Here’e a part of my small collection of ironmongery, of cast iron cooking pots and pans. Antiquated orphans when I found them. Unwanted and discarded trash. How could I not take them home? Just leave them there?
What is it about these old objects, these simple vintage household goods? Solid cast iron made to be well used, they are utilitarian in their style and shape with deep bowls and long handles, a gritty substance, big character and big weight.
A little research and one finds much about our cuisine and culinary history in books and social media. In colonial times most cooking utensils in Australia were of heavy iron like those you see here. Pots, kettles, fryers, griddles, boilers, frying pans and camp ovens. Sometimes too heavy to lift without help. A pot crane was often desirable & necessary to hang pots over the heat. The crane would swing outwards for easier access.
Similar cookware was used in England, the American continent and continental Europe. The casting of iron like this for family and everyday use was world-wide it seems.
So, what is it about these old kitchen utensils? It’s a sort of imagining, a wistfulness for me as I see beyond their utility and usefulness to their physical and emotional beauty. What do they remind you of? For me, it’s a thinking, a memory that goes back many years. Their real value is in understanding that they have passed through history, an earlier time when they were made and used. You see that? It’s what they represent of earlier times.
I wonder who made them, who used them? It’s a sense of history, a need to keep these older household items, to preserve and honour them by having them in my home and heart. Maybe somebody in the future will continue to take care of them once I’m gone. I can’t throw them out. Don’t like seeing them lying outside, rusting.
I photographed these old saucepans when they were still on the back veranda and before cleaning and bringing them in. Of course they are not used for cooking now. Can you imagine cooking with these heavy pots over a wood fire? Every day?
When I was a child, the lady who lived over the road from us at Leasingham, Mrs. Pike, lit her wood stove everyday. It was her source of power for heat and cooking and, of course, light. Warm and cozy, her kitchen always had the fresh, sweet smell of down home cooking and baking and the kettle was always on the boil for the hot cuppa.
Indeed, I know a local farmer here in the Barossa who, sourcing the wood from his farm, lights his wood stove 365 days a year. Saves him electricity costs he says. I think it’s a bit of nostalgia too and holding on to the past. How would I go in the summer heat with the wood stove going? What about new cast iron?
You can see I have the old pots in the kitchen well ensconced in a metal pot stand each side of the hearth. Always a pretty vignette to me.
It’s a built-in cast iron slow combustion (wood) stove we have that takes pride of place in our kitchen, an Australian made Metters No2-V Royal, the same model we had when I was growing up. There is a magic about these vintage pieces, something deeply satisfying and soothing in using them.
For foodie, culinary and history buffs wondering about the stove, it was first made in Adelaide SA. Here’s the link to the Biography of Fred Metters.
There is something sad and wistful about a rusted out Metters or any old combustion stove for that matter.
Did you ever sit around the wood stove, cooked on it? Old stoves, old ironmongery and vintage enamel ware like this always takes me back, not only to my childhood but to our domestic history.
The old Metters does everything needed and more including baking, roasting, frying, stewing, boiling and grilling both on top and in the oven. Fired up and the kettle is always on the boil, the kitchen is warm and, most importantly, the cats are happy.
Talking of food and cooking, for an on-going wealth of information about food and food history including a recipe every weekday of the year, I enjoy this fab blog, The Old Foodie. After 10 years of blogging, the author is currently taking a break but says, “I will be back“. Nevetheless, there are recipes galore at The Old Foodie ….
"I am enthusiastic about food and food history, and love to write about it. Every weekday I give you a short story on a food history topic - always including at least one historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu. And how much fun is that!I began this blog on October 31, 2005, with the intention of posting every Monday to Friday (including holiday days) without fail. I am proud to say I have not missed a day - and by the end of 2014 will have written over 2,500 posts! More often than not, more than one recipe is included (sometimes quite a few more) so the recipe count is in the many thousands.I am the author of several books with a food history theme, and hope you read and enjoy them too!" (from The Old Foodie)
Vintage stove in cottage at Woodend, Victoria, Australia
You might have guessed by now that I enjoy a sort of ‘close to home and hearth’ sense of history and recollection both in my mind and in my kitchen.
They say life was easier back then without all the mod cons of modernity and its trappings. I wonder about that? I wonder if the early pioneers would agree? I wonder if our grandparents and great-grandparents would agree? Things may have been slower and simpler in some ways but the hours were long with physical labour and ongoing hardship such as heat, cold, lack of water, distance and the sheer vastness of the country and its vagaries to contend with.
But these old pieces are the real evidence of our past preserved here for future generations to care for I hope.