Monday, November 5, 2012

Maiden Voyage of the Resurrected Coronet

Ever since we moved here and I found it hiding in the barn, I have wanted to resurrect and use this wood-fired cookstove, which I take to be original to the kitchen of Wren Cottage. It is a Sears Roebuck “Coronet” of uncertain vintage, and based on the number of men it takes to carry it, it can’t have come from very far away.

The memory of the oldest living previous inhabitant, my friend Pat who grew up here and next door, only goes back as far as a coal-fired cookstove that I take to be the reason this one got the boot. But the hearthstone and chimney access in the kitchen remain and are used by our Harmon heating stove, and various cast iron implements like a two-burner grill that I found down in the cellar fit the cook top as though made for it, which I expect they were.

Three years ago when John and I got married, we spent our honeymoon drive to the elk herd of scenic Western Clinton County, PA, brainstorming about a summer kitchen, primarily as a potential home for the cookstove.

Well. Three years later, the epic construction process has finally drawn to a close, and about the last thing to get done was the plumbing in of the chimney for the cookstove, which just happened two weekends ago. And then Hurricane Sandy came and everyone got sick, so there was no Ceremonial Firing for an entire week.

On Saturday morning, however, we struggled to light a fire in the rather tiny firebox. It took some doing but eventually when I ran to the edge of the porch and looked up at the shiny new silver chimney, there was smoke pouring forth! John said, “Do we have a new pope?” And I said, “Yes!” and we hopped around for joy.

I had not planned to cook the day of the Ceremonial Firing, but I couldn’t stand it. First I boiled the kettle and made a cup of ginger tea. This was so satisfactory that I threw a bunch of white beans and water in a heavy pot and set them on to soak in the warmth. Then I went off to walk the dogs in the orchard and when I came back, a delicious scent drifted over the wall of the summer kitchen and up the new stone path, and I quickly realized from the cloud of steam rising through the rafters that THE STOVE WAS COOKING THE BEANS. I was practically frantic with happiness. So I dashed inside and stirred up a batch of granola, the most harm-proof baked good I could think of, threw it in a casserole and popped it into the oven. And although the end next to the firebox burned a little—hence the injunction to turn baked goods periodically throughout their baking time—it came out actual granola, not sticky nasty raw burned oats.

So. Although I have been planning and desiring this for many years, no one is more surprised than I that it has come true and it actually works! The very next thing that happened was that November came and now it is snowing in the summer kitchen, but I am really looking forward to figuring this out next summer.