Food & Drink

A Stove Named Gertie

Gertie’s oven woomphs and grrrs her way up the temperature scale and then purrs along happily till the potato-Parmesan galette is properly cooked and tanned on the surface, the morel custard is delicately set with a Mona Lisa smile wriggling seductively in the middle, the seasoned rack of lamb crisped on the surface and a dense succulent pink in the center.

And then in her sleep mode, she delicately tends chopped black olives overnight with her pilot light to desiccate them so they can be turned into olive powder to sprinkle over tuna carpaccio.

Gertie’s stovetop burners have the ferocity and vehemence to sear duck breast to render the scored skin to a sweet, succulent-crisp dressed with maple soy sauce. But they also have the light- fingered, shimmering delicacy sufficient to warm a sweet potato custard to evolve into an emulsion for a crème brûlée, melt Taleggio cheese in a non-separating rarebit sauce to dress a poached quail egg.

You can see how important Gertie has been to my work over the last 30 years! So it was with much trepidation that a while ago, I’m afraid I had to report that Gertie, our faithful Garland, had taken up smoking in her old age!

I tried to talk her out of it, to no avail. Though she’s working as strongly as ever, she seems to be running a fever as well as having hot flashes. Large-appliance menopause or gas-trointestinal problems, perhaps? She was due for a physical anyway, so I called Bill from Action Gas Repair—the very best in the biz in New York. Not to worry, you’ll be sorted out in a jiffy, I told Gertie!

Gertie’s physician of many years, Dr. Bill, diagnosed her in short order and performed various procedures to bring her back to optimum health.

I asked Dr. Bill for his honest opinion: should I bite the budget bullet and put Bertie out to pasture and after 30 + years invest in a new stove, which will likely cost a screaming minimum of $8,000 to $10,000, installed? Dr. Bill, a large, affable grump-lump, was adamant. “No way! They don’t make them like this anymore! Stick with her!” After 30 years of taking care of this Garland stove, even grumped Bill referred to it affectionately as Bertie.

She underwent a heart transplant (new pilot light) as well as gas-trointestinal replacement surgery, (new oven burner); hip replacements (new oven bottom plate). She also had ear, nose, throat, and eye examinations (six stove top burners tested). And Dr. Bill gently persuaded her to give up smoking —much to our relief!

Gertie may not be the cutest stove you’ve ever met. She’s a bit lumpy and broad, scarred and blemished, but my goodness – she knows, even after three decades of constant use, how to woomph, grr, and purr in delight at her great calling.

So thank you, dear Pat Allen, MD, for all the years of knowing you AND the blessing of Gertie Garland all those years ago!

Next Page: Ro Howe’s recipe for morel custard in truffled mushroom consommé.

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  • hillsmom August 15, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    A well-told tale of cooking love. It’s making me hungry, too.
    Our first down-size had a propane Chambers gas stove in a light green. (The owner’s father had a propane business). For me, being from the Midwest, it was nice to cook on gas again. Fortunately, when we switched to gas, it was an easy conversion to natural gas. The oven was small, but the only way I know how to cook a turkey is in our Weber charcoal grill. (11 minutes a pound un-stuffed). I’m only mentioning this because Chef Howe might be familiar with the Chambers brand, and I’m not a chef anyway. The next downsize 25 miles west, out of 19035 and back to electric. IIRC, the Chambers would work during power outages. My favorite cookbook is still “The I Hate to Cookbook” by Peg Bracken. TMI?

    I’ll stop only to mention that your Dr. Bill is to be treasured as is my beloved plumber. Going to get a wee snack now. Thanks for some good memories.