Thursday, August 17, 2006
Saying goodbye to the beloved workhorse
Yesterday, after the kitchen’s classic old Wedgewood range had a particularly gassy morning, we decided its time has come. We have been considering this for a long time. It leaks gas, and we can’t continue to deny how terrible we would feel if we kept it around for its beauty and old-style quality, but blew up our house.
I’ve never felt an attachment to a metal appliance like this before. It was installed when the house was built in the 40’s, and I imagine it has cooked literally thousands of chicken dinners. Since I had the pleasure of cleaning it upon move-in, I know this to be true. The extra space next to the oven is a trash burner that is pretty much useless except as a conversation topic, but the extra space on top is helpful for hot pans. The knobs have a sturdy feel it seems to require over $4000 or a name like Wolf or Thermador to get in a modern range. And despite its age and leaking burners, it rarely has failed me or burned a meal. It’s not self-cleaning, which is a feature I would definitely hope for if buying a new oven, but the surfaces are surprisingly perfect and easy to clean nonetheless. Probably due to the lead and other toxic content in the metals since there was no such thing as environmental regulations at the time it was made.
As we slowly tear down the chicken ranch infrastructure, the Wedgewood is one of the few consistent, lasting reminders of those times. Cooking on it makes me think about Mrs. Harvey, part of the couple who built and ran the ranch. I wonder if she wore flowery house dresses while making dinner, if she was happy when she cooked, if she had children and pets, if Mr. Harvey ever came up and slapped her on the butt while she was cooking, if she suffered from poison oak, and what her favorite chicken recipes were. The Wedgewood’s presence even helps me cope with the unexpected crisis in a way, because it reminds me of how people like Mrs. Harvey had to be more resourceful back then without all our modern conveniences. She couldn't run to the computer and order up a new toothbrush from Safeway if she dropped hers behind the toilet.
Last night we toasted the range and made speeches, spilled tequila and grapefruit pulp on it, and I actually found myself in tears. Granted, as Pops tactlessly pointed out, it is getting close to a certain time of the month hormonally which could account for the excessive emotion—and after I angrily refuted that theory I realized he’s probably right as usual. Yet, I can’t help but feel like removing this hearth is like ripping the heart out of the house. It holds the ranch’s stories and history, along with the unreachable crumbs of dinners past in its dark inner recesses, and makes it feel like a farmhouse.
Spent all yesterday loitering in appliance departments, trying to figure out which salesman we should trust, which brand is better between a multitude of names which all seem to be owned by the same corporation anyway, whether I really need all those extras like the second smaller oven (okay, I guess not), the warming drawer (sure, I’ll go for that), or the memory keypad (what the hell?…I’ll never use that).
Perhaps I will become equally devoted to the shiny new self-cleaning range we chose to replace it. I’m grateful that it won’t poison me while I cook, and I’m sure the dependability and newer technology will make cooking easier. In the end this a good thing, and I'm aware that I am lucky, in these days of suffering and war, that I can go out and buy a new range. But the new guy will have some big shoes to fill as the heart of the ranch.