Sunday, March 9, 2014

The St George Stove, aka Mrs Patmore

I love this house. It's like living inside a fairy tale of my own creation; it is at once familiar and yet full of surprises.

The house was disused for several years, but was brought back to life during the time when Bronwyn Bishop was Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel (1996 - 1998). Apparently, she loves old homes and arranged to have it re-opened and re-used.

Mrs Patmore, Head Cook of Downton Abbey

At the heart of the kitchen is a St George Stove. My guess (from the styling of the dials) is that this dates back to the 1970's, although St George stoves first began production in 1947. St George Appliances are still in business; they are an Australian company, based in Sydney. When the kitchen was renovated (presumably in the late 1990's) the kitchen maker is alleged to have declared the stove a treasure, and refused to remove it.

The stove suits the style of the kitchen and the house perfectly, and I'm very glad it's here. There is a marvelous extraction fan with bright LED lights that utilise the former chimney, which make it bright and pong-free to cook on.

However, it's not altogether easy to use. There is no fan in either of the ovens and each is heated by a naked element at the top and bottom. This has meant that (thus far) food quickly steams or burns, or both. The rings on the stove top are well placed, but after using gas for many years I'm finding it tricky to adjust to cooking with electricity.

I've called the stove Mrs Patmore, after the inimitable head cook from Downton Abbey.
[It seems, from my reading and internet perusing, that it's not cool to like Downton Abbey any more (if it ever was) but I confess to being a DA tragic, owning all the series on DVD and having watched each one more than once.]

Mrs Patmore's character is hard on the outside and yielding on the inside. I'm hoping that my relationship with the St George stove will mellow into a similar metaphor. After several attempts (read: at least 10) I have learnt to time cup cakes perfectly so that they no longer have blackened bottoms.

'Mrs Patmore' is just one of the many surprises within the house that dictate a certain style of living. We were having a friend over for morning tea yesterday and before hand popped out to the local Lions' market. This monthly event at the Clarendon Showground  is a veritable treasure trove for keen thrifters. Aside from cakes, plants, food and craft, there are always a number of 'junk' stalls, all of which glean delights.

Yesterday I found this tray, which looked perfect for the house. It is a solid oak piece, dedicated to a Mrs Alchin from her Bowning friends.

Hal was sent offered to negotiate a best price (with the enticement of financial reward if he could barter lower than the original asking price) and succeeded in getting it $8 cheaper.

I'm thrilled with it. The timber responded perfectly to O'Cedar Oil and it was the ideal accompaniment to morning tea.

Life, as previously observed, so often seems to go in circles; after I'd bought the tray and we were having a good look at the dedication plaque, the Gent noticed the Bowning reference. He said that Bowning is near Yass in NSW, and is the place where his mother's maternal family come from.

Very apt.

The beautiful tea cloth and napkins are a recent gift from my Mother in Law, but that's another story.

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