I’ve been in here for months I think. I can’t tell any more whether it’s day or night. You just have to get used to it. I don’t know why I’m even here. Something to do with the oven chips I think, but I can’t be certain. Do you know why you’re here Blade and why isn’t Forque with you?’
‘It’s a long story Deep.’
‘Well it looks like we’ve got plenty of time so why don’t you tell me all about it.’
Blade launched into his story with exasperation written all over his face. He was spluttering with indignity and Deep Fat had to tell him to calm down. It was earlier that Sunday morning and Blade opened his eyes to see a bright sun rising and glinting off his tungsten carbide blades. He stretched and flexed the blades a little. ‘Ah it’s going to be a lovely day,’ he said to himself. ’I love Sundays because there’s a guaranteed roast dinner and Forque and I can show off our skills to the household.’
With a warm smile on his face Blade glanced over to his beautiful girlfriend intent on blowing her an early morning kiss. Then his face dropped, the smile faded and a look of bewilderment took over. Forque wasn’t in her slot in the wood block! Panic started to set in. She’d never leave the block without him, it was unheard of, they were a couple. There must be some explanation. Maybe one of the Abercrombies had lifted her out earlier in the morning, maybe they wanted to use her for something different. It had never happened before but it was a possibility, thought Blade. But Forque was the quintessential carving fork, they would never employ her for anything else. She had never been used for so much as picking up a cooked vegetable. Blade started to worry.
As the morning wore on Blade’s anxiety deepened. He was pinning his hopes on one of the Abercrombie’s having used Forque and then left her lying around and forgotten to slot her back in the wood block. The minutes dragged by till lunch time and he knew she would have to be back by then to help carve the roast.
In desperation Blade cried out to Toaster: ‘Toaster, you haven’t seen Forque this morning have you?’
‘What, lost your little girlfriend… ahh?’ came back the sarcastic reply. ‘Perhaps she’s run off with someone a little smarter than a once-a-week no-brain piece of steel. And I wouldn’t blame her. She’s a nice looking girl, not my type of course. Made in Taiwan weren’t you, well I prefer a home-grown English beauty myself…’ and he droned on and on.
‘Oh forget it Toaster I don’t know why I bothered to ask you. I’m sure she’ll turn up in time for lunch.’
But Blade wasn’t that sure and there were nagging doubts at the back of his mind.
‘Hey Kettle,’ he whispered to the more sympathetic chrome dome. ‘Did Forque pass you by at any time this morning?’
‘Hello Blade, we haven’t chatted for ages. No I haven’t seen Forque at all. I only ever see her with you. Don’t tell me the poor girl is missing. How terrible. Never mind I’m sure she’ll turn up with a simple explanation. Don’t worry so much young knife everything will be all right you see.’
Blade hoped it would be but he still had his doubts. Blade was a young knife in love and he had sworn to himself to protect and look after his girlfriend as best he could. He worried about her, cared about, and loved her more than any other fork in the world. When she was left with a piece of meat on the end of one of her prongs he would lovingly take it off and kiss her. He adored the way she curved and that incredible balance she had. Although she was shy and had never confessed her true feelings for Blade he knew deep down that she was fond of him too. Maybe her love wasn’t as strong as his but now and again he saw beyond her demure feelings and believed he glimpsed the part of her heart that was for him.
And that was why anxiety was building inside Blade. He instinctively knew something was wrong.
The morning dragged by slower than any Sunday morning Blade had ever known. The kitchen was full of activity, aromas wafting from the cooker, but Blade was lost in his own world. Then Mr. Abercrombie said: ‘OK kids, everybody at the table, I’ll just carve this joint,’ as he set about his usual Sunday ritual of slicing the meat on to a beautiful large white oval porcelain plate. He reached out to the wood block and grabbed Blade, clicked the power cord into place and put the plug in the socket on the wall. As he was about to flick the switch on the socket he instinctively went to pick the carving fork out of it’s slot.
‘Darling,’ he shouted to his wife. ‘The carving fork is missing. Do you know where it is?’
‘It should be in the wood block where it always is.’
‘Well it isn’t there.’
‘Then look in one of the drawers.’
‘I’m looking…can’t find it anywhere,’ he shouted to his wife. Damn, he thought, I’ll just have to use an ordinary fork.
