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Come for the pasta, stay for the fire....

Some friends came for dinner last night and, as usual, I managed to create a small disaster.

I wanted to try a pistachio pesto I had bought in Rome in January, along with some new olive oil. I also made panna cotta as I was taught last summer at Letizia's cooking class in Assisi, with strawberries marinated in a good balsamic.

Anyway, my guests fought through some really heavy snow to get to my place. So to try to make the apartment look extra warm and cozy, I decided to light some candles. I rarely use candles anymore, they always seem so messy, either dripping coloured wax everywhere or emitting toxic smoke.

I shouldn't have started again. But, alas, I did.

I had several small votives in little holders that I placed on some of the window sills and one little bowl-shaped candle holder I had bought years ago -- pretty gold, with little star shapes cut out of the sides so it glowed all around. This one, I set on the cream-painted mantlepiece.

About 30 minutes later, as we were finishing a glass of wine before dinner, I noticed the starry candle seemed to be doing more than glowing. It seemed to have become some sort of ring of fire.

I walked over to the mantle, peered into it -- and saw the entire inside was ablaze. The candle holder must have been pained with something quite flammable. Yikes! My guests saw what was happening and as I grabbed the latest issue of Travel and Leisure magazine (which I was happy to sacrifice because I don't like this magazine yet they won't stop sending it to me) I thought I would slip the candle holder onto the magazine and throw the works in the kitchen sink. Meanwhile, my friend Michelle, who has a well-based horror of fire, dashed to the kitchen and came back with a glass of water, which she flung on the candle and mantlepiece.

My eyes nearly popped out of my head -- when the water hit the candle holder, it accelerated the fire! Flames shot up, all around the candles and hot wax splashed out onto the mantlepiece, the floor, and caked the side of the water glass she was holding. Thank the good lord the hot wax didn't splash further back and burn Michelle's hand or set her sweater on fire.

However, the flames died back down, so I was able to shove the candle holder onto the magazine and carry it out the kitchen.

I must say I was a bit rattled. As my brother suggested today, the best place for candles is flung out the window as far away from the house as possible. I'll keep a few thick stand-alone candles in case of power failures -- but all the "decorative" ones are going in the trash.

But the pasta was pretty good and the panna cotta great.

Comments (7)

Oh no! How scary!. I remember when a centerpiece of mine at a Christmas party caught on fire years ago. There were about 80 people in my house. Someone said, "The centerpiece is on fire!" I don't know who put it out or how, but there were no BIG flames.

I'm glad the food was delicious!

What a disaster. I am so glad no one was hurt and your house did not burn down. I agree about the decorative candles. Too many accidents - not worth the risk. I'm glad your pasta and panna cotta both turned out great.


Oh no! I am very glad to hear your friend wasn't hurt. Burning wax could give quite a serious burn. You'd think there would be some safety standards for candles prohibiting the use of flammable materials inside. I rarely use candles either, but will definitely be very careful if buying any in the future.

Good lord - a dinner party and entertainment. Your friends are so lucky to know you! LOL


Jerry, I do like to keep my guests entertained!

Palma, I shouldn't laugh --but the idea of a Christmas centrepiece going up in smoke is kind of amusing (now that it's safely in the past!)

Girasoli and Anne, I don't think there is much in the way of safety standards for consumer products anymore. Buyer beware.


Holy cow! Well, at least the pasta and the panna cotta were good. ;)

You should see what Jane almost did to her kitchen, and last week, I lit a wad of parchment paper on fire - must be something in the air. Glad you're okay.


Kim, it has to be some kind of winter hangover effect -- we're lighting too many fires cuz we need the warmth and light!

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