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Oral History:Cooking

Technology: Cooking with Coal

In the 1890s cooking was done on coal or wood burning stoves. Keeping the stove alight was a time-consuming process. Coal or wood had to be obtained and constantly supplied to the stove. The heat the stove gave off was a bonus in wintertime but a nuisance to housewives working in overheated kitchens during the summer months. It was also a battle to keep the family stove clean.

However, from the 1930s, gas and electric stoves began to revolutionise life in the kitchen. Ovens and elements became hot on demand and, together with other appliances such as refrigerators and cake mixers, allowed women to cook a wider range of dishes for their families. Recipe books, and later, radio broadcasts, provided new culinary ideas.

Hot water heating cylinders also provided the family with the ability to wash clothes, cutlery and crockery and themselves easily, quickly and more often than the limited supply of heated water from 'wet-back' on the stove could provide.

1920's No. 1 OrionIn 1873 Henry Shacklock built the first of the many thousands of coal ranges his company would go on to produce. Later named Orion, Shacklock's cast iron coal ranges with their grates and flues designed to suit New Zealand coals would be built in much the same way until the 1930s. Thousands of households cooked food, heated water and kept warm using a coal range such as this 1920's No. 1 Orion. In addition, wet clothes were strung across the coal range to dry on indoor washing lines or skillfully hung on a wooden fold-away 'clothes horse' which stood directly in front of the range. The clothes horse was often put up at night and with the coal range providing the heat, clothes for all the family would be dry by morning and ready to be worn to school or work. Some kitchens had large wooden drying lines that were lowered to hang clothes then raised via a pulley system to the ceiling to dry. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Shacklock's Orion rangeAn early newspaper advertisement for the 'Orion'. Shacklock's Orion range grew to include many variants including models with double ovens and a 'destructor' - a firebox that was touted as a safe and hygienic way of disposing of kitchen wastes. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Dunedin Gas and Coke Company’s 'Eureka'The Dunedin Gas and Coke Company's plant in Anderson's Bay Road has been a prominent landmark on 'the Flat' since the 1860s. Although gas appliances, like this 'Eureka' stove, began to take their place in kitchens around southern Dunedin in the early 20th century, by the 1930s their place was being challenged by electricity. Electricity, more so than gas, would prove to be the way of the future. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

'Eureka' AdThe benefits of the gas stove are extolled in this advertisement for the 'Eureka'. The model pictured not only had top hot-plates for boiling and frying and an adequately sized oven for roasting and baking but also a small grill unit underneath the left-hand top hot-plate. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

.E. Shacklock Ltd. Electric rangesIn 1925 H.E. Shacklock Ltd. produced the first range in New Zealand to run on electricity (or 'white coal' as it was described in early catalogues). Electric ranges were often promoted by manufacturers as being cleaner and safer than the gas models of their competitors. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

The biggest selling electric cooker in New Zealand between the wars was the Moffat, manufactured in Canada. However, ownership of electric ranges was low and even by 1956 still only 36.7% of Dunedin households owned an electric range. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Salter No. 46 ScalesIn the modern kitchen spring action scales began to replace the balance scales of older Victorian kitchens. New recipes required precision in measuring and busy Dunedin housewives found scales like this Salter No. 46 much easier and quicker to use. In the early 20th century G. Salter's spring balance with a pan on top and a dial on front was the most popular type of kitchen scale in use in New Zealand kitchens. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Edmonds 'Sure to Rise' Cookery bookT.J. Edmonds arrived in Christchurch in 1879 and, after initially setting up as a grocer, became a manufacturer of a baking powder. Edmonds 'Sure to Rise' baking powder would become the dominant brand of baking powder in New Zealand and the Edmonds 'Sure to Rise' Cookery book, first published in 1908, would become New Zealand's all time best selling cookery book. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

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