Gathering around the hearth
Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski
This fireplace is in the Kennexstone Farmhouse (circa 1610), Llangennith, Gower, Swansea, UK
Fireplaces used to be the central spot in houses. Everything revolved around them – cooking and heating. The fireplace was never very efficient for heating dwellings. Nowadays fireplaces are regarded as mere accessories in a house. They are not necessities.
Photo by Francisco Belard used under wikimedia commons permission
The blackened stones and bricks are part of the charm of old fireplaces.
Burning actual wood in a fireplace is banned in many communities. People have fake fireplaces with “gas logs” or “electric logs” that look quite real. I suppose families still gather around the hearth and watch the flames, but I don’t think you could toast a marshmallow on a stick over them.
Cooking has moved to the kitchen stove or range. We used to have a wonderful old cooking stove when we lived in Santa Rosa. I drew a picture of it for a book cover.
The cast iron top and burners were easy to scrape clean. The oven didn’t have a window.
Now that I’ve taken up cooking, I was horrified to notice that the window on my range was really grungy. I could not look through it and see how things were doing inside the oven. Blackened spots on the window are not part of the charm of a new oven. We bought the stove when we remodeled the kitchen in 1993. I have never paid any attention to it. I don’t think anyone has cleaned the oven since it was installed. (It wasn’t my job.)
Yesterday, I got to work. It took many hours, but I can see through the window now.