Yes, that is a charred, melted bottle nipple. How on earth did that happen, you might ask? Too close to the stove? No. Reckless child with matches? No. Super human baby with fire hot mouth? No.
I have two kitchens in my house. For the past 5 years I have exclusively used the one upstairs. However, lately we have been spending more time in the basement, so that kitchen has seen some (minor) use. I think I have used the dishwasher down there maybe half a dozen times. My dishwasher upstairs is pretty fancy; stainless, pullout drawers, super quiet. (One of the perks of a husband that sells appliances and electronics- you should see our tv's!). The one in the basement isn't terrible, but it isn't nearly so nice. Most dishwashers (I think!?) have an exposed heating element in the bottom. You know, that metal ring? Well, my fancy pants upstairs one doesn't, so I've never had to worry about it. Big mistake!
Today I ran a load of dishes downstairs. I just plunked the bottle nipples on the little tines, like always. Ran the load, with heat dry, like always. Came home from the library and smelled burning. Uh Oh! After searching the home for the source (fire in the attic? overused outlet? space heater get left on?), I opened the downstairs dishwasher, which was in its drying cycle. And found a sad, melted bottle nipple in the bottom. Oops. So that's why they make those little enclosed baskets for those things? Hmmm- might need to invest in one.
Now my house smells like someone ran a drag race through it. Burnt rubber- what a lovely scent!