My story begins in the late 90s when I got my new smooth-top stove. I picked it up at Sears in the truck we had at the time, which was a 1985 cream-colored Dodge Ram. I brought it home, and Budley installed it. I think the guys at Sears must've mentioned that we needed to purchase a cord to go with it, but to be honest, that all happened so long ago, I'm really not sure.
It took me a while to get used to the ceramic top. A good many of my pots and pans didn't have the flat bottom required for proper cooking on that type of stove, which, of course, gave me the excuse to buy new ones that did. What is it about buying new cookware that is so satisfying? No clue, but I do recall feeling that way.
The stove performed without a hitch for the next 16 years or so--until this past Sunday when I put a pot roast in the oven and heard a strange cracking sound. Peering through the window in the oven door, I spotted a bright orange flame on one side of the lower heating element. Needless to say, the oven no longer functioned. Budley's first comment was, "Is it time to start replacing major appliances?"
My frugal nature rebelled at this suggestion. "Oh, no," I replied. "We can replace the heating element, and it'll be fine." I turned on the broiler and adjusted the temperature, hoping the roast would cook just as well that way. It didn't, and I wound up putting it on the stove top with two burners on underneath it. The roast got done, but by dinnertime, although it was tasty, it hadn't quite reached the falling apart stage I would've preferred.
While it was cooking, I got online, found a source for the new bake element (which is its proper name) and ordered it. On Monday, I received an email saying that it had shipped. In preparation for its arrival, I decided to clean the oven, which had never truly been cleaned in its life. I didn't even have any oven cleaner in the house. The oven was self cleaning, but without the bake element, I doubted that feature would work.
I took the oven door off and set it aside, removed the racks, and inspected the element. Interestingly enough, it didn't appear to attach the way I thought the replacement part would. Curious, I unscrewed the screws holding it in and attempted to pull it out. Instead of coming loose completely, there were wires attached.
Hmm.... For an element that claimed to have a "push in" attachment, this didn't seem right. Whatever, I thought, and lifted the element up out of the way so I could clean underneath it.
Have you spotted my error yet? No? Well, the wires in the back touched something when I lifted it, sparked and tripped the circuit breaker. With electric shock warnings all over the damn stove, I had neglected to follow the most elementary of safety precautions by either unplugging the stove or cutting the power to it.
Clearly, those wires would also need to be replaced. I pulled the stove out of its niche, unplugged it, and attempted to remove the back panel. One of the screws came out easily, but the other was rusted shut. I sprayed it with WD-40 and got back online to look for the replacement wires.
I never found any wires, but what I did find was a review of the part I had already bought where someone else had been as stupid as I was and wound up having to call a repairman to replace those same wires.
While debating my next move, I cleaned the floor, walls, and cabinet sides of the horrific nastiness the stove had been hiding. For this job, I recommend Windex, which cut the grease better than anything else I had on hand.
My next task was to call Budley at work and report my stupidity. Being the safety-conscious engineer that he is, I figured he'd throw a fit. He didn't. However, he did report nearly having an accident of his own when I told him my story. The fact that I was talking to him proved I hadn't been electrocuted, but it scared him, nonetheless. Since he didn't even want me using the part of the stove that still worked, we decided to simply go out that evening and buy a new stove. So I got back online and found the stove I wanted in stock at Menard's.
Throughout this day, my nose, which had been a bit stuffy the previous evening, began to run like a faucet. Not a leaky faucet, mind you, but a full-on stream of watery mucus. I took a Benadryl and soldiered on.
My next task was to put the door back on the stove, which requires little pins to be inserted as it's being removed to keep the hinges in the neutral position. One of those had flown out as I was removing the door, leaving the very stiff hinge in the engaged position. I wrestled with it for some time, ultimately deciding that it was a two-person job and that if I continued, I would at the very least lose a finger. Sam came home from work not long after that, I pried the hinge up with a screwdriver, pushed it further with the handle of a wrench using both hands while Sam inserted the pin. Simple, easy, perfect. I'd only needed three hands to do it.
Sam and I wrestled the door back onto the stove. Then I removed everything from the bottom drawer, which also had never been cleaned, pushed the stove back into its niche so I could at least get to the microwave, and waited for Budley to get home. When he arrived, I called Menard's (at his insistence) to verify that the stove was indeed available in the store and the saleslady assured me they had one there in a box.
The saga took a new twist after that. Because we'd let the fire go out in the woodstove, Budley had planned to get up on the roof and clean out the chimney that evening. The other half of that bit of sidetracking involved the load of wood that had to be removed from the trailer before we could use it to get the new stove. Our current truck has a cap on it, which prevents tall items from being loaded onto the bed. So we unloaded the wood onto the porch.
About this time, I realized that Budley was also sniffing and coughing. Apparently, he'd caught the same cold that I had. Sam had been down with a cold the week before, but neither Budley nor I had caught it as yet. I'm guessing our day trip to Evansville on Saturday was responsible. Can you guess why?
By the time Budley had cleaned the chimney and I had wolfed down a sandwich (he claimed not to be hungry), I was blowing my nose every thirty seconds. I took another Benadryl and got in the truck with my purse, a cup of tea, and a box of Kleenex. We drove to Bloomington, picked out some new cargo straps to tie the stove to the trailer with, bought another two packages of Benadryl and some cough drops, then went back to get the stove. I gave the saleslady my name, she printed out the invoice, and we went up front to pay for it. Have you spotted the omission yet?
We drove around to door #10 at the back of the store and I waited in the truck while a guy on a forklift brought the stove and loaded it on the trailer. Budley strapped it down, which took several minutes. By the time he'd finished, I'd gone through another six or seven very well-used Kleenexes, and we headed for home.
But the adventure wasn't over yet. To get the old stove out of the house, we had to move all of this out of the way.
That cabinet is full of my grandmother's china, and the boxes are the file boxes for everything from tax returns to royalty statements, all of which were extremely heavy. Fortunately, somewhere along the line, we had purchased a dolly, otherwise we'd still be wrestling with this stuff and the stove a day later.
We got the old stove out, brought in the new one, cut it out of its box, and began searching for the cord. There wasn't one. Having cursed the saleslady for not mentioning that we might need to purchase a new cord, we then consulted the installation instructions and figured we could take the cord off the old stove and put it on the new one. So Budley went back outside, removed the plate on the back of the old stove, which my shot of WD-40 had thankfully rendered removable, detached the cord and brought it inside. Meanwhile, I cut the box into strips to use for kindling. I washed the greasy goop off of the cord, he attached it, then we leveled the stove and shoved it into its final resting place. I told Bud and Sam to stand back while I turned on the power. Sam immediately voiced his approval of the blue display panel. I set the clock and christened the stove by frying eggs for a late supper.
The stove now looks quite at home with all the stuff on it while the old stove sits forlorn on the trailer.
One of these days we'll haul it off to the recycling center, but for now, it serves as a reminder of the past and all the Thanksgiving dinners and everyday meals through which it performed its duties like a champ. The controls on the new stove are different. They don't have the numbers to remind me that most things are best cooked on 6.5 while dosas (a kind of Indian pancake) turn out perfectly on 5.5. I have to learn where those sweet spots are all over again. It's probably a bit odd to feel sentimental about a stove, but that's just the way I am.