Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

14 November, 2011

A LAMENT FOR WOOD-BURNING COOK STOVES

In a recent Wrights Lane post I talked about the old ceiling and floor grates that used to allow heat to circulate from one level of a home to another.  Then in a virtual history group exchange this weekend, I talked about an old stove pipe damper factory that I used to visit as a young lad in my home town.


This all got me thinking fondly about the cast iron wood burning cooking stoves of yesteryear.  Only a handful of my readers will have had experience with wood stoves and I thought that I would pass on some personal reminiscences of a period that now has a certain romance about it.


When I was born in the 1930s, old iron cook stoves were still providing heat, hot water and cooked meals in many homes. As a matter of fact, when I was first married in 1960, my wife's grand parents in Durham Bridge, New Brunswick, were still using a wood-burning cook stove.  

Take a long look at the cook stove in the above photo as an example.  It could generate enough heat to blast you out of the house.  There were holes in the ceiling, covered with grating, for the warm air to rise to the bedrooms above. Getting up on a cold morning, you stood over the grating while you dressed, or ran downstairs with your clothes to dress by the cook stove. 


It was a chore to keep the stove burning, and usually the fire was not allowed to die out, even at night the hot coals were banked so that they would last until morning. Chopping firewood and kindling was a daily chore. It was a balancing act to light the fire and then to keep it going -- kindling and then wood chunks, while getting just enough air through to get the flames to spread, not so much that it blew out the fire.


Stove pipe damper similar to those
manufactured in my hometown.
Some of us will also remember the blessings of the old cook stove. If we were lucky, there was a damper on the stovepipe to regulate the flow of air. By regulating the flow of air and the amount of fuel, a person could regulate the temperature of the ovens. Different places on the stove’s surface were different temperatures too, so water or coffee could be kept always hot but not boiling on the back of the stove. The cook moved pots and pans around on the cook stove top to cook at different temperatures. 


The lid lifter was inserted into the slot of the various lids on the cook stove top. With the lifter, a person could lift a lid to add wood or blow on the fire, or good old gram or auntie may choose to remove a lid to put a pot over the hold directly above the flames to get it extra hot. From my own experience, pancakes and popcorn tasted better cooked on a wood stove then they ever have since. Same thing with good old bacon and eggs. Even bread was toasted perfectly on the oven.  Let's not forget those mouth-watering home made pies made from apples, cherries and mulberies picked an hour earlier from trees in the back yard.


And when your feet were wet and you were damp and cold, what comfort it was to sit before the open oven, with your feet on the door to warm up!  Ah, the good old days...gone but not completely forgotten.

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