Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oven love

The gloves are off!

It's always after something breaks that you start to really appreciate it's operational qualities! Such is the story with our electric wall oven recently. It decided to stop working a few weeks ago, after baking 4 years good service. We pretended the elves would visit and magically fix it in our sleep, but after a few days it became apparent this strategy wasn't going to work.

Decision time...we had the option to:

1. Repair it
2. Buy a new wall oven
3. Buy a compact bench oven for portability

We wanted to repair it, but weren't sure how much it would cost. After a few calls to local electricians who all said they didn't fix domestic ovens, it looked like we weren't going to find out either. Time to consider options two and three.

So we went looking and found new wall ovens were going to cost over $600 (AUD) for a basic model. Then we looked at small portable ovens perfect for caravans, but quickly realised they didn't have enough head height. There's no-way I was going to fit my high loaves in there. Oh for the love of a freshly baked sourdough loaf!!

Thankfully, we decided to use this oven-less time to look at new ways of cooking in the kitchen.

Multi tiered steamer and electric frying pan

We used our steamer/frying-pan to cook all but the carrots for one meal - sausages frying down the bottom, with broccoli and corn steaming above. I've probably never appreciated the value of this multi tiered frying pan until the oven died. It uses less electricity than cooking in the oven and stove-top at the same time. I even managed to steam a cake and although it was nice, it lacked the texture I love with oven baked cakes. So we discovered steaming cakes were probably left off the menu permanently, as I have to be wooed by my food in order to apply the effort.

As time rolled by though, we were beginning to miss all the goodies I use to bake. I even began to feel quite restless as my routine was out. I didn't realise how much kneading bread by hand gave me time to meditate. I was doing it automatically so I didn't notice it until my oven broke. I also realised how many plastic-wrapped, convenience foods were making it into the house again. Not take-away food, just more packets of bought cake, bread, biscuits and snack foods. We tried to make these snack foods as healthy as possible, like dried fruit and rice crackers - but after two weeks passed, we had totally fallen out of love with food.

Ironically, we found we were eating more of this processed stuff because we never felt full. I couldn't believe how we would eat everything we could and then stalk the pantry and fridge for more. I didn't want to cook with any kind of appliance any more, I didn't even want to open another packet of "whatever", my hands were mourning. We were so empty nothing satiated us any more, it was an awful, awful feeling.

Will I never taste the soft chewy goodness of home baked goodies again?

Thankfully, someone put us on to an electrical repair company which did make house calls to fix domestic ovens. At this point we were prepared to pay a small kings' ransom, just to get old faithful back in action! When we made the appointment I could feel the serotonin in my brain, popping with anticipation of baking again.

Three more days later and all our prayers had been answered!! It was only an element around the central fan which had blown. They put a new Electrolux element in (a brand with a good reputation) and will only cost between $160 and $180 when the bill arrives. The element itself cost $80 and the initial call out fee was that too, as we lived outside the main areas they serviced. I couldn't believe all that time without an oven and it only took 20 minutes to fix old faithful!

Sourdough back on the menu again!

Since our oven has been fixed, I've made bread, buns, lamingtons, casserole, chocolate sauce pudding, pumpkin pie and 2 batches of cookies. This food is real food, filling and delicious. My bread lives in a washable plastic container too, so no plastic bags going into the bin any more! Most of the goodies I bake are made with ingredients from paper packets or bottles which get recycled. Being as responsible as we can to reduce our waste, I think also adds to the satisfaction of how we view our food. It fills us with more than just calories.

So my kitchen works again, I feel my contentment flooding every time I open the oven door and fill the house with wofting smells of sheer bliss. Dave even said when he walks in the door from work, he gets a whiff of that good old home smell again. It says, I've come home to good food and a place at the family table to eat. Oh how I missed you oven - how we all missed you!

Back in action - the hearth of the house!

While summer is just around the corner, we may not need the oven for much longer, but I plan to bake as much as I can to freeze for later use. We also plan to work really hard to save for a wood stove/oven for next winter. It just makes so much sense. Why put an electric oven to work during winter, when a wood oven would cost less to operate and double with heating the house.

For anyone living in the Toowoomba area, should your domestic oven break and the union gets onto the elves to down tools, we used the services of, "Weeks Electrical". We were so pleased they could help us save another electrical appliance from becoming landfill.