Blade took in everything that was happening and knew that what was coming next was going to be tricky. It was the first time he had ever attempted to pull off carving a perfect Sunday roast without Forque by his side. Mr. Abercrombie might not know it but Blade knew that an ordinary fork was worse than useless with a state-of-the-art electric knife. Abercrombie powered up Blade, Blade prayed as he started to buzz. The twin spinning serrated edges where brought down slowly on to the top of the meat while Blade held as steady as he could….And then pandemonium. The fork wasn’t strong enough to hold the meat firmly in place and as the meat moved backwards Blade skidded and gashed Mr. Abercombie’s thumb.
Blood spurted all over the meat. Abercrombie yelled: ‘Bloody hell I’ve sliced my thumb,’ as he threw down the knife and darted to the sink and turned on the cold water tap. ‘Damn, damn, bloody thing,’ he mumbled. ‘I could have cut my whole thumb off.’ Thick red blood was swirling down the sink along with the water as he grabbed a napkin and tied it firmly round the cut on his thumb.
‘That bloody electric knife is a liability,’ he said to his wife, who had come running into the kitchen after hearing all the commotion. ‘They just create accidents and should never be allowed in kitchens. It has got to go,’ he added still seething with rage.
And with that he unplugged Blade opened one of the many kitchen cupboards and flung the knife up on to the highest shelf.
‘And that,’ said Blade, ‘explains why I am here with you right now Deep Fat my old friend.’
They both sat in silence for a while and then barely whispering Blade said: ‘I’ve got to get out of here, I’ve got to find Forque.’
‘But how,’ replied Deep Fat. ‘Here we are in the dark. I’ve tried hurling myself against the door, and I’m a considerably heavier weight than you are Blade, but it’s no good. The door has those modern automatic hinges and pressure seals like you get on fridges. And if I remember rightly the door has one of those modern metallic veneer finishes. It’s hopeless. I tried to fall out once when one of the family opened the door. Guess what happened? They put me back up on the shelf.’
They both went silent again. Then Blade brightened up and smiled. ‘Well if we can’t go out the front door,’ he said, ‘we’ll just have to go out the back.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Wait and see. It would be a lot easier if I could plug in but as I can’t we’ll just have to go manual.’ Then Blade started explaining his plan. It was audacious. It was crazy and for a while Deep Fat thought his young friend had taken leave of his senses. But what alternative did they have. Deep Fat agreed to give it a try even though they would be working totally in the dark.
Blade had guessed correctly that like most fitted kitchens the Abercrombie’s looked spectacular from the front but back of the carcass was another world entirely. He tapped on the back wall of the cupboard and heard a hollow sound. ‘Just as I thought,’ he said to Deep Fat. ‘Cheap particle board. This is low density stuff, not even hardboard and nowhere near MDF. My tungsten carbide serrated edges will be able to get through that although it would have been a lot easier if I could have gone electric. But never mind. There’s a cavity behind here. Let’s get too work.’
Blade anchored himself to Deep Fat by winding all three metres of his power cord round the fryer. Deep was to provide the muscle and together they rammed the back wall of the cupboard. The tungsten steel blade bashed half way into the particle board. ‘Again,’ shouted Blade, ‘harder this time’. Deep Fat summoned up all his strength and attacked the wall. ‘Again’, shouted Blade. And on the third push he had caused a small hole in the back of the cupboard and now his so valuable serrated edges were ready to take over. They toiled for hours slowly centimetre at a time sawing through the particle board.
At one point Deep Fat was ready to give up. ‘This is ridiculous trying to make a hole big enough for an old fat fryer like me to get through. Just make a small one and slip out yourself Blade it will be a lot easier,’ he pleaded. ‘How am I going to get down to the ground and how do I know the cavity is big enough, and how do I know where it is going to lead us?’
‘Be quiet and stop all the questions. You’re coming with me and that’s that.’
And so they continued to work hour after hour until finally there was only a few more centimetres to go. As Blade carved through the last centimetre he flipped the bottom of the cut particle board so it neatly fell back into the cupboard. It was still dark, they must have been toiling through the night.
‘We’ll wait until it’s light,’ said Blade,’ so let’s get some rest for a while.’
