Though not as young as she once was, she still prepares up to three meals a day (and snacks!) without complaint. She manages mountains of holiday cooking as well, rising early to make cinnamon rolls before moving effortlessly to roast turkey and ham.
Year-round she is always up for a quick batch of cookies, and likes nothing better than to simmer a steaming pot of soup throughout a cold winter’s day.
She’s a giver, that one.
Still, it’s time to face facts. She’s showing her age. It’s time to consider retirement. A replacement must soon be found.
No, not a housekeeper (or grandmother), silly. What we need is a brand new stove.
Our current stove is likely close to 60 years old. We can’t know for sure. A lady never tells her age. She came in to our lives years ago when a friend spotted her at a yard sale.
Throwing her arms over the massive white enameled steel and chrome monster, J. declared that it simply must go home. With me.
The only hurdle being that I already had a stove. One that didn’t outdate the Cold War. J. is one of those friends you need if you are going to insist on living in an old, fixer-upper kind of house.
She’s chock-full of perky, “can-do” attitude. She can see your vision for what your house “can be” (versus what it is) as well — if not better — than you can.
She has an eye for “old house style” and is one of the few people I know who can stand in her gorgeous new home and pronounce my elderly, work-in-progress mess of a house “spectacular” and not make me want to a.) pinch her; or b.) cry.
She really, sincerely means it when she says she loves old houses. She’s just not fool enough to live in one herself.
Thus, when she said, “It’s perfect for your kitchen!” I really did have to agree. Granted, a 1950s stove is still about five decades “too new” for this house, but since I draw the line at cooking on an actual woodstove, mid-century modern would have to do.
This stove was a gleaming, creamy snow white accented with more chrome than a classic car. She was the Cadillac of her day, featuring double ovens, warming drawers and an integrated grill.
She also seemed to weigh a solid ton. Mr. Wonderful was pretty certain that she was going to drop clean though the kitchen floor.
The elderly seller assured me that she had baked pies, and grilled cheese, and made more roasts (and French toasts) than she could count in her day. She had, she said, fed her family for decades from that very stove.
“They just don’t make ’em like that anymore,” she added for good measure.
No indeed, they don’t. (To be fair, at that point I couldn’t be sure if she was talking about young wives or old stoves).
I was more prone to pushing the buttons on a microwave — or telephone — than cooking from scratch. Thus her message carried a deeper meaning. The stove knew perfectly well how to cook. Any failure to do so would be all mine.
I learned a lot on that sturdy old stove. Not even the occasional kitchen fire could phase her. Today, with the help of that old range, my new range of culinary prowess extends far beyond the microwave to my soups, sautes and homemade pies (I use lard in the crust by the way. Be very afraid. My cooking might kill you, but you will die happy).
We get along fabulously, my stove and I. I love her in a way I would have thought impossible to feel for a mere appliance. I just don’t have the same attachment to the microwave anymore.
Still she is starting to show her age. One knob is wonky and one burner is just for show. She’s sticking with us, for now, but I know one day “preheat to 350” will be met with only stone cold silence. “Not worth fixing” I’ve already been advised.
Where does one turn ancient, hulking stoves out to pasture these days anyway? Can one of these flimsy, flashier new models ever hold a candle to this Grande Dame of culinary delight? I am not particularly eager to find out.
We’ve become so enamored of the latest and greatest that it seems as if everything is disposable. Easily replaced. Forgotten. Yet there is something to be said for sticking with the tried and true.
There is wisdom in giving new life to old things. I already know that a new stove won’t hold a candle — or burner — to her.
Newer is not necessarily better. Be it people — or possessions — we sometimes forget that, I think.