Stoves ~ The Heart of the Home





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 

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!


The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride 


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50 thoughts on “Stoves ~ The Heart of the Home”

  1. The ‘hearth’ the the heart of my life, at least it should be since I spend soooo much time there. 🙂

    As a professional cook person I love my professional equipment–convection ovens, steamers, multi-burner gas stove, someone else who does the dishes. 😉

    When I was little I would help gramma with the meals and canning(but I hated it when I had to go to the nasty old dirt basement for canning jars!) Sometimes, I would play waitress and make up menus and everyone would then owe me for supper. Guess I got an early start for my current profession.

    I’d like to say I learned to bake from my gramma, but she was a self-claimed short order cook. She would make sweeties on occasion for grampa, wasn’t much of a baker. She was totally delighted when the cake mix companies came out with an easy way to make cookies using a cake mix. That fit into her short order style much better.

    Me? I love to bake. But there was that time in high school when I thought I’d make cream puffs. Now, the dough for cream puffs is rather dull as you cook it on the stove. My dad tasted it, declared it unfit to eat and threw it out. You know, I don’t think I’ve tried cream puffs since!

    And now, I’m off to make Docinhos de abobora. Brazilian pumpkin candy. For the kids who’ve taken cooking as their enrichment activity at camp this week. Having groups of kids helping cook certainly has kept the heart in this kitchen beating!

  2. Morning Stacey!

    I’m in the midst of reading The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride and loving it.

    My memories of the kitchen are usually either in my mom’s or grandma’s kitchen. My grandmother had one of those formica and chrome kitchen tables and I can remember sitting in a chair next to it while she mixed up biscuits, right there on the table. No written recipe for them, she eyeballed the ingredients and I guess she just knew it by heart. She used lard, so they were always the lightest, fluffiest, flakest biscuits and she would use a small round cutter to make mininture biscuits for me when I was little. :o)

    I can remember watching my grandma use an electic skillet to fry a huge batch of chicken for all of us, or the big pot she made chili in. She let me use the blender when we had mashed potatoes and even let me decide when they were “just right”. I was always her taste tester. I really miss those days, though now I have a taste tester or two of my own- my kids. I let them lick the beaters when I’m done and taste test a lot of things.

    One of my favorites was watching my grandma take dried apples she soaked in water and make homemade turnovers.

    And I think my uncles still have the old kitchen stove that my grandpa found at a fleamarket. They never used it, but it looked quite a bit like the last two pictures you posted. Someday I will have to try to get a picture of it. My grandparents used old wood and coal burning stoves in the winter, so we spent a lot of time around the hearth and that’s probably why I miss it so much since they’re both gone. It was those times in my childhood when family was close and everyone was together.

  3. Hi Stacey,
    I have a newly remodeled kitchen and I love the microwave on top, the range in the middle and the big oven underneath. It saves room and of course, it’s digital and cooks like a charm.

    We had a turqouise range, no microwave (of course) and it was electric, when I was growing up. My mom never got used to electric stove cooking, but it was the New Thing, so we got one. Boy, did my dad have fun teasing her about burning meals. And forget about baking .. those electric ovens back then, were not like today. They cooked unevenly. 🙂

  4. My grandma had a wood burning stove in her kitchen until the day she died. She mainly used it for heat I think. She had a regular stove too.

    That was a cool old thing. The first time I went to the county historical museum I went into a ‘old time kitchen’ display. Yikes, it was my grandma’s kitchen. And she was still using it all.
    Grandma was born in 1902 and died in 1984, so she saw a lot of changes in her life.

  5. Good morning, Stacey. I’ve got Gunslinger on my TBR list but must say again how much I enjoyed Maverick Wild. The mud-slinging-puddle scene made me laugh out loud–in public LOL.

    I am not a cook although I do know how. There’s something called Dream Dinners going on around here that I am investigating. My hubby is the chef around here. I do the clean-up. Works perfectly.

    This info on stoves is definitely something I will be looking back on. Thanks for the research.

  6. Hi Stacey. Thanks for the great, informative blog. My kitchen is due for an update but right now I’m settling for drab, especially since I only cook when I have company.
    My grandma had a stove very much like the one in your bottom picture. I remember it well. Wonder Bread used to come in a waxed paper wrapper. When the bread was gone she would use the wrapper to polish the hot stove till it gleamed.
    Be sure to give us some photos of your new kitchen when it’s done!

