Monday, June 3, 2013

An affair gone sour

My wild, passionate, dirty winter love affair has gone sour. We are
getting tired of each other, of ourselves, wishing we each would go away. But still we drag grimly on and blame the unusually prolonged tail end of winter weather for the situation in which we find ourselves. Normally the affair starts gradually in the course of October, builds up to a blazing need over the three main winter months, November, December, January, and then gradually becomes a gentle, warm habit through February, March and April. In May comes the little death as we take grateful and gracious leave of each other.

But here we are, in the first week of June and the affair is still blazing, literally as well as figuratively. My winter love is, of course, the wood fired range that cooks so splendidly and keeps the house so warm, especially the kitchen. But it is a demanding lover and cook. And it makes everything, but everything dirty. I hardly ever dare look at the collection of blue porcelain over the mantel.

My Winter Love

For us, the Rayburn is now practically a sentient being. Even my beloved husband is tolerant of its whims.'Will you put the stove to bed whilst I go and have a bath?' is a common winter request from one of us to the other. Also, before we go out 'have you fed the stove? ' or 'shall I feed the stove?' are pretty important questions. It is all too easy to go out to lunch quite forgetting that the Rayburn needs fuel a.k.a 'food' whilst we are away. And the first one up in the morning 'wakes up' the stove.

This is a more skilful job than cooks used to merely turning knobs would realise. First, the assessment of how hot the stove is, whether there are sufficient embers for it to light straight away with small logs or whether it needs gentle treatment with some dried fir-cones. 'Did you have to use matches' - is an inter-spousal early morning query. The one who did not gets most brownie points, especially if that one was the same person who put the stove 'to bed' the night before. Having to use newspaper, firelighters, matches and kindling is a definite sign of incompetent range management.

The stove's flue is professionally cleaned every year before first use, then again after Christmas and before it retires for the summer. But it still has to be cleaned periodically during the winter season. We have now got the intermediate cleaning down to a fine art. It has to be done whilst the stove and its flue are still fairly cool, so – first person up loses. The fridge next to the flue pipe is moved away, then the cap is taken off the bottom of the flue so that any accumulated soot in the 'T' junction drops into the bucket below. Sometimes, if the vacuum cleaner is pretty full and the flue pretty cool, I take off the draught control panel and vacuum out the soot, also from under the hot-plate. Oh, and one must not forget to clean the hot water alveoles....

Then, oh joy, one assembles the various length of sweeper sticks, adds the appropriate brush and pushes it up the flue, with a prayer. All this in night clothing and dressing gown. Down comes the soot. Vacuum everything in sight and replace everything. Wash kitchen floor, wash work surfaces. The final step is a facial scrub, a deep bath and double shampoo. Breakfast is made by the person not cleaning the stove.

As a final irony, the top of the market, top technology electric combined microwave, grill, oven, that is my summer cooking assistant (note coolness in word) has suddenly gone on strike. Flatly refuses to work. Am waiting for Bosch Central to come back with a diagnosis.

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