Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Book Review: Cooking on a Woodburning Stove by Andrew Roy Addkison

With the exception of yesterday and today, the weather in our corner of Iowa has been very hot and humid lately.  After almost forty years of hot and humid summers, you'd think I'd get used to it, but no.  Since the weather is not conducive to cooking on a woodburning cookstove (though I have cooked a couple of times in the summer kitchen), this is the perfect time of year to read about it instead.  So this is my first book review blog post.

First, let me say that there is actually a great deal of information about how to cook on a woodburning cookstove available in print form.  It's just that it is not so easily found as other information.  If, for example, you want a plethora of vintage cookbooks about microwave cooking, you have only to travel to your nearest second-hand store, and you will find a plethora of cookbooks from the late 70s and early 80s touting the ease and convenience of Radarange cookery.  I think microwaves are lovely--for reheating leftovers that were first cooked on a woodburning cookstove.  Beyond that, ours doesn't see much action.

Anyway, back to my point.  In my regular monitoring of eBay, etc., and on the occasional browse through an antique or secondhand store bookshelf, I sometimes find some interesting books about cooking on a woodburning cookstove.  One such find is a book called Cooking on a Woodburning Stove by Andrew Roy Addkison and illustrated by Carol Carlson.  Mr. Addkison published this book in 1980, and its ISBN number is 0-915190-28-1.

Mr. Addkison uses the first fifteen pages of this book to give brief but fairly complete instructions about how one cooks on a woodburning cookstove.  These pages have a generous helping of Ms. Carlson's pencil drawings, most of which are helpful.  However, a couple of the illustrations are unexplained by the text and I would have to admit that they are therefore confusing.

Mr. Addkison's text is for the most part very good.  The only thing that I could say in criticism is that sometimes Mr. Addkison uses the words "check draft" when he simply means "draft."  This creates a certain amount of erroneous meaning that I think was unintentional, but problematic just the same. 

There is a distinct difference between the two drafts.  The word "draft" is used to indicate the openings which let air into the stove that is intended to aid in combustion.  On older stoves, these are at or below the level of the grates.  The "check draft" is situated above the fire, often in the pouch feed door, and is intended to allow air to go across the top of the fire, retarding combustion and thereby cooling the cooktop and the oven as it travels between them on its way to the chimney.  Anyway, one can tell that Mr. Addkison enjoys cooking on a woodburning cookstove, and his words reflects that. 

The latter part of the book is comprised of 150 recipes, the instructions for which are written expressly for using a wood cookstove.  While I haven't tried any of the recipes specifically, one of the things that I appreciate about them is that, for the most part, they call for pretty basic ingredients which one would often find in a fairly well-stocked but basic pantry.  The recipes do sound appealing, too.

Right before the index, Mr. Addkison includes information on procuring a wood cookstove or just a woodburning heating stove.  The general information is still all right, but the list of retailers is nearly obsolete after 35 years.

All in all, I think this book was worth purchasing if just for the recipes.  I'm particularly looking forward to trying the recipe for mustard crusted leg of lamb.  If you already have a copy of this book, let us know what you think in the comments below.


  1. This sounds a lot like a slightly earlier book, "Woodstove Cookery: At Home on the Range" by Janet Cooper. 1977 Garden Way Publishing, renewed in 1983 by the successor publisher, Storey Communications. http://www.amazon.com/Woodstove-Cookery-At-Home-Range/dp/0882661086/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1439139887&sr=1-1&keywords=9780882661087 Janet similarly talks a bit about using an old range, buying an old one, setting it up, fueling it, baking, broiling and so on with it, cleaning it and then includes several sections of recipes.

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    2. I should add that likewise, Ms. Cooper includes names and addresses of stove makers and dealers long since passed into history because, hey! 1977 is now a *long* time ago (!), but it's still a good read I think.

    3. Hi, Stephen! The book you mention is my FAVORITE wood cookstove reading hands down. I'm planning to review it eventually too. Good to hear from you!