Deep Fat couldn’t sleep, he had been in the hell-hole kitchen cupboard for months. As a tiny speck of light filtered into the cupboard from the opened panel he nudged Blade. The young knife got up. ‘Not much light,’ he thought. ‘The top of the cavity must be covered as well. But it’s better than nothing and we’ll get used to it.’
‘You go first,’ he said to Deep Fat.
‘You’re joking. Even if I can squeeze through the opening, have you seen the drop? And that gap, that gap isn’t wide enough for me. I’m not a Deep Fat for nothing.’
‘You can make it. Come one I’ll show you how.’
With that Blade pulled out his three-metre long power cord and fastened one end of it once around Deep Fat’s middle and secured it with a double knot.
‘I’m going to lower you down on your side which means you should just about make it down through the gap,’ said Blade, who with that extended himself fully and lay horizontal across the width of the opening forming a pulley device. Slowly he started to play out the power cord down the gap which he reckoned was about six feet deep. But even as slow as Blade could go about half way down the fryer started to sway and Blade could feel himself wobbling. He tried to clamp himself even firmer to the sides of the hole he had cut in the back wall of the cupboard. He extended himself as far as he could, his tungsten carbide edges cutting into the particle board for extra grip. The last thing he wanted now was to be sucked into the hole himself and fall down the gap on to who knew what.
‘Stay calm,’ he shouted to Deep Fry. ‘Not much further to go.’ Then he started playing out the power cord a little bit more. There was a slight bump. Deep Fat had got to the bottom. ‘What’s it like down there,’ Blade asked.
‘Filthy,’ came back the reply. ‘The floor’s rocky with old pieces of cement, there are crisp packets, I can see a small can of paint… just rubbish and rubble really. Tricky terrain.’
‘OK Deep, untie the power cord,’ said Blade. ‘I know you’re on your side and it’s quite dark but see if you can open your lid…Can you do that?’
‘I’m trying, hold on.’
‘Right, well when you’ve done that, press the catch that tilts your frying basket at an angle.’
There was a long silence.
‘Have you done that?’
‘Hold on I told you, I’m struggling here.’ There was another silence and then: ‘OK I’ve got it. What are you going to do now?’
Blade answered calmly: ‘I’m going to jump.’
And after sliding back as much of the cut particle board as he could to try and hide the hole, and reeling in the power cord, that’s exactly what he did.
Whooosh! And he landed straight in the basket.
Blade gathered himself up, put the basket back inside Deep Fat and the lid back on. He thought for a moment and then said: ‘OK Deep you go in front and I’ll roll you along’
The fryer hadn’t been wrong, the terrain was terrible with rubble strewn all down the back of the fitted kitchen. Pieces of cement of all shapes and sizes made the going difficult. There was hardly any light and the dust had started clogging up Deep Fat’s filter causing him to wheeze and cough. But Blade kept up the encouragement. ’Come on mate, I’ know it’s bumpy for you but not much further.’
‘But how do you know where we are going?’
‘If I’m right we should come to an opening which leads into the top of the small alley in the kitchen where the cleaning things are kept, the mop and bucket and the rest of that gang.’
And so they continued through the dust and dirt until up ahead they saw light coming in. It was just as Blade had said. Deep Fat’s heart lifted. He hadn’t seen proper light for a long time, only now and again when the cupboard door had been opened. He had to squint as the rays hit his viewing panel. But it didn’t matter he was overjoyed and he owed it all to his little friend Blade. As he came rolling into the alley way Deep Fat stopped and set himself upright. ‘Oh that’s so much better,’ he said, examining his outer shell for any dents.
The mop was first to spot them and he called to his mate: ‘Hey Broom, look at this pair,’ and then welcoming Deep Fat and Blade added: ‘Gents, is there anything we can provide? Looks like you need a quick brush up. Get in the bucket. This one’s on us.’
Spruced up, with his viewing panel cleaned, shell mopped down and filter dusted off Deep Fat was beaming. And Blade was once again glinting as they bade farewell to the cleaning utensils and moved slowly down the little alley heading for the main kitchen area.
As they came to the corner Blade told his pal: ‘Stay behind, I’ll just make sure the coast is clear.’ And slowly he bent his serrated knives and peeped round the corner. Quick as a flash he was back and pressed up against the wall.
‘What is it, what is t?’ asked Deep Fat quickly and quietly.
‘You’re not going to believe this,’ whispered Blade.