  1. OMG! What would I do without my oven?!!!!
    I actually have not had time to bake but was going to get back to it today.
    Kneading bread is a very relaxing thing for me which is why I could not learn to even like my bread machine even a little.
    Pretty soon, our brick oven is going to be ready for our first firing.
    I have a local friend who built an oven out of fire brick outside all by herself. She didn't mortar the brick. I can try to find directions if you and Dave are up to something like this. They can be made big or small. She loves it! We will probably build one next summer here.
    Good luck on saving for that wood burning stove. I think that this is a huge step in sustainable living but also, your bread and other baked goods will become trully artisan in a wood fired oven.

  2. I thought when I read this I was going to hear a sad tale but it turned out it had a happy ending.
    Funny enough it's what I do and if the cost is only 160 dollars thats pretty fair considering the extra distance for them.

  3. Kneading makes my hands hurt. Both were injured. However, even before that, I just did not like kneading. I do love my bread Doing without my oven would be horrible since I do like to put an ovenful of sweet potatoes or meat in the oven to have enough to last for several days with planned leftovers in the freezer.

  4. Hi LindaM (I'll call you that so I don't get confused with the other lovely Linda). :)

    It's quite an eye opener when a major appliance breaks, especially when a lot of your daily activities centre around it. Won't it be exciting when your brick oven is finished. Not long before the colder months arrive and it will be bliss, I'm sure!

    I've think I've seen the outside ovens your friend is building. We call them here (not sure what they're called elsewhere) cobb ovens. We were considering one of those too, but we'll save for the inside one first.

  5. Here I was thinking, gullygunyah, I wonder if people will be able to follow my description about elements around fans? Turns out, you know exactly what I'm talking about, LOL.

    Got the bill and it's $190, but that's because GST was added afterwards. I'm happy with the price considering it works again and I didn't have to shop around for a replacement. Some people like shopping, I'm not exactly one of them. ;)

  6. My hands hurt initially too Linda, when I got back into baking again. Although mine wasn't from sustaining injuries, they just hadn't been working out lately. I find baking helps me have less pain if I do it regularly, but not in big doses.

    That's where I went wrong recently as I was so happy with my oven working again, I just didn't want to stop baking.

    Think I've worked it out of my system now. ;)

  7. Chris, call me LindaM just don't call me Shirley! LOL! (I hope you get the joke!)
    I've started a sourdough in anticipation of the oven completion. I can't wait!
    My wall oven does a pretty good job of baking but I really want to have old country style bread and this is the only real way to do it.
    I keep forgetting the name of those outdoor ovens but cobb oven is the same I'm pretty sure.

  8. LindaM, at a party a young guy said "Surely..." I looked at him and said, "Don't call me Shirley." They all thought it was hilarious and probably were surprised the old lady had seen "Airplane." I said, "My sister is Shirley. My name is Linda." THEN, they were rolling in the floor, thinking it was twice as funny. Well, they were having beer, so maybe that accounted for the amusement.

  9. I'm sorry for not replying sooner. I'll make comment to reasons why in my other blog. Nothing bad, just life, LOL.

    You two made me laugh though, with the Shirley remarks. Thanks for the lark, LOL. ;)

  10. Seriously, when my oven needed and element, I refused to pay for a guy to do it. This woman can do it. So, I did. I had watched a guy replace an element, so I figured it could not be so hard. I pulled the breaker to the house. Then, I spent five hours lying in the dirty oven with the door off, talking to a friend about why the little cap nut or nut cap, whichever it is, seemed to want to fall off and how that made me afraid my job would start a fire. I would rest a bit and start again, fret awhile, call my friend, etc.

    Finally, I used electrical tape on the wires, stuffed all of it in the nut thing, and then taped the nut thing on, too. I finally got rid of the stove because every element on the top was gone, not working. They were so expensive that a new stove was not much more. I think the element was about $20.

    I used the occassion to try to teach my daughter that women can do things that are traditionally male roles. She was impressed that I did it all by myself.

  11. Weighing up the replacement value of brand new, versus constant repair costs has to balance at the end of the day. Some times you have to bight the bullet and put old white goods to rest.

    Sounds like you gave your oven a good innings though. I'm all for learning what you can do yourself. In Australia, it's illegal to do your own electrical repairs, though I'm sure it doesn't stop the curious amongst us to try, LOL.

    Now I know how the guy got to the element (as we actually had no instruction manual for the oven) I'm not as daunted about the process of repair.


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