With each book I write one prop tends to stand out as a research favorite. In THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE Lily’s chocolate pot led to my chocolate pot fetish. I was fascinated by these decorative chocolate servers of the 1800’s. The chocolate pot doesn’t have a huge role in the book and yet finding just the right image for this prop played a big role for me in developing Lily’s character.
While writing my current book the hero’s stove became an item of focus, a prop I had to see to really set my mental scene. While searching for the perfect stove for Garret’s kitchen I found some fascinating images and information on the evolution of the stove, which rekindled my appreciation for the convenience of our era!
High-teck cooking of the early 18th Century:
The hearth was heart of the home for early American families and the swinging crane was a revolutionary invention. “It allowed the cook to move pots in and out of the fire without lifting them, to stir, add to or check the dish without straining one’s back or risking hot spills, and offered a more comfortable away-from-the-heat environment in which to work. Now the pot adjustments regulating cooking temperatures could be both up and down as well as in and out. Moreover, no longer limited to the number of trammels, there was an increased amount of hanging space and thereby increased possibilities for the number of pots and the complexity of the meals.” Found this gem of information at http://www.journalofantiques.com/hearthapr01.htm
That’s not to say they didn’t have cast iron stoves. In 1740, Benjamin Franklin improved upon the design of stoves by creating the “Pennsylvania Fireplace”
The cook stoves of the 19th Century ~ a new evolution in cooking.
As early as the 1820’s the Step-top cook stove design (above) was seen.
Check out the lovely work of art below–this is an 1840 Box Stove. The detail is beautiful complete with fancy door to the fire box and ornate tray to catch the ashes.
The manufacture of cook stoves and ranges flourished during the latter half of the nineteenth century, as few houses were being built with fireplaces. Below is an Easy-Step Oven of 1870 – extremely complicated by today’s standards!
As we move into the 1880’s and 1890’s, stoves begin to take a more familiar form.
I loved this quote about the influence of cook stoves on early American families (not so unlike some views on the influence of television in later years *g*): “This is not to say that all change was always thought to be for the best. The cook stove, for example, was blamed for the demise of the American fireside and the decline of the family. No longer did everyone sit together around the hearth in the evening, cozily telling stories and discussing the day at the fireside. And the food was not always as good—roasted meats, for example, suffered in the iron monster.”
Roasted meats do sound scrumptious, but I’m quite partial to my digital stove and sadly…my microwave! But some of my fondest memories were made in my mom’s and grandma’s kitchens–around their gas stoves, which took over households in the 1920’s. I enjoyed watching/helping as my mom and grandma’s pickled, preserved and baked…jams, cobblers and chicken and dumplings…ah, the scent of happy memories 🙂
How about you? Is your kitchen the heart of your home? Have any favorite stove or kitchen memories you’d like to share?
We are in the midst of remodeling ours, the new kitchen will actually be at center/heart of our house and will be open to the new living room and dining room–I can’t wait!!
In Bookstores Now!