  7. Hi Stacey,

    Those old stoves and fireplaces always fascinate me. I don’t know how those women got a meal prepared. Just boggles my mnd how they got the wood fire at the temperature they needed it without using a dial! lol

    I agree with you though that kitchens are (or used to be) the gathering place for families. I loved the kitchen in the house where I grew up. It was always warm and inviting and I loved watching my mom cook. I remember coming home from church at noon on Sunday and smelling a roast cooking in the oven. It was heavenly. I remember when she got her first electric skillet. That was a big deal in our house. Fried chicken cooked in that made me drool. And sometimes she put the roast in the electric skillet instead of the oven. Then, we’d get around the table with everyone talking and laughing and eating. Those are memories I won’t take a million dollars for.

    Excellent blog! 🙂

  8. Oh wow, sounds like fun, Lizzie!

    I love to cook and bake, though I haven’t had the chance to do much lately. When I got married and had my own kitchen I baked like crazy and got into cake decorating–my boys had big three-teired cakes for their birthdays in clown themes, and trains–but fave was The Bug’s Life cake, with giant leaves going up the pillars to each level 😉 Also had some mishaps—my first time cooking with jalapenos ~ Avoid the steam!!! That was a painful lesson *g*

    Thanks for sharing your memories, lizzie!

  9. Hi Taryn ~ Hope you enjoy the rest of Gunslinger 🙂 I will say, when Lily finally gets her hot chocolate it’s a cozy scene 😉

    My grandma had the formica table too! I loved that table 😀 Both of my grandma’s were amazing “pinch” cooks—a pinch of this, a pinch of that *g*–so wish I have paid more attenition 😉 I’m a recipe alteror *g*

    Thanks so much for sharing, Taryn!

  10. Oh man, I can still hear all the complaining about those electric ovens, Charlene 😀 My family pefers gas — not me though — lighting those stoves made me jump *lol* But there’s a lotta men and women in my family who swear gas is the only way to cook 😉 My, I burn everythign on a gas stove–not used that instant heat *g*

    Thanks for sharing!!

  11. Hi Tanya! So glad you enjoyed the mud fight!!! It was one of my favorite scenes in MAVERICK WILD 🙂 Mostly for the look on Chance’s face when Cora pelted him 😉

    Dream Dinners…sounds like somethign I could use right now! *g*

    Thanks for posting!!

  12. Hi Elizabeth! My pleasure 🙂 That’s the great thing about research, no matter how refined the search, the information well overfloweth *g*

    What neat memories about that wonder wax paper!

    As for my remodel, we’re doubling the size of our house, which is exciting, since I have two six-foot sons and if feels like we live in a shoe box 😉 My backyard is now gone and they’ve poored the slab for the new section of house. Our front yard is about to become our backyard–one great thing about living in open country, you can flip you house by moving the driveway *g* Hopefully by Christmas I can share the finished product 😉

  13. I’m thinking cookng on those stoves was an artform, Linda

    My mom had a hot plate for her first kitchen–and I was recently talking to my CP and her mom did too! They’d spend all day cooking meals on them, one pot at a time 😉

    Ya know, I hardly remember walking into my grandma’s house without those heavenly smells coming from the kitchen.

    Thank you for sharing your precious memories, Linda 🙂

  14. Stacey:
    I enjoyed your blog. We did a lot of research on stoves when writing our debut novel. The girls and Aunt Sarah spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, not only cooking and cleaning up, but ironing as well. That sad iron had to be heated up constantly, and where better than the already hot stove?
    I’m not much of a cook. I prefer an electric stove, for gas scares me pea-green! My grandmother was an excellent cook. She had an electric range by the time I knew her, and my mother had one, too. She was also a good cook. It skipped me and landed in my daughter and granddaughters, who all use electric stoves, too.
    But there are some new stoves out there that have even me drooling! Have you seen the one with the warming pan with it? Woo HOO that looks like a good one! Penny

  15. Hi Penny! Looking forward to your debut novel 🙂

    Aren’t these old stoves fascinating?! Those irons would make a great post all on their own 😉

    I have yet go stove shopping…will have to keep an eye out for that one!

    Thanks for dropping by.

  16. Hey Stacey, my grandmother had a woodstove until she left the farm and moved into a retirement facility. I wasn’t crazy about the outhouse or lack of electrictiy at the old farm, but I loved her wood stove. It sat between the door to the small pantry and the wash room – where we washed – only. 🙂

    I don’t know the age of the house, but it was old when I was young. The wash room to the left of the stove was sinking down – deeply. Every time we visited, the big thrill was to see how far it had dropped. We could tell b/c the back left leg of the stove was sitting on air!

