Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

What a Bake Oven Is

By this time we had not only mortar, but bricks, and men among us who knew how to lay them up; therefore father had hired a mason to make a bake oven, wherein could be cooked at one time food enough for two or three families.

We had built to this house of ours a big chimney of stones, well laid in mortar. It was on the back end, where the logs of the building were cut apart to give room for a fireplace, and father decided to have the oven on the outside of the dwelling, so that it could be joined directly to the chimney without danger of setting fire to the house.

When it was done, he counted to have built over it a small shed, and thus mother could do a week's baking without making too much of a clutter in the kitchen.

Already had I fashioned a most beautiful peel of laurel wood for mother, and I dare venture to say that in all America you could not find one more to your liking.

What is a peel? Why neither more nor less than a wooden shovel with a long handle, on which bread can be thrust into the oven, else how could the housewife push the dough into a pit eight or ten feet long, when it was heated almost red-hot?

Perhaps you do not even know what a bake oven is, therefore I will try to describe ours, which was as large as any in Philadelphia, excepting, of course, those to be found in the taverns, where they had need to cook a large amount of food at one time.

Imagine a huge box, with a rounded top, made of bricks, set fairly against a big stone chimney, and connected with it by an uptake, or hole, for the smoke to pass through. This box has a floor of three thicknesses of bricks, laid as smoothly as possible, and an iron door in which has been made an opening with a sliding covering to serve as a draft hole.

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