01/31/2011 05:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Hot Stuff"

If you can't stand the heat, get into the kitchen. That's the lesson I learned recently after the oven lost heat in the kitchen and I couldn't stand the prospect of having to eat cold dinners until the apoplectic appliance was fixed.

Fortunately, my wife, Sue, without whom I would have starved to death long ago, is at home on the range, otherwise known as the stovetop, which she uses to cook hot meals that sometimes include Stove Top stuffing.

The meltdown began just before Christmas, which we were going to host for 13 people, two dogs and me.

Enter Larry, a very nice and very knowledgeable repair specialist, who examined the oven, performed all kinds of sophisticated tests and came up with an unsettling diagnosis: "This thing is possessed."

I took his word for it -- and added a few choice words of my own -- because the lights kept flickering. It looked like something out of a horror movie. Even worse, Larry asked me several times to hit the circuit breaker, which I figured would either fry me or bake him, leading to the following spectacular headline: "Oven cooks repairman: Last job not well-done."

I knew the situation was critical because the oven was running a low temperature of 0 degrees. Normal is 350.

"I have to order a new control board," Larry said, referring to the electronic gizmo that runs the oven like the Starship Enterprise.

"When will it be here?" I asked.

"After New Year's," Larry replied.

When Sue heard this, her temperature skyrocketed. "How am I going to cook Christmas dinner?" she cried.

Even without Santa's help, the holiday meal was sensational because the smaller bottom part of the oven worked, as did the stove. Our younger daughter and my mother pitched in by bringing food. Everyone -- including the dogs -- loved it.

A few days later, the board arrived, but we couldn't get an appointment until almost a week after New Year's.

Enter Larry again.

"You're back!" I exclaimed.

"Yes!" he said.

I knew Larry was the man for the job when he told me that he used to repair military equipment. "I did jet engines," he said. "In fact, I used to do everything. Now I'm an oven and dishwasher specialist."

"Sue has always said that no man in America knows how to load a dishwasher the right way," I told Larry.

"I don't even have a dishwasher," he said. "I wash the dishes myself."

"At least if your oven needed to be repaired, you could do it," I noted.

"No," he said. "I'd throw it out and get another one."

Larry also said he does most of the cooking at home.

"I can barely make toast," I admitted.

"My wife likes my cooking," Larry said, adding that he started when he was a teenager working in restaurants. "I specialize in Italian dishes, but I also do a lot of barbecuing. You don't need an oven for that."

Appliances have changed a lot in the 40 years that Larry has been repairing them.

"You almost have to be a rocket scientist these days," he said, referring to the computer technology.

"It also seems like you're a doctor on call," I noted.

"Except we don't get paid like doctors," Larry said. "But I do have a lot of patience," he added, laughing at his own joke.

With the skill of a surgeon, Larry replaced the board and had our oven running like new. Then he printed out the bill, which came to $653.67. Fortunately, it was covered under the warranty.

"I'm very happy to get my oven back," Sue said.

"Me, too," I chimed in. "Now I won't starve."

"Maybe," Sue said to me, "you should learn how to use the oven."

Larry nodded and said, "Now you're cooking."

Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima is the author of "Leave It to Boomer." Visit his blog: E-mail:

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