I was not privy to the conversation, but I understand that Susan explained to "Bill" that I cook on a woodburning cookstove, and Bill could not understand why any American "would want to live like the people in Vietnam." While in Iowa, Bill also saw some Amish riding in a horse-drawn buggy, and again, his question was simply "Why?"
|Making wild plum jelly on the Margin Gem last|
week. I had frozen the juice during the summer
because standing and stirring a pot over a raging
fire is a lot more comfortable in the dead of winter.
What I have written below are my "whys" for cooking on a woodburning cookstove. They are not listed in order of importance, but rather in the order that they occurred to me. I suspect that these will be similar to many other people's reasons for cooking on a wood cookstove, but please utilize the comments section to either concur or add any other reasons that I do not include.
1. Increased Self-Sufficiency
We are by no means an island, and never will be. We have, by today's standards, a great deal of family nearby, and we are quite interdependent upon them. We are fairly active in our community, and even though we live on an Iowa Century Farm, we are right on the beaten path. In fact, our road is so busy and our house so close to it that sometimes it sounds as if the grain trucks are barreling through our living room. Furthermore, we are only minutes away from downtown Omaha, Nebraska.
However, we do enjoy a modicum of self-sufficiency. It is a rare event that we have a meal made of entirely store-bought foods, and why shouldn't the farm that produces so much of what we eat also produce much of the fuel needed to cook and preserve that food, too? When cooking with electricity or propane, we are dependent on business entities to provide that ability (sure, once our propane tank is full, we can cook for a long time, but not indefinitely). With the woodburning cookstove, we are able to cook as long as we are able to procure fuel--something we can do without being dependent on others.
|Making supper on the wood cookstove. Potatoes|
were baking in the regular oven, but its temperature
was higher than what I wanted to bake our fish, so
I baked the fish in the stovetop oven which you see
over the firebox. It worked really well.
It is true that the Margin Gem cookstove is expensive, especially when you buy the hot water heating set up that we have. When we purchased ours, my brother-in-law asked me if it was the Cadillac of new wood cookstoves on the market today. "No," I said in self-deprecation, "but it is the Lincoln." Even at that, though, when you put pencil to paper, the Margin Gem has paid for itself already, and we are only in the sixth heating season with it. Now, every time we use the cookstove for cooking, heating, or water heating, we are money ahead, and the stove and water heating setup have decades of service ahead of them.
3. Disaster Preparedness
I don't consider myself a prepper, but I am perhaps a little more prepared for disaster than some people. In the course of my lifetime, we have had only about five power outages that lasted more than a few hours, but before having a woodburning cookstove they were much more disruptive than they are now.
Truthfully, I think this point deserves a whole blog post of its own. You can see that here.
When I was growing up, my mom subscribed to Ideals magazine. Long before I became an English teacher and could appreciate the poetry and short prose pieces in this magazine, I would search each new copy for the utopian pictures of historic kitchens. They always prominently featured ornate antique cookstoves.
|This image is from the 1966 Thanksgiving|
issue of Ideals magazine. This one was
before my time, but lots of similar pictures
passed through my hands as a youngster.
|Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls in front of a cookstove.|
All this is to say that I grew up with plenty of visual influences that made it seem as if a woodburning cookstove made a kitchen complete.
5. It is Old-Fashioned
This is probably silly, but I like cooking on a wood cookstove because it is old-fashioned. I have always been fascinated with the old ways of doing things--a fact which I attribute to my great-great aunt Meme, who was a huge influence on me growing up. She would be the first to deny that she had romanticized life in the late 1800s and early 1900s while she reminisced with me on her knee. However, I think, just as our minds so often do, her memory only recalled the good things about life on an Iowa farm in the olden days. Without meaning to, she helped create in me a longing for a time I never knew. I'd wax poetic and say that it was a simpler time, but I don't know that I'm convinced it really was. Either way, my penchant toward old-fashioned living has caused me to be frequently accused of having been born in the wrong decade.
I find that my cooking style changes in the non-wood cookstove months largely because I tend to not be willing to "waste" the extra electricity or propane that it takes to make that finishing touch or special little thing, and I certainly try to avoid the dishes that have long cooking times. I also find that I do more experimental cooking when I'm using the wood cookstove because I don't feel bad about the wasted energy if the product is a flop.
The other thing about the wood cookstove is that rather than having one fire cook only one vessel of food, the same fire heats all of the pots, whatever is in the oven, and the water to wash the dishes after the meal. I think that is very efficient.
7. It Just Feels Right
I don't know how to explain this one any better. I just know that feeling the heat radiating from the cookstove while I'm standing over it stirring something seems somehow right. When I'm cooking over an electric stove or a gas stove, it just doesn't feel quite like I'm really cooking. I don't know how to describe it any other way.
That's all I can think of at the moment. Wood cookstove using readers, fill up the comments please!