Friday 2 May 2014

Goodbye, Henrietta Findlay (A Eulogy For My Oven)

Alas, my oven has died.

Hetty: A rusty Old Bitch, but we loved her.
Henrietta (also affectionately known as "Hetty", "Skinny Bitch" and "Piece of S#@% That F#$%ing Burned my F@#$ing Bread Again!!!") was the oven that came with my house.  My first thought was "I have lived in a lot of tiny apartments and yet this is the tiniest oven I have ever seen."  She was an itty bitty 20.5" wide.  20.5 inches!!!

You cannot find an oven this small now unless it's a microwave.  We know this because we needed to find replacement parts for her to keep her running over the years and her petite size meant there were some parts we couldn't replace.  This girl was old and broken when we first met.  And it's all been downhill from there.

Eh.  I've worked in smaller kitchens.
My best guess is that she was made sometime in the 1960's.  The company that made her, Findlay's Limited, was bought out by a corporation in 1965 and then went out of business in 1972.  The only evidence of its existence online is in historical archives.  The only way to buy a Findlay stove is on Kijiji as an antique.  We were reluctant to replace her because the smallest possible oven you can buy now is about 24", so no matter what we would have to cut up our kitchen.  There is no other place to put an oven because my kitchen, much like Hetty, is tiny...though not the tiniest.

Hetty served us for ten years.  Which was approximately 30 years past her retirement age.  There were many times we thought we lost her for sure.  There was the time we lost one and then two burners on the stovetop.  But my ingenius husband managed to fix the already-broken-when-we-got-it element on the other side and we just learned to live with 2 out of 4 instead of 3 out of four.  Who needs four elements on their tiny stove anyway?  Not us.

Then there was the first time the oven shut down.  I thought that was it for sure but my husband hooked her up with some new wires and we were good to go.  The second time she died it was because I tried to clean out the oven compartment and the bottom element just disintegrated into ashes when I moved it.  I think that was the time we just moved the broiler element to the bottom of the oven and learned to live without the broiler.  Which BTW totally sucks when you enjoy making nachos, garlic bread and french onion soup.  I had to learn to sear my roasts on the stove top before putting them in to bake.

But after that she worked awesome!  In fact she was working so well that you had to reduce her temperature to about 100 degrees lower than you would actually bake at.  I burned a lot of stuff during that learning curve.  For a while I was not at all capable of baking cookies that weren't black on the bottom.

One time my husband actually salvaged an old element that would actually fit in her and for about three days we had a broiler!  Hallelujah!  But then the broiler died, never to work again, and the bottom element began to slowly die after that.  I started needing to turn the dial up by a hundred degrees hotter than I wanted to bake.  And that was the pattern for the rest of her life.  She would falter in temperature, die, be resuscitated, burn like the fiery pits of hell for a while and begin to falter again.  Keeping her alive while managing to produce decent meals began to be a point of pride for us.

I think I knew it was over for real when we had to stop keeping her clean.  I stopped cleaning the oven because any movement of the elements could jostle a wire too hard and it would stop working.  The last time I tried to clean out the stove elements I discovered that the burner pans were literally being held together by the old aluminum foil cover I was trying to replace.  She looks solid on the outside but her whole insides are riddled with rust.

We were beginning to question the safety of continuing to use this oven when she finally breathed her last.  My husband worked valiantly on her but a vital part snapped in his hands and we lost her forever.

So, Goodbye Hetty.  I'd like to say you served us well but we both know that's not true.  It makes me a little sad knowing how much you won't be missed.  My husband always felt bad about the fact that our kitchen is small given how much I love to cook but the truth is I never minded a small kitchen.  Not really.  The very worst part of my small kitchen was you.  However, I believe when I think of you in the future you will at least be remembered fondly.

But for now....MOMMY'S GETTING A NEW OVEN!!!  WOOHOO!!!  

(dances on Henrietta's rusty old corpse)

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