Our religious appliance

We’ve reached a point in our lives where all our appliances need to be replaced. One by one, the shiny dishwasher, the refrigerator — that was once state of the art — the gas range (we still call a “stove”) and even the little portable radio that sits on the window ledge in our kitchen are breaking down. In this way, we seniors become like newlyweds — badly in need of house furnishings.

There is a big difference between newlyweds and seniors. There are ways that some newly married couples may at least partially furnish their homes through gifts. There’s the bridal shower (multiple toasters received may be traded in for other useful household items), wedding cash and even the traditional housewarming gifts. Seniors badly need similar options.

I suggested to my wife that we divorce and remarry so we can purchase the new gas range we needed. That’s when I found out that after 52 years of wedded bliss, my wife no longer considers me a serious source for creative solutions. Undaunted, I suggested that we strike up a deal with another needy senior couple.

We exchange houses and hold housewarming parties. A few months after the house party, and with our stash of new appliances, we move back into our old homes. I don’t think Seth Williams is in any position to prosecute us, do you? As I suspected, my wife ignored even this flash of brilliance, and in fact, was moved to utter a rare profanity directed my way. We purchased a new gas range.

“We don’t need a bunch of bells and whistles on our new stove,” my wife told the salesman

“Not the way she cooks meat loaf,” I added.

That’s when I discovered that my wife no longer pretends that I’m the wittiest guy in town. The grates on the burners of our new range weigh at least 25 pounds each. Both of us have begun a weightlifting program just so we clean the top of our new range in the future. The cost of this range is almost equal to a new battleship, give or take a few decks.

The instruction booklet for our new range is as lengthy as The Affordable Care Act.

“That’s a lot of instructions for making an occasional meat loaf,” I remarked, confirming my wife’s suspicion that I was about as useful as a Donald Trump tweet.

Some of the instructions deal with various uses for the timer. Did you know if you’re in Beirut, this oven senses that what you will need most of all when you arrive home is a homecooked meal? The oven reads your brainwaves, adjusts for time zone differences, and the moment you enter the home, a freshly cooked — in our case — meatloaf awaits you. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. But what I’m not exaggerating about is that our new gas range has a Sabbath setting.

The Sabbath mode on our new range is a routine feature in many new home appliances these days. It allows Shabbat-observant Jews to use the appliances on their religious holidays and comply with what is known as Kashrut law. What we learned was that, according to Kashrut law, raw food may not be cooked on the Shabbat. The food must be cooked beforehand and kept warm until eaten. Appliances such as our new range with a Sabbath setting have a safety feature that shuts off the heat after a certain number of hours. The appliance becomes useful for those observing these religious laws. Our history of religious observance in our own religion is spotty at best. It felt strange to own an appliance that is more religious than ourselves. We likely will not get into heaven, but we take some comfort in knowing that maybe our new gas range will get there. Maybe if this range has an atheist setting, I can cook anything any way I wished because I’ll wind up in hell?

It got me to thinking that if we’re going to use appliances to enforce Jewish Sabbath laws, why not do the same for other religions? During this time of Lent, wouldn’t it be useful if Christians owned a “stove” that would shut off before you broke your fast? A Jewish-Muslim oven could refuse to cook pork. You could even include a recording that would scold you if you tried to do so. I pitched these ideas to my wife while she was struggling to set the correct controls on the new range. I really believe the woman is losing her sense of humor.

For some unexplained reason, the Sabbath setting has some relationship to whether our new gas range registers temperature in fahrenheit or Celsius. Inadvertently, we had turned on the Sabbath setting and now the temperature was registering in Celsius. I suggested that we might have to attend services at a synagogue for the range to agree to convert to Fahrenheit. I suspected that, at the least, we would spend the rest of our lives trying to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. But we finally figured out a way to turn off the setting.

I swear the gas range now gives us a reproachful look. But the meatloaf always turns out fine. Note to Kellyanne Conway: this new range can spy on you.