I’m not really a nut about cooking, but the closest I’ve ever come to really, really enjoying it was when I had the wood cookstove.
We had this old house that was built around wood stoves, pre 1900 style, with a central chimney and a kitchen that just cried for a woodburning cookstove. My husband, patient man, indulged me, even though he didn’t even like to cut wood (I wound up doing a lot of it myself). Anyway, we set off on a quest and after asking around, soon found a real treasure. My brother-in-law’s father had two of them in a shed about three hours away.
Off we went in the old Chevy truck (a story for a different time), reasoning that if one of them was workable, we could just bring it home.
Well, never to do things halfway, we brought both of them home – for $50. Who could pass up a deal like that? After another $50 or so in stove bolts, rust remover, soap and water and stove black, we got one of them in working condition. There was even a coal/wood grate and a lid lifter that fit the lids. I was thrilled!
Once in the house and piped into the chimney, I built the first fire, anticipating at the least, a cup of fresh, on-the-stove coffee from my old glass coffee pot.
The new pipe smelled with that new pipe smell, and the stove kind of whispered to itself and seemed to settle in with a little sigh. I put the coffee pot on and waited. And waited. And waited. More wood, a bigger fire. I waited some more. Watching closely, I could see tiny bubbles beginning to form on the bottom of the pot. A little more wood, then. I set the coffee pot over the hottest part of the stove (as nearly as I could tell), and waited some more.
The thought of fresh coffee made my mouth water and my soul cry for mercy. Come on… it shouldn’t take all morning just to boil water!
Oh, yes… I learned. A watched pot never boils and all that. A wood cookstove takes a while to heat through. Especially one that had just been scrubbed through and through, and there were no ashes whatsoever anywhere. Later, I learned that thin layer of ashes in the ash box and a few leftover coals in the grates would speed things up on those cold mornings when I really needed a cup of coffee.
I learned some other things, too. Like how easy it is to bake bread in an oven that was always preheated and ready to go. How to keep turning a pie so the crust wouldn’t burn on one side and stay pasty on the other. How to lift off the little lid and set a pan directly over a healthy fire to fry quickly – and how to hear when it was time to move the pan when it got too hot for an easy over egg. How to melt butter in the warming oven and not ever, ever worry about it scorching.
Cooking on a woodstove is soothing. It makes cooking an art and a part of life. You give, it gives; it’s a symbiotic relationship that’s filled with warmth.
It’s got character (if you don’t believe it, try lighting a fire some damp morning when the wind is coming from the wrong direction. Your stove will have a temper tantrum and belch smoke right in your face.)
It will make memories, like walking toward the house on a cool autumn evening and smelling wood smoke, knowing there’s a good meal and good company at home, just waiting.