Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stoveless State

(as seen in the Feb. 12, 2009 issue of Abode)

My friend Tricia and I were busy making plans to meet up to see Mamma Mia! when she asked about dinner. “Well,” I said, talking fast and a little nervously, “I’d love to have you over here, but we don’t have a stove, so I can make us something from the microwave. Or salad.”

Silence. Then curious, “This may be a dumb question, but don’t most people have a stove? “

Our month without a stove started in mid-December when my husband made the big purchase—the new gas stove I’d been wanting. Our old electric (a hand-me-down) was on its last legs anyway, with just two functioning burners, so we felt justified. And I’d be going back to a way of cooking that I’d grown up with.

“You’ll get it within a week,” promised the young man in the blue vest/smock. So we moved full steam ahead—getting a new gas line put in and the old stove put out.

Week One: You CAN cook delicious dinners in the microwave! Or so I told myself as I scrolled the Internet and my cookbooks for something I could recreate sans stove. I hit upon the perfect recipe—a spinach, sausage and potato soup we both loved, and I had the ingredients in the house. Plus, everything could be browned and boiled in the microwave!

My husband heaped on the praise as he filled his bowl for the second time. “It’s just as good as the stovetop recipe!” he assured me. “I know!” I said, as I exultantly updated my Facebook status to reflect my success. “You really can cook from scratch without a stove!”

Week Two: Still no stove, and the holidays were upon us. Which meant shipping delays. “It will definitely be this week,” promised another young man at the home improvement warehouse. “Or Monday.” But the holidays also meant we could partake of dinners at other people’s houses. And didn’t have to bring anything—thanks to our stoveless state—Ha!

Week Three: It was here! Our gorgeous stainless steel beauty with the four working burners—I’d never felt so rich. We turned on the oven to get rid of the new-oven smell—and soon felt sick. An acrid burning stench filled the house. “It’s just the oil from the metal burning off,” sources ranging from friends, the Internet and the oven manual told us. “It will go away.”

Four days later, the smell was still there. Without the oven being on. Back came the guys from the home improvement warehouse. “Looks like some extra insulation here,” murmured one as he pulled off a strip from inside the oven, which was toasted an attractive caramel color. A call to the manufacturer confirmed that that definitely wasn’t normal, so back it went as I baking-sodaed our carpets and applied air fresheners.

Week Four: All our proud successes of Week One were out the window. Our freezer was stocked with Lean Pockets, Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits and waffles. In a fit of creativity, I managed to make Manwich from the microwave. And I was reading cookbooks at night before bed trying to manage my cooking withdrawal symptoms.

Week Five: The new stove—from a completely different manufacturer—arrived. I was cautiously optimistic. We tried the burners. We cooked our first dinner—a traditional Chinese meal seemed appropriate, so it was tomatoes with pork, steamed chicken, green beans (out of a can, so not strictly Chinese, but what I grew up with) and rice. We turned on the oven the next day—and breathed a sigh of relief—no horrid burning smell, not even a new oven smell! And promptly made my special Peppermint Patty brownies in celebration.

The love affair is now in full swing. We bask in the glow from the blue flames and devour the sweet and savory offerings they produce. Living without a stove? I wouldn’t recommend it. But they say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Now I know that's true.