A Chambers Stove: Turning on the heat

When I last saw my Chambers stove a group of Hispanic workers were, at my invitation, carrying it out of the house. It was not an easy job. The stoves are heavy – very heavy. That weight is also the stoves’ selling point because their bulk is supposed to help preserve the heat. A Chambers stove user can turn off the gas earlier than in other ovens and let the roasts bask in the retained heat.

Our Chambers came with the house possibly because no previous owners had the gumption to move it. Guests who knew stoves would marvel at having what, in the world of cooking, is a classic.

There were problems, though. A spring hinge on the oven door broke and we couldn’t find a replacement, so the door, if it opened without a guiding hand, could be a knee-banger. We got by with that shortcoming, but when a few burners stopped working we knew it was time to call in help. Unfortunately, the closest Chambers repairmen lived in Port Allen on the other side of Baton Rouge. We were told they would stop by the next time they were in the New Orleans area. Of course we still had to pay for travel, time and parts.

Then, one day, two men wearing overalls, carrying tools and speaking in pronounced drawls arrived. They tinkered in the kitchen for an hour or so and presented a bill in the range of $800. The stove, they said, worked fine, but they were not able to repair the oven door.

I might have drawn some satisfaction in retrospect from getting a lifetime of trouble-free usage, except that we’re talking about the summer of 2005. A few months later there would be four feet of water in the kitchen and watermarks on the Chambers.

We could have probably gotten the stove running again, except we realized that, for the level of sophistication of our home kitchen, a stove from Sears would work just fine.

Home cooking is celebrated in this issue as we present some classic chicken recipes. Done correctly the pedigree of a stove probably doesn’t matter as much as the quality of the cook. I am not sure what happened to our old Chambers, but I hope it has found a good home where there’s a roast in the oven right now. I also hope that the new owners use the stove correctly and are able to save gas, though modern stoves, such as the one we got from Sears, have electric ignition. Older stoves, like the Chambers, have gas pilots that run continuously. Nostalgia is nice, but the new stoves are probably much more gas-efficient.

Nevertheless, if ever there’s a calamity, Chambers stoves will endure. Those who survive can boil water and hope for the best. They just shouldn’t stand too close to the oven door.

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