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Old Stoves are Hot!: A history of antique cooking stoves Paperback – April 29, 2012
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About the Author
Skip Lau has been buying, selling and restoring old stoves for the past 18+ years. He currently has a shop in Santa Barbara, Ca. He first became interested in the wonderfully ornate, old cast iron wood burning stoves from the late 1800s when he lived in northern New Hampshire. After moving to Southern California his interests shifted to antique gas ranges (although he couldn't resist buying fifty old wood burners from a dairy farmer in Wisconsin and trucking them out here by U-Haul). He admits to being somewhat obsessive about old stoves and hangs on to more of them than he really should. He lives with his wife Christy and their dog Winston and has a new grandson Curtis.
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Skip takes us on a grand tour of technological domesticity, if you will, starting from Colonial times to the 1950s-1960s. Coal v natural gas v gas v electricity. Cut throat competition. High capitalism. Changes in commercial food processing. Progressive innovation. Planned obsolescence.
All this stove stuff was new to me since I abhor cooking. I remember some of these old stoves, though, but I couldn't tell you the make or model of them. My grandmother had a huge white 1920s Hot Point type stove when I was very small that could have fed the town. My mother had a stove with a deep fryer (or something) where she could make french fries as well as soup.
Skip's history is accessible to anyone with an interest in old stoves and the history of food (there is such a academic discipline) and cooking, but it's scholarly enough to catch the eye of academics. A special delight are the hundred of pictures of stoves and especially old adverts--contemporary comments on the role and portrayal of women in media. I mean, what's better than being cuddled by a guy in a boater over a cake you just baked for him, or (seriously) no muss-no fuss roasting a Christmas turkey in the dining room. At that rate, I may take up cooking!
Old Stoves are Hot would be a great addition the libraries of film and theatre designers. (I worked in theatre for 15 years and designers have books on the most obscure subjects.) Not long ago I watched a pre-code Loretta Young movie with Clark Gable playing second banana as her brother-in-law. Young's poverty-stricken family had an old black cast iron stove. Later when Gable and her sister marry and move into their own place, they have a new modern oven. The class change was blatant if you know about stoves. A small but interesting point in design.
Buy this book. It's fun and you'll learn something from it.
The book's content and writing style are both accessible and warm without being superficial or cutesy (always turn-offs for me), so even an uninitiated guy like me can stay engaged. But guys like me sometimes need something more, which this book delivers in spades: striking visuals. Hundreds of vintage stove advertisements, organized thematically, adorn nearly every page. These ads, often in full color, are interesting enough to be a book in themselves although they really come alive through the thoughtful context provided.
Author Skip Lau offers a real gem here to anyone who shares his love for antique stoves and their many colorful connections to family, society, and American history. For everyone else, even casual stumblers like me, this attractive book offers an unexpectedly enjoyable ride into our past, especially its hot technology and the innovative marketing that spread it.
Back pages for refurbishers & sellers worth the price!