We all gathered around the stove

When conversations with seniors come around to preparing food, the kitchen stove figures prominently in every story from every region.

A few summer days hung around and then left quickly. Overnight, the temperature dropped, the leaves fell, the rain came down and the protests started. The first complaints came from downstairs, with my son urging me to turn the furnace on as his room was cold. Simultaneously, my old cat was sitting on the floor vents whining that no warm air was coming up to sooth his arthritic hip joints.

In response to all this, I could hear my father’s words coming from my mouth, “Throw another blanket on, put on a sweater, get up and do something.” It wasn’t October yet.

We are truly spoiled. We push a thermostat button to raise or lower the temperature or we flick a switch and on comes the gas fireplace to create a warm, comfortable ambiance. As long as the power doesn’t go out, we are happy.

I have had the pleasure recently to interview some seniors for a book project sponsored by Meals on Wheels, ‘Reminiscing, Recipes and Remedies.’  When the conversations come around to preparing food, the kitchen stove figures prominently in every story from every region.

Whether it was fuelled by dumping damp pails of sawdust into the hopper or by one of the children filling the wood box daily, the kitchen stove both heated the home and cooked the meals. It was on day and night, always with a big pot or kettle near the boil providing hot water for cooking, washing, or filling the Saturday night tub.

Because of the stove, the kitchen was the gathering place. Not just for family meals, but the kitchen table was the place for homework, card games, visiting neighbours and often family counselling sessions.

If you woke in your upstairs bedroom to frost on the inside of the window pane and snow that had sifted in to powder the window sill, you knew it would be toasty warm down in the kitchen, with a sizzling breakfast from a cast iron frying pan or pot of porridge ready to warm you from the inside out.

I recall wood trucks or sawdust trucks coming to our house. Companies like Garvin Ice and Fuel or Morrow Ice and Fuel, with the catchy slogan, ‘Call to Morrow for your ice today.’ They delivered to homes all over the Lower Mainland.

There were no buttons to push that split the wood and no switches to flick that shovelled sawdust into pails, and the ice was carried to the sheds or ice boxes. One gentleman shared a summer memory of kids following the ice truck on their bikes. Every time the driver chopped off a block to be delivered, the kids picked up the scattered chips of ice and sucked them like candy or ice cream.

About this time of year, the trunk with the woollen socks, the mittens and the long johns would make an appearance. The woodshed would be full and the chimney would be cleaned. It wouldn’t matter if the power went out, it would be warm in the kitchen.

I have a new furnace filter and the furnace will click on this weekend.  In the meantime, I could send my son out to split wood and encourage the cat to go after the mole in my back lawn. Both of these activities would make them warmer and I’m sure the complaining would stop.

Until then, one more blanket and a sweater will do. At least that’s what McGregor says.