    The coffe pot was always on the back middle plate and the house always smelled of wood smoke.

    It must’ve made an impression on me b/c one of the first cookbooks I bought was Mrs. Restino’s Country Kitchen: The Complete Wood Stove Cookbook, 1976 Quick Fox.

    I’m looking at that softcover book now. The pages are dogeared and the spine is mega creased. And although I haven’t rec’d my wood stove yet, the book is invaluable for my historical writings. 🙂

  17. HI Stacey!

    Awesome post. The kitchen is still the heart of our home, that’s a certainty. Both my husband and myself gravitate there — especially since we do all our own storage of food and make all our own bread and food stuffs — we often are in the kitchen — we even have a radio there where we can listen to whatever is on the radio at that time.

    We don’t have a wood stove — we’re using gas for ours — probably not a good thing in this environment, huh?

    Great info, Stacey!

  18. Interesting blog, Stacey!

    Some of those early stoves look like alien contraptions.

    And I live in a small rowhouse where the living, dining and kitchen area all flow into one another. It’s open and airy. I love it!

  19. Anita Mae ~happy squeals~ you just made my day! Another wonderful gem to covet–I just ordered my copy of Mrs. Restino’s Country Kitchen: The Complete Wood Stove Cookbook off Amazon 😀 What fun!

    And what wonderful memories–thank you for sharing!

  20. We just finished a kitchen remodel, and even before that, I think the kitchen’s been where our family spends the most time together 🙂 It helps also that it connects directly to the family room, so it’s perfect for us to all hang out 😉 (And I’m not much of a cook even with our lovely new stove–I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to cook with the old-style stoves!) Best wishes for a swift and happy remodel experience!

  21. I appreciate those swift & happy remodeling wishes, Fedora 🙂 I am most excited about having that communal layout. Right now my kitchen is a little isolated alley way 🙁 So looking forward to looking out at a wrap-around bar top and living room.

    Congrats on your remodel, Fedora!!

  22. You’re welcome Stacey.

    After all the fabulous info I’ve gleaned from P&P, I’m glad I can give a small tidbit back.

    I have a question, though: What is the handle thingy that picks up the stove plates? Is it called a lifter?

  23. Love this blog, Stacey. Since I love to cook, bake, can fruit, etc. I have a great love of my stove. When we remodeled we got a gas stove which cooks so differently from our former electric. Since we live in the mountains and have frequent power outages, I’ve used our woodstove to cook on, bringing back a touch of the olden days. Even though it has saved us many times, our new gas stove can be used during non-electric days AND that’s a good thing.

  24. Hi Stacey! Your blog reminded me of the great big stove my great-aunt used to have way up north in northern Ontario. It was the only wood-burning stove I’ve ever seen someone use as their only kitchen appliance. I can still see her shoving logs in the top and telling us how much she loved her stove (even though the rest of us had electric ones). I really loved the smell.

    Wonderful post.

  25. I have a similar stove to the last picture in the blog in my basement. We have used it at different times. Mainly when the lights are out! It used to be used every year at butchering time but we no longer do our own. The stove was used to render lard and cook the heads for liver sausage. Was a real shock for this town girl when given a toothbrush and told to brush the teeth. Pregnant and fighting morning sickness all day long, I soon headed out the door to return when the heads were gone. We now live on the homeplace and have inherited the stove, the sausage stuffer and all the other equipment my husband’s family used for this annual ritual. Yes I did learn to help but I don’t miss it.

  26. Omgosh, Connie…can I just say…eeeeuuuuwwwww. *g* You are a trooper! Morning sickness aside, not sure I’d stomach such a task. I don’t blame you for not missing it 😉

  27. I can remember once in the olden days that my grandparents butchered a hog in preparation for the
    Christmas holidays. ( Tamales for the holidays is
    a tradition) Since I was quite young, 8 or 9) I was able to excuse myself from the gory sequences! I
    did come back when it was time to eat the tamales!

    Pat Cochran

  28. You bet, Anita Mae! I love diagrams *g* I am such a visual learner/thinking/writer 😉 Also a huge fan of eye-witness and picture dictionaries 😀 Can’t wait for the new cookbook!

  29. I have a cream an green enameled cook stove,I havent tried to use it,but im sure it would work,it did some day ago,I love it but it weighs a ton or two,I used to have a antique booth in a shoppe as a hobby but had to quit due to health reasons but my house was full of it too,I got totally carried away,I loved that stuff,lol

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