On Oven Fires and Plastic

MiLady Carol's tea and quicheSaturday afternoon, I volunteered to help in the kitchen at a fund-raiser event to benefit women who can’t afford mammograms and breast health care.  It was sponsored by a bevy of Red Hat Society ladies and held in a church with a kitchen.  I had heard about the High Tea at my Woman’s Resource Network meeting this month, so I volunteered to help.

I arrived a bit later than the rest of the kitchen volunteers due to a yoga class, so I just started right in without understanding where anything was in the kitchen.  My first task was to bake the savouries in the oven with one of the lovely ladies.  There were many boxes of Trader Joe’s little philo dough thingies and some little tarts to bake.  We preheated the oven to 400°F and started opening boxes.  The little philo dough thingies were presented in plastic trays that, the box said, were meant to go in the oven.  I cautioned that I thought it was a bad idea.  We were baking trays of these things at a time and plastic in ovens is a bad idea.  She assured me she’d done it before and we loaded two cookie sheets with these plastic trays and set the timer.  Fortunately, I was standing right there 10 minutes later when I saw open flame in the oven.  I opened the oven, pulled out the bottom cookie sheet, then set about looking for tongs to move the melting plastic off the element.  Suffice it to say, I managed, with help, to put out the fire and continue baking while the other ladies addressed the smoke alarm and the windows.  The event proceeded and I don’t even know if they knew there was ever a fire.

The point to my story is, it is ALWAYS a chancy thing to put plastic in high heat.  Plastics, generally speaking, are made from chemicals that often leach into whatever is in them when exposed to heat.  Then there is the potential fire hazard. In a perfect world, I’d have pulled out my Pampered Chef stuff and transferred everything out of the plastic before heating it. At home, you can bet that’s how I’d roll.

There are oodles of articles all over the Internet from highly reputable sources that warn about the dangers of BPAs and false estrogens that may leach into our food from plastics.  Just Google “plastic leaching into food” and take your pick.  Some are optimistic, others condemning, and not all of them state their sources and who pays their bills.  I’ve been following this issue for years and there’s no way to be sure, no matter what they say, that under every circumstance, they are NOT leaching into my food.  On that conclusion, I’ve taken action.

  • I have very few plastics in my kitchen.  I’ve replaced almost everything that was plastic with bamboo, wood, glass, stainless steel, and stoneware.
  • The plastics that remain never see anything hotter than room temperature.
  • I’ve taken control of how my food is prepared by doing most of it myself.  I make most things from scratch in my own home – it’s very empowering.

I prefer to err on the side of caution.  Does this mean I refuse to eat at restaurants?  No.  I’m well aware that industrial cooking often takes shortcuts and heats plastics, yet I’ve made the conscious choice to reduce my daily exposure by changing the way I cook and eat 95% of the time.  There’s nothing I can do about years of my childhood and young adulthood.  All those microwaved plastic bowls for lunch, all that Teflon, and every plastic baby bottle of milk I consumed in ignorance can’t be changed.  I shudder to think, so I try not to dwell there.  Instead, I spent a couple of years replacing my kitchen tools – often one piece at a time – and making changes.  I focused on the forward.  While far from perfect, I’m on a happy path and I feel good about that.

Who’s with me?  If you’re in my local area and want to have a plastic kitchenware recycling party, let me know.  I’ll bake us some yummy treats and we can fill the recycle bin while we talk about the great new tools we’ve bought to make our cooking happier and healthier.
Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!

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