Goodbye Betsy, Halloo India ~

Last Monday after seven fruitful years it was Goodbye to Betsy and Halloo to um, can’t yet think what to call her…

Betsy was our stove, only I believe the term nowadays is “range.” She (vessels that contain things are feminine) came when the house’s previous stove/range was no longer functional. I’d asked my good friend and former food editor on the Los Angeles Times, Russ Parsons, which stove to buy. Russ surprised me with a name I’d never heard.

“Blue Star,” Russ said. “Absolutely. They’re made in Pennsylvania and…”

My husband was pleased–Bill was born in Philadelphia. I found Blue Star’s phone number and ordered one. I cherished the idea it came from an American foundry making stoves since 1880.

November, 2016, Betsy (I’m silly about giving names to objects I like, named her for her Pennsylvania predecessor, Betsy Ross) arrived.

I was particularly excited because her left front burner offered 25,000 BTUs, (same as a Chinese restaurant’s burner for stir-frying). Her oven was capacious, her broiler unexpectedly electric (fast and efficient), a button created convection baking, and her pattern of black cast iron burner grates was sculptural.

But you know how it goes. There’s always something. I’ve enjoyed cooking with gas since I could lift pot to burner–that would be when I was eight. Suddenly there was a brouhaha about gas not being healthy for breathing. Since I like to breathe all the time, that was a shocker. I was told (who were these people with sudden disruptive notions?) to turn on the exhaust fan the moment I turned on a gas burner. I did, but the fan is noisy and I couldn’t hear Anderson Cooper broadcasting on the other side of the big television set. Nuisance. No time to dig into it, though, no time to seek where the truth lay…

Then a couple of months ago we drove up the coast for great-grandson Zyl’s sixth birthday party. His father, grandson Stuart, is a mechanical engineer…

An aside. One day after he obtained his degree, I asked Stuart, “I’ve no idea what you mechanical engineers do! Please tell me!” Stuart smiled, “Well, Grandma–” Just then someone called him and I never got an answer.

Awhile later, musing about it while making supper (I do good thinking in the kitchen, it’s a congenial place even though some find it messy–ranks of herbs and spices from all over the world, sleek bottles of oils and vinegars ditto, hanging pans and pots I’ve used for years, whisks and ladles and sieves and knives–a surround of old friends), suddenly the answer burst upon me. Of course!

My good Betsy, the exhaust fan above her, the microwave oven, the big toaster oven, the amazing dishwasher, electric kettle, food processor, immersion blender, kitchen scale, whisks, corkscrews, oil spray bottles–not to mention cell phone, house phone, television set!… EVERYTHING IN MY KITCHEN AND NEARBY IT WAS DESIGNED–INVENTED–BY SOMEONE!

Yesterday’s inventors are today’s mechanical engineers.

I was elated, remembered the inventors on both sides of my family…how splendid their gifts had come down to my daughter’s son.

Arriving at the birthday party in need of coffee, I walked into Stuart and Gaia’s small kitchen and straight into a WHOA! WOW! LOOK AT THAT!

It was a majestic stainless steel stove. Range. Electric. Glistening smooth surface.

“Gaia! Tell me about this!”

“It’s an induction range.” She pointed out burners heated way fast and changes in heat were instantaneous. The glass top was a breeze to clean. And safe for the two little boys (a flash through my mind: When someone grabs a pot off the stove and rushes away forgetting to oops turn off the burner, there’d be no oops to worry about…). My superlative granddaughter-in-law loves to bake, said, “And look at this!” The large oven could be divided into two smaller ovens.

Two ovens was in the realm of 18-karat gold hoop earrings.

“Oh, and it air fries.” That did it. Cameron, our resident teenage grandson, is crazy for air-fried chicken nuggets. For him I’d bought a small air fryer (all that would fit in our kitchen), came to dreading cooking nuggets in relays.

Stuart came into the kitchen, saw me inspecting the machine. “Hey, Grandma, we love it!”

They’d had it nearly a year (lordy, had it been that long since we’d visited?)

Home from Zyl’s birthday party, I presented my induction notion to my husband. Bill thought it a fine idea. “It’ll be for your birthday, darling.” Gosh.

Normally before making a significant purchase, I do a deal of research. But I reasoned that all the reassurance I needed was that Stuart knew machinery, Gaia knew cooking and baking, and they’d lived with it most of a year. Ample proof of the pudding.

I ordered it. Bill recommends I tell you which it is: Samsung’s “6.3 cu. ft. Smart Slide-in Induction Range with Flex Duo™, Smart Dial & Air Fry”.

That was early May. They were backordered. More reassurance.

July 3rd, it finally came.

But what should I name this new girl? Since I first cooked with her on the cusp of the Fourth of July, I think I’ll call her India, short for Independencia… And she’s from Korea–Bill served in The Korean War, which means he helped preserve her country’s independence. (Since I read the name India Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, I’ve fancied it.)

OK, here’s my report.

Smart she is. Way smart. And dear. India warbles a few bars when an oven reaches the desired temperature. Illumines a beautiful turquoise ring around the knob on the front of the stove when a burner turns on. And turns off a burner when there’s nothing on it.

Beyond smart, she’s prescient. Induction cooking is by electro-magnetic waves reacting to the ferrous qualities in vessels made of iron and steel. When I tried heating water for Bill’s syrup for our hummingbird feeders in a wide old saucepan I’ve long used to make preserves–wasn’t sure of its metal–in twenty seconds there was a not sweet sound–rather a harumph–and a “U” appeared on the dashboard indicating “Unh-uh.” Same thing with one of my first-ever saucepans, a ’50s Revere copper-stainless-steel-bottomed saucepan. Fortunately all the rest of my cookware is made of magnetic stuff…

Regarding the oven/ovens. Monday night in the top oven at 275 degrees I three-hour-braised a tenderloin of pork (ginger-soy sauce-peanut-butter cloak from Patricia Wells’ My Master Recipes) and in the bottom oven baked two whole sweet potatoes at 400 degrees. Sublime.

But where were my wits? I was daft with excitement, that’s where they were, and forgot that you DO NOT BAKE WHOLE SWEET POTATOES WITHOUT SOMETHING BENEATH THEM! Sugary juices burst all over the place then caramelized then burnt to pure black crisps. Monday night after supper I spent an hour cleaning India’s bottom.

And since? Happy as can be. What mechanical engineers have created on this culinary machine make my head spin. And I’m enjoying breathing.

Betsy? She’s with a woman attorney whose practice is devoted to policing the police. Great vibes.

What fortunate girls.

All four of us.

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