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The Charcoal Stove

Posted on 7.08.2015

My grandmother’s kitchen – I don’t remember it that well but the food that she prepared for the special occasions, they’re still fresh in my mind. The kitchen, it was simple but functional; the kind with spice bottles arranged on wooden shelves, the plates and saucers neatly arranged on a rack and the cooking utensils hanging near the stove. 

The stove, well, it was a rather unique one. It was made from clay and had an opening on the front where you could see the flames. Set on a waist high platform built from bricks was this rather unique looking cooking appliance that helped prepare many simple but satisfying meals.

I asked mom if she ever used the stove and in a split second, we travelled back in time. Mom mentioned that the first thing that came to mind was the smoke getting into their eyes (my grandma and her), making them tear as they fanned the flames. 

Back in the days, charcoal was cheap and easily available. According to mom, a huge sack of charcoal could last them for a month. It’s no wonder why the charcoal stove was so popular back in the days. 

The charcoal was loaded through the top opening along with some chips of wood. Then, a bit of kerosene was poured onto the charcoal and lit with a match stick. Next, a hand held fan made from palm leaves was used to fan the flames. Sometimes, a cylindrical metal rod was used to blow air into the charcoal to help light it.

These stoves took about 20-30 minutes to heat up, the ash made the cook and their home dirty and the temperature of the stove was hard to control. It was a tough job but no one complained. Once the stove was lit, the pot was then placed on the stove and the slow and steady heat from the charcoal was sufficient enough to cook and feed the entire family. By the time the meal was prepared, the cook will already be drenched in sweat. 

As times changed, the charcoal stoves slowly faded into history but the taste of the food prepared on it, ask anyone who has lived in that era and they’re sure to tell you that it was the best tasting ever. It retained the natural flavours of a dish better due to the heat-flow and with dishes such as chicken or lamb, they turned out crispier on the outside and juicier on the inside

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