Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Book Review: "Rediscovering the Woodburning Cookstove" by Robert Bobrowski

Where has the summer gone?  At the beginning of June, I had big plans to blog regularly over the summer and had hoped to get our summer kitchen moved closer to the house so that I could continue cooking over wood during hot weather.  We've made progress toward that, but it hasn't happened yet, and talking about it deserves its own post.

Today, I want to review the book Rediscovering the Woodburning Cookstove, written and illustrated by Robert Bobrowski.  Published in 1976 and originally retailing for $5.95, its ISBN number is 0-85699-130-9.  It was published by The Chatham Press of Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

A scan of the front cover or Robert Bobrowski's book.

For me, this book was an eBay find some years ago.  I no longer remember how much I paid for it, but I can guarantee it wasn't too much; otherwise, I wouldn't have bought it.  My copy is autographed by the author, but the message that accompanies the signature is so full of swear words that it probably actually detracts from the value of the book.

Rediscovering the Woodburning Cookstove is an album of information about various models of historic woodburning cookstoves sprinkled with some lore from the various cookstove users Bobrowski interviewed in compiling the stove biographies.  Directions for using a wood cookstove are present, but definitely take a secondary place to the historical information.

The most charming feature of the book is Bobrowski's artwork.  I counted no less than 107 hand-drawn pencil illustrations spread over the book's 95 pages.  Bobrowski also did a masterful job of choosing a wide variety of woodburning cookstoves to share with the reader.  From simple box stoves and the true original "cookstove" to various models of portable ranges to a beautifully rendered "set range," pretty much all styles of wood cookstoves known to man in 1976 are covered in this book.  (For a detailed discussion of each of these types of wood cookstove, see this post.)  Bobrowski also shares information about various equipment and accessories which are cookstove compatible.

Throughout the book, Bobrowski includes recipes which other cookstove owners shared with him as well as a few of his own.  The recipes are interesting, and several have a definite eastern United States feel, which is obvious to this Midwesterner because of the presence of fish and fiddleheads (forty-year-old cookbooks from the Midwest don't include fish recipes as a general rule).  Come to think of it, most of the brands of stoves featured in the book are also more common in the Northeast than in other parts of the country.

The only criticism I would offer is that the text of the book is handwritten in a somewhat calligraphic style, which can be truly difficult to read at times. I noticed that my reading was slowed considerably by this aspect, and I suspect that someone with eyesight more troublesome than mine would find the book quite challenging.

A scan of an interior page which shows the beautiful illustrations
and the difficult text.

I'm glad to have this book as a part of my wood cookstove media collection.  I've seen copies available for purchase online recently, so perhaps you too could land a copy.  

I'd like to close this post by quoting the text on the last page, which echoes my feelings about wood cookstoves and sums up my purpose with this whole blog:

"Not enough has been said here about the wonderfully solid presence of a wood cookstove, the feeling of social warmth it exudes and the companionable crackle of its fire.  No modern appliance can be its equal in this regard.  Whether in the daytime or at night, a wood cookstove fulfills a role above and beyond that of cooking and heating.  This quality is an intangible one and may be understood fully only through owning or using one regularly.  Many say that, after a while, this large inanimate object begins to assume a personality and become a friend, and from my own experience I must wholeheartedly agree."

P.S.--A big thank you to all of you readers who have kept this blog so busy over the summer!  I'm humbled by the awesome number of readers I have even during the off-season.


  1. Thanks for the review - Can't wait to hear that 'companionable crackle' from our old friend again as things cool down outside - We just got all of our wood brought into the shed this weekend and we're ready for fall.

  2. Thankyou for the post and review. Even though it’s been hot and humid here my thoughts are beginning to turn to the wood cook stove as we near the end of summer. The quote from the book says it so well!