Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A New Stove


The stove at the JUSTIN MORRILL HOUSE in Strafford, Vermont dates from 1850. Notice the Gothic Revival arches on the doors (it is a Gothic house, after all) and look how low it is-perfect for cooks of short stature like myself!

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We've generally had people in our house-nice people but loud guys with hammers or the Howard Stern show on in the background and general mayhem-since October. It's just the nature of home renovation: it isn't a silent enterprise. My husband seems to like general chaos all at once and I'd rather pace myself in slow, drawn out periods of occasional disruption. First we had the parlors opened up (which I soon discovered was a lot more than just ripping the wall down!)-see Thanksgiving Day blog entry-and then we had windows taken out of the entire main house to have UV glass put in and easy-to-use storm windows (the old ones, at least 40 years old, involve wedging all manner of implements into them at great risk of losing limb or at least a general flesh wound...and that is just to open and close the screen windows). Those are now being painted in the cellar by our painter friends who like to listen to Howard Stern (and not that there is anything wrong with that, it's just now that he is on satellite he can say anything he wants to say).

In between those projects, as we had the parlor floor refinished any way, my practical husband thought: why not the kitchen floor? Well, that alone involved moving EVERYTHING out--and I have a lot of EVERYTHING in that kitchen--and storing it on the floor, on available tables, even on the staircase, so that the floor sander (yes, a fine dust veiled our entire kitchen, permeating into cabinets and finding out of reach cracks and crevices which still probably haven't been properly cleaned) could HAVE AT IT and then the floor could be given at least 5-6 polyurethene treatments (we like wood floors but we also like to "cure" them from hard traffic areas).

So I asked if we could delay getting our new gas stove and oven for the kitchen until after my book gets out! I thought it would be as involved as sanding and refinishing the kitchen floor had been. I just don't do well with constant disruption...or so I thought. Today I had my laptop downstairs while keeping an eye on my youngest son and being "present" near the kitchen in case the guys working on removing the old stove, etc. had any questions. Surprisingly, I tuned right into the computer and the task at hand and the ambient noise of drill or saw seemed to lull me into a deep writing mode. Perhaps I am trying too hard to be "too quiet". But I do welcome the day when we have our house to ourselves again but I don't think that will be until they are done repointing the four chimneys and redoing the roof later this spring. At least the work will be outdoors!

But a new stove! Can I gush for a moment? I have never had a gas range before. We were on our second glass cooktop and had tried to order a third since last summer. Our brand, wouldn't you know, is not something easily in stock and now has to be special ordered--we needed to find the same model to fit the same opening cut into our granite countertop eight years ago when we last remodeled the kitchen. So, we continued to use the glass cook top and hoped it wouldn't further shatter into smithereens as we really had no choice.

Then my husband had a "eureka" moment--sort of a mini-epiphany but when one is speaking about appliances it is probably best to imbue the moment with less importance than an outright epiphany (which is reserved for those life-changing, revelatory times and clearly getting a new appliance is not one of those times!). Why don't we get a gas stove? I recoiled in horror-GAS! But we will all die in the night or our house will explode! After a few basic gas-range lessons 101 I realized that the dials today are not what they used to be, pilot lights are easier to use and far more reliable, and that the reason gas has a SMELL is because it is added for safety. So while I am still a bit timid, I do know as a cook that the benefits of cooking and baking with a gas range far outweigh the unlikely problems.

On Monday next a six burner, 36" wide gas range from Viking will arrive and soon after they will fit it in, hook up the propane and we'll give it a test drive. I'm loosing some valuable storage space in the process so now I'm going to have to twist my husband's arm into letting me construct another pantry somewhere! Either that or it's time for an eBay unloading...

In my readings I have encountered many descriptions of new stoves, of how the arrival of a cast iron wood-fired cookstove held great significance to a family that had been cooking on open flames in a hearth setting (just think of Ma Ingalls' delight when Pa got her an iron stove for her new frame house-especially as the poor woman had been cooking on a tin stove in her dug out at Plum Creek for quite a while). Other women have written about their battles with these iron giants-about the drudgery of keeping them fired, keeping them at the just the right temperature, cooking a variety of items while juggling various degrees of warmth and heat. Tending these stoves--and earlier fires--was practically a full time job. So I'm not complaining about receiving such a gleaming gift (we opted for black enamel as I think stainless is the greatest pain to clean) that I only have to "fire up" once or twice a day to get the family meals! I'm just a bit nostalgic for the cooktop it is replacing, just as I "mourned" the car that I totaled in my recent accident. And besides, the oven on this baby could potentially hold the biggest Thanksgiving turkey yet...and there is something to be said for that.

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