Outdoor Cooking Was Essential To Keep the Cottage Cool

A modern version of gran’s set up

I think I have said before that Knowle Cottage had huge grrrtt (great) big thick walls. Well, in the winter that was good news because it keeped (kept) the heat in. In the summer, especially if there was no breeze passing through the place it was suffocatingly hot, and unbearable if you lit the range. In order to burn  less fuel, as well as keep the cottage cool we would cook and eat outside as much as possible.

We didn’t have nothing fancy like the barbecue things that there are now. My outdoor stove was a large, solid square of dry built walling about two feet square. The fire was built on that. The same rock was made into pillars at each corner, flat on top and resting on them was a sheet of cast iron, solid on the left side but with small holes through it on the right. The metal was about nine inches above the fire. I don’t know who built it originally, it had always been there for as long as I could remember. There was enough space for pans on the top and meat, fish if we were lucky, could be cooked directly on the metal.

We would start the fire with dry wood, but then put small chopped chunks  of apple wood on once it had gotten going. The wood wasn’t always seasoned and it smoked like hell but the food always tasted so good when it had been cooked directly on the metal.

My granddaughter spent all last weekend telling her guests how the applewood chippings she had thrown onto her very expensive gas barbecue flavoured the food. If she got rid of the gas bottle it would be even better I told her, but her husband likes his fancy gadgets so it looks like it’s here to stay…until he finds something fancier.

Where was I? Oh yes, woodsmoke. It kept the gnats and bugs away as well which was a bonus. Lots of flying things don’t like the smoke.

The solid side of the cooking area got really hot, hotter than a plain open fire so you could use saucepans and skillets on it with no problem at all. Ernie would pull up some salad leaves and we would have tomatoes fresh from the vine, and maybe some radishes as well. Some of the hot wood would be pushed to one side and providing you kept your eye on them you could cook potatoes in their skins. I used to upend a meat tin over the top of them to keep in the heat and speed things up a bit. I even baked bread on the outdoor stove in a huge cast iron pan with a lid, they have a name, but I can’t think of it, it really annoys me when I can’t think of something so simple. It’ll most likely come back to me long after I have sent this to you Tess.

At the end of summer the metal would be all cleaned off and a fire lit under it to make sure it was dry so it didn’t rust. I would rub old fat I have saved in jam jars all over it to protect it a little and then Ernie would wrap it in an old sheet and brown paper. We stored it in the scullery as far away from the washing coppers as we could to keep it as dry as possible.

Life was very simple back them, it was hard some days but I enjoyed it. Dutch oven, the metal pot with a lid, they call them Dutch ovens, I knew I’d remember eventually.

James, the granddaughters husband struggled for ages to get the huge gas bottle from his barbeque machine into his very small car so he could go and get it refilled ready for the next time they need it. He was so busy looking at me telling me “don’t you say a word Gran” instead of concentrating on what he was doing, he dropped it. Went with a hell of a clang it did and now has a big dent in it. Should have stuck to wood, its much harder to damage and it smells nice.

Did I tell you that Clare is expecting…again. she should be saving to get married not keep having babies, it’s not like you have to these days is it? I don’t hold with this living together nonsense, mind you at least Peter, her man, works to support them which is something I suppose, not enough, but something.

Well I’ll get off now, I want to go with Edith into town and get some wool, I make a shawl for all the new babies, to come home nice and snug from the hospital. Speak to you soon, love to the family.



Granny Spear was born in a small cottage in Devon, Southern England in 1925. Married to farm labourer Ernest, she raised her family in the heart of the countryside without any of the amenities we rely on today. Using skills passed down from her mother, who had learned those same skills from her mother, she not only survived but positively thrived living a self-sufficient, off grid lifestyle. Outliving her husband, one of her children and two of her grandchildren she stayed in the cottage until 2003 when a serious fall saw her hospitalized. She now lives with her daughter just four miles from her old home. For her 89th birthday her grandchildren and great grandchildren brought her an iPad, which she instantly rejected until they showed her Angry Birds…After much persuasion she has agreed to share some of her knowledge with us about what she calls the ‘old days’

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published July 10th, 2014
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