Danger in the kitchen!
The book about the Depression that I mentioned a couple weeks ago had many pictures as well as text. As I looked at some of the things that were featured it made me think of Grandma’s old stove. That stove and I had a history that is not soon to be forgotten.
When you wanted to turn the oven on you had to spin the dial that set the temperature like the modern devices, but you also had to light a match to get the pilot light to ignite. There in was the problem. You had to do this process just right or you were in trouble.
I experienced trouble more than once. If I left the gas on a little too long there was a sort of explosion. More than once the thing blew up in my face. My aunt had the same type of stove so when my cousin and I were cooking there we had to go through the same process. I remember one time when we singed some eyebrows. We had some explaining to do when my aunt got home from work.
That night we had a beautiful cake for dessert, but our mishap was of concern to all. I am not exactly sure what happened after that, but that was the last time that we singed anything.
I loved Grandma’s stove in spite of the pilot light that had to be lit. When I think about it now I realize that the oven was rather small. If grandma put a turkey in the oven in her large roaster there was not room for anything else. Even though my oven is much larger, I have to admit that when I have a turkey baking there is not much room for anything else either in spite of the larger size. Grandma’s stove had a storage compartment next to the oven where she kept her baking supplies such as cookie pans and cupcake tins.
The other thing I liked about grandma’s stove was that the broiler was below the oven. It could be used independent of the oven. We often used the broiler for meat and sandwiches with grandma’s supervision, of course.
As I got older I became more adept at lighting the pilot light. I am sure that grandma was happy about that since I always chose to bake when she was not around.
The reason that I baked when grandma was gone is that she had little patience with my baking technique. Grandma was a stickler for following a recipe to the letter. If the instructions said to put an ingredient first or to mix all of the dry ingredients she expected it done just as the recipe called for. My methods were less strict but I still made them work. I used grandma’s recipes but I put my own spin on them.
Many of the recipes for baked goods that I have made my own began with my grandmother. While I learned to bake at my grandmother’s side, right from the get-go I began to make things my own. Everyone always enjoyed what I baked so that was not a problem. Whatever I made did not go to waste.
You might say that my love for baking began way back then. I never thought much about the ingredients. It was just what the baked goods were supposed to taste like. Grandma went through a period of time where she was diagnosed with diabetes a slight elevation of the sugar in her body. I am not sure what happened after that, but I do not remember my grandmother living the rest of her life as a diabetic. We still had cookies for the holidays and I remember her purchasing Girl Scout cookies.
My pantry is my favorite place. I have a Hoosier cupboard that I use for my baking. All of my pans and supplies are in there. If I need an egg I turn around and get one out of the refrigerator. My husband favored built in cupboards, but I won out on this one because he did not do any baking. I loved the old Hoosier cupboard so it stayed. There is a metal top that pulls out if you need more room. I pull it out when I roll out cookies and when I make bread.
Back to the stove. Grandma’s stove was wider than the modern ones. She had only four gas burners, but there was a place to set something when you took it off the burner or out of the oven. That was very helpful in my grandmother’s kitchen because the stove set off by itself.
My grandparents were married for more than sixty years and that is the only stove that I remember grandma cooking on. I know they bought the house about 1920 so I assume the stove was purchased then. My great-grandparents’ homes had stoves that ran with gas or with wood. While I knew what they looked like I never actually cooked on one of those.
I had a new gas stove when we were in our trailer next to the farm. The pilot lights stayed on so I did not have to monkey with lighting them. The only bad thing was if something boiled over during the cooking process it drained down through the burner.
I have used four stoves at Hickory Heights in the forty some years that I lived here. My first stove here was a real old-fashioned wood burning stove complete with a warming oven and hot water reservoir. I actually cooked on that for six months and we did not starve.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org