I have always had an interest in wood-fire cooking, and have always intended to learn about it some day. The previous occupant of our dear cottage, a woman of considerable oomph, had spent several years in the late '30s doing everything the hard way in the wilderness of British Columbia, and she left us some interesting cooking tools. I have even fantasized more than once about dragging the original wood cookstove back out of the barn and into the kitchen. But I have never been quite interested enough in wood-fire cooking to, like, do anything about it. Fortunately, yet another opportunity to learn and grow and fulfill my every ambition has been thrust upon me.
The gas range is dead. Well, it may not be dead, but it’s not feeling very well, and nobody is coming out to fix it until Monday, if it is fixable and the guy happens to have the right part in the van. So for a few days, it looked like microwave tea for me, and that is a level of culinary depravity I was not going to take lying down. It struck me that my mother on numerous occasions has said that the best tea she ever had came from the kettle that was permanently installed on her grandmother’s coal stove, because the water was still boiling when it hit the tea bag in your cup. So I tried putting our kettle on the wood stove, and by God, it made the water hot. So then I tried flipping some corn tortillas and frying my eggs in a little skillet on the stovetop, and by God, they cooked and were good. And then I remembered that there was a cast iron griddle in the cellar (shaped suspiciously like the work surface of the cookstove in the barn, come to think of it), so I brought it up and am going to try cooking naan on it this afternoon. And why not soup, right? So back to the cellar for some of the onions left over from the wedding, onions so immense that they can never be used at one time, and so have never been chosen for use. But what better onion to sweat down for French onion soup, am I right? So now I can smell the onions from the other end of the house and I am chainsmoking cups of the most wonderful green tea, and if the naan works out, a curry would be another good candidate for the cast iron pot.
Possibly the Complete Disaster of the gas leak and broken stove, which evoked yesterday’s anthem, tentatively entitled “Even As Men Wracked Upon A Sand,” has led to a culinary revolution at Wren Cottage. I recall a field trip my son’s class took to a canal, which involved traveling some distance on the canal boat at about 2 miles an hour. I remarked to one of the other moms that this seemed like a pretty good pace at which to live. She was aghast, but I think I just found the right way to cook dinner on the very slow-moving canal boat of my life.