I said a final goodbye to an old friend today, but I find I’m not feeling as sad as I thought I would. It’s a loss, but one we both knew was coming. I’ve done my best to ease her transition, and I’m hopeful that she will be moving on to a better place.
At least, better than my garage and driveway, which is where she has been hanging out for the past couple months since I ejected her from the house.
Wait, before you accuse me of heartlessness, let’s be clear that I am referring to my old O’Keefe and Merritt stove. A fine old workhorse that has served me faithfully, to be sure, but not a sentient being (at least, I hope not).
When I bought my house 19 years ago, it came with a white elephant (a description the stove matched both in both size and color) that I thought I would soon need to replace. But the repairman who came to fix a minor problem on it set me straight. He told me it was in great shape and would be good forever, and swore that modern stoves couldn’t hold a candle to it.
He wasn’t the only one. I soon discovered these stoves have near-cult status. Over the years, I have heard from scores of people who proclaimed their love for them.
As for me, just having a gas stove after the underpowered electric one I was stuck with in my former D.C. condo was enough to sell me. I didn’t partake in the religious fervor (because it’s an appliance, for crying out loud), but I did develop a certain fondness for it.
Then again, over the years, whenever I stood in my bad old kitchen and fantasized about turning the room into the unbelievably gorgeous showplace it has finally become, retaining the stove and its enormous, space-hogging presences was not in the picture.
Maybe that’s why I never gave it a name. My car has one — Mona. But that’s because I plan to keep her until the state recognizes her for the classic car she is. She’s a member of the family.
So is my oak tree, Woody, who can rest assured there’s no axe in his future.
Likewise, no matter how much I protested and threatened to give him away, there was no chance that my dear, departed feline friend Eddie Haskell wasn’t with me for life, not once I named him.
But the stove was just called “the stove.” Our relationship was long-term, but at heart, I knew it wasn’t permanent. An oversized, freestanding range was never going to work in the new configuration and more modern style I was aiming for.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t care about her, though. Even before my contractor disconnected her, I set about looking for an adoptive family.
I contacted a dealer who specializes in such stoves. He admired mine, but said he had too much inventory at the moment. I tried selling it for a modest price on Craigslist, where I was immediately set upon by obvious scammers more interested in my willingness to take (undoubtedly fake) cashiers checks than in the stove itself. (Here’s a hint, scammers: when you contact someone to buy an item, you might want to try pretending you know or care what that item is.)
I dropped the price to zero and spread the word in other ways, but for various reasons (chiefly its size and the fact that my old stove is, well, old), the interested folks dropped away.
I was getting a bit desperate when someone suggested Habitat for Humanity. I had thought of them originally, but figured they wouldn’t want to put an old stove into a new house they were building. I didn’t realize they run resale shops, whose proceeds help to fund their houses.
The nice volunteers from the store came and picked her up today, and assured me that they will find a buyer for her. I’m happy they will get some cash out of the deal, but even more relieved they saved me from the drastic final solution the Napa garbage folks euphemistically call “bulk pick-up.” I have every faith that she will be adopted by a loving family and will soon be happily taking up too much room in someone else’s kitchen.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying the spacious island that sits where the stove used to, and learning the ways of my shiny new cooktop.
She’s a Wolf, so I’ve named her Virginia.
Now that my cookbook collection is stowed away on the new shelves in my office, I’ve been rediscovering books I forgot about and trying to cook my way out of the microwave rut I fell into during renovation.
For Indian recipes, I usually rely on my friend Raghavan Iyer’s excellent “660 Curries.” But in reshelving my cookbooks, I rediscovered an earlier book he authored, “Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking.” With that title — the ultimate example of American melting pot cookery — I had to dive into it. Rich, creamy butter chicken is one of my favorite dishes in Indian restaurants, and this version is a great way to have it at home.
This simple dish does require one unusual herb (dried fenugreek leaves, also known as methi and available from Whole Spice), but is otherwise a snap to make.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs), cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
5 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
2 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. crumbled dried fenugreek leaves
Combine all ingredients except the butter, tomato sauce and fenugreek in a medium bowl. Cover and let the chicken marinate, refrigerated, for at least an hour or overnight.
Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken mixture and tomato sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is partially cooked, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the fenugreek, reduce the heat and simmer covered for about 10 minutes more or until the chicken is completely cooked.
Serve with rice.