Get cooking: without a stove?

It’s October 1st and I’ve been without a stove for exactly two weeks. How have I been getting along? Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. Does that convey my frustration well enough? Frankly, though, because I’ve been working with “go with the flow” for so long, not always successfully, mind you, I’m going to be okay. Even though we will not get the new stove for 9 more days. Gahhhhhhhhhhh. See? That one was shorter.

How did this happen? I live in a thirty-three year old passive solar contemporary house my husband and his late wife built with two young, right-out-of The Shelter Institute house-building program “builders.” The house is still standing, and is roomy and attractive. Now, the stove. The Marden’s Jenn air range was a drop-in, which means it was placed in a counter set-up that faces an open living/dining area. It had a down-draft vent, so there wouldn’t have to be an overhead fan that would block the cook’s view of her company, presumably sitting watching her with rapt attention.  That’s me. I love an audience.

So when the faithful Jenn air began its slow decline three years ago, we had to decide whether to replace it with a Jenn air at a $2400 price tag, (Jenn air is the only company that makes a down-draft stove) or forget a vent at all and buy a standard range. After three years with only two burners that worked properly, a vent that threw off sparks if you turned it on, the day came when we had to choose. I pulled the bar on the oven door to open it, and one end fell off. We went to Sears and bought a nice, white, glass-topped electric stove and arranged delivery.

The stove was delivered, but somehow, the measurements weren’t right. Delivery refused, another trip to Sears, where I’m sure the salesmen got a good chuckle from Frick and Frack, to buy something else that wouldn’t protrude too far into the narrow kitchen area. After much gnashing of teeth and more measuring the floor models, our saintly salesman (Thank you Bob Beauschene!) revealed that the model that had been delivered would not protrude that much, and would indeed fit.

Another delivery, another problem.

This time the width of the opening was discovered to be too narrow. A half-inch would have to be “shaved” off the tile countertop. Stove goes into the garage, and we call our saintly handyman (Thank you Rick Sweet!) to come do said task.

We called our electrician, who came to install a plug below the stove, and he offered to install the stove. Yea! So close! But he didn’t put the necessary support under the it , and the glass top cracked under the weight it couldn’t support. Are you following this? If not, you’re excused. It boggles the mind.

The stove that taunts me with its sinister fizzure

The stove that taunts me with its sinister fizzure

Sears offered to do a swap with a brand new stove (high-five, Sears!) but won’t be able to deliver until October 9th. I have a new stove taunting me with its long crack. It works, but I can’t use it. At least I can cook my own birthday dinner on the 11th!

Why am I even telling you this? No idea. Just had to get it documented. Meantime, what have we been eating? The first night, good citizen that I am, I made a shrimp risotto in my favorite appliance, my rice cooker. It turned out so well that I’m on the fence about whether I’ll ever stand over a pot of rice on the stove stirring it for 40 minutes until it turns into that creamy mass called ri-SOT- to. My husband is Italian, and that’s how you say it: “Ree-SSOT-toe,” no “rizzoto.” Minor detail, and I digress.

Rice cooker also doubles as steamer

Rice cooker also doubles as steamer

After a few days, though, and the second delay, we bought an electric frying pan and while we were at it, a small Fry Daddy. Many of my friends advised me to “just grill.” We have a Baby Webber charcoal grill, and yes, when it wasn’t raining or cold, we did grill. I even put our cast iron grill pan on the open fire and had delicious, tender, lemon-pepper marinated chicken breasts (Yea, Hannaford, for that marinade!).

The electric skillet, however, has been the most versatile and handy appliance. Last night I made broccoli di rabe, Italian sausage and pasta. Blanched the broccoli di rabe first, took it out to drain, then boiled the ditilini in that water to “al dente” and took it out. Threw out the liquid, browned the sausages in some olive oil with lots of chopped garlic. Combined everything and let the flavors meld.

Beloved Electric Skillet, life-saver when you have no stove

Beloved Electric Skillet, life-saver when you have no stove

And even though I don’t ordinarily use convenience foods, I found Bove’s and Pineland Farms frozen meatballs to be handy and delicious. Throw those in the slow cooker with some Pomi tomato sauce and there’s topping for pasta cooked in the frying pan.

Here’s what I miss: I make soup a lot. Sometimes it’s to have something around to eat (I freeze a lot of it).  But on a day like today, October first, it’s dark and forbidding outside. I’m sure I can hear the headless horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow galloping down our lonely, rural road. On a day like this, when the falling leaves tell us winter is coming, there is nothing more self-comforting than gathering and chopping vegetables, smelling that first whiff of onions sizzling in butter or olive oil, pushing the veggies around my bright red Copco pot, putting in that bay leaf, sprig of thyme, the lovely white cannellini beans I’ve soaked overnight then standing back and letting it simmer. That’s what I miss.

This will be the first dish I make when I get the new one! Osso Buco & Happy Birthday to me

This will be the first dish I make when I get the new one! Osso Buco & Happy Birthday to me

“Don’t wish your life away,” my Mum used to say. So I am not wishing October 9th would hurry up already. No, I’m not. Instead, I’m going to thank that electric frying pan for all its hard work and try hard to make a pot of soup in it. Lentil and fennel? Why not.

Kate Cone

About Kate Cone

Kate Cone has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, is a freelance writer and the author of "What's Brewing in New England: A Guide to Brewpubs and Microbreweries," published by Downeast Publications in 1997. She is currently updating What's Brewing with a second book about New England craft beer to be published in 2015.