Growing up I never thought twice about the stove that my mother did all of her cooking on. It’s a propane stove, much the same as all the other mothers had, but unlike their stoves ours you had to light by hand, and turn the gas on and off manually. There is no thermostat or temperature gauge, just these white knobs that allow more or less gas be burned thus causing more or less flame cooking your food. When I was young it meant nothing to me, and I ate my mothers fresh baked bread and pies not thinking about the fact that she had somehow managed to figure out the secret to the oven’s temperatures. Now as I have moved into the house and inherited the very same magical stove, I begin to wonder what secrets my mother holds about getting this stove to bake. She has since moved on to bigger and brighter ovens, ones with temperatures gauges, and burners with more than one setting. Currently two of our burners on the stove work, one that will spout flames 6 inches high if you are not careful and one that keeps things at an even simmer but not at a full boil.
I’ve been a bit wary of the oven, there was a family of mice living in it when I first opened the door, but they have since found accommodations elsewhere. We had dinner at our house the other day and I guiltily let my brother light the stove to warm up his loaf of bread, thinking to myself “Well if he makes it out alive maybe I’ll have a go at it.” He did after moving the left overs of the mice out of it he slid is pan of bread in and it seemed to warm it up nicely. “Well I guess I don’t have an excuse anymore” I thought, “it clearly will not kill me” Yesterday I got up the gumption to light it. I turned on the gas under the stove got my lighter ready and Vwhooomph! Went the oven as it “turned” on. It seemed to light perfectly as if the eight years of no use hadn’t effected it at all. A small sigh of relief escaped my lips followed by a quick inhale, “What is that? why does it smell like gas?” A few seconds later, Josh upstairs shouts, “what are you doing down there it smells like the gas is on full blast?”, “I just turned the oven on” I replied, unsure now if I should turn it off right quick, or leave it and hope the house didn’t explode. Suddenly I noticed something coming out of the oven a liquid of some kind “oh no” I think, “the gas is leaking out, there must be a leak!” I quickly turn off the oven and the gas and examine the damage. The liquid seems to be some kind of water, brown and yucky, but not gas. “What is this” I think as I wonder whether or not my brother got all the mice out of the oven and if I even dare to look inside. There were no exploded mice bodies inside but also no sign of where brown water would be coming from…..I still don’t know.
I asked my mom about getting the stove checked out and who to call about the intense gas smell that filled our house yesterday. “Oh the gas? Yeah it always smelled like that.” My mother calmly explained when I ask her about it. “Oh!” I say, “So I can just ignore it and proceed with business as usual?” “I don’t see why not, I always did want to get it refurbished, but it was always too cost prohibitive” She replies as she sets a pot to boil on her electric light gas oven and stove top, there is no smell of gas in her house. She tells me that to use the oven I have to treat it like a wood oven moving the pies, bread or casserole dishes around the oven and adjusting the flame during the baking process in order to achieve temperature perfection. I do love this stove, it is funky, old fashioned, beautiful, and could be hitched up to a biogas system once we are more established. It just needs a little sprucing up, anyone have any ideas on cost effective ways to refurbish antique gas ovens? Or maybe just a vent would help for now….
In the end this stove this stove will be a great source for adventure. I’m up for the challenge that it creates, but do apologize in advance for any recipe inaccuracies that come up in my baking. For now I will be investing in an oven thermometer and some strong oven cleaner, but do hope to get it back to its cooking stove glory one day.
Grab your gasmask it’s baking time!