Stove Technology: Progress and Efficiency

We’re back this week to talking about stoves. It’s not entirely intentional (we did talk about ovens back in May), since what attracted me to this feature wasn’t the stove, but the title. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was a corporate-sponsored, kitchen stove-based booklet until I reached the copyright page.

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While I knew this wasn’t a publication from the future, a small part of me couldn’t help but hope. Still, Meals That Cook Themselves (1915) is interesting. It covers a little of all our favorites: economy in the household, efficiency in the kitchen, meal planning, and product placement.

Oddly enough, though, there are two of our more common elements from blog post features missing: recipes and images. Meals That Cook Themselves isn’t a recipe book. It’s more like a strange cross of a diary and an advertisement. As a result, it’s written in first person by the author and it largely an explanation of how the Sentinel fireless cooker greatly improved her life (and presumably, how it can do the same for other housewives). The publication covers how the stove works, why it saves time and money, how wonderful it makes the food, and even the science behind fireless cooking. It does include a few meal plans, largely as a way to illustrate the economy of the product. However, one of the best parts is Chapter X: “Questions that Women Ask about the Sentinel.” Or, if you prefer, the 1915 equivalent of the modern FAQ  (frequently asked questions). This chapter is in partially-conversational, partially formal language with questions like “But surely pastry cannot be put into a cold oven?” and “Will not the oven become rusty and a great deal of steam be condensed in using this fireless method, if there is no outlet for the escape of steam?” (I think for the moment, we can overlook the fact that “If 60 or 70 minutes of direct heat is needed for a 10-lb. roast, it does not seem as if the Sentinel is as economical as you say?” isn’t actually a question. And besides, the explanation is sound.)

Hurrah for fireless cooking, Christine Frederick is basically telling us, especially if it’s a Sentinel! It’s not exactly a new advertising ploy, given the publications we’ve looked at before, but it is a solid message, and one designed to speak housewife to housewife. Now, if only we could find a way for those meals to REALLY cook themselves…

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