Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Cook What You Can, Then Write



By Margaret S. Hamilton


On February 1st, 2021 (2/1/21, for number lovers) the control panel on my wall oven died. The oven was twelve years old and replacement panels were not available. After four months, I found a dealer willing to order a new oven, who assured me “I can’t promise Thanksgiving but I feel good about Christmas.”


I told him I had three children plus a daughter-in-law, son-in-law, and grandbaby, coming for Christmas. A working oven was essential. You already know where this is heading, right?


In early December, after the dealer confessed that the promised oven wouldn’t appear for Christmas, I made a list of the meals I normally prepare, and analyzed my options: countertop oven, stovetop, microwave, or gas grill.


I planned menus for eight days and emailed them to the family for suggestions: stovetop porkchops, grilled steaks, thick ham slices warmed in a cranberry glaze, stovetop pot roast and beef bourguignon, two Christmas morning brunch casseroles prepared in small Pyrex pans and baked in the countertop oven. A pie and buche de noel from a local bakery. Instead of our traditional sweet potato and pecan casserole, sweet potato fries cooked in the countertop oven. My daughter created bourbon bread pudding in her slow cooker and brought homemade Christmas cookies.


Years ago, I’d been through a similar crisis. During the week-long power outage after Hurricane Bob, my father and I created spaghetti and meatballs on a charcoal grill. Need, determination, and creativity led to success.


I now have the same attitude as I contemplate revising two current projects: I know what I have to do, I am determined to write a better version, and I have books by Ann Cleeves (setting as character), William Kent Krueger (narrative and description), and Hallie Ephron (deep point of view) to use as models when I hit a snag.


Maybe I’ll have an oven in 2022. What shall l I cook first?


Readers and writers, have you overcome obstacles, culinary or otherwise, in your life?




Susan said...

This is amazing, Margaret. I always admire people who are wonderful cooks. And love your photos of your cooking on Instagram. And after reading this, I am in awe of your creativity.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Thanks, Susan. I worked in restaurant kitchens during my four college summers and learned the basics from the best.

Cooking has always been an adventure.

Molly MacRae said...

Back in the late 70s, we drove quite a distance to a nice park for a barbeque with friends, only to find that no fires were allowed. What to do with hotdogs? We had foil, we had the car, so I suggested driving around a bit longer, with the dogs wrapped in the foil, sitting on the engine. Worked like a charm. Some years later I came across this book: Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine! That book is still available in case you need it next Christmas Margaret.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Perfect! I wonder if you can bake cookies on a car engine.

Kait said...

Delightful! When we lived in Florida Hurricane Irma destroyed my oven - power surge. Our insurance company gave us a hard time including any items we had repaired or replaced in our claim so our attorney recommended not replacing or repairing anything we could live without. I decided the oven was a live without item. We managed a full-on Thanksgiving and Christmas with our stove top and countertop oven. It took some planning to juggle the various dishes, but was one of our most memorable holiday seasons.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Kait, good for you! We should collaborate on a "holiday cooking with no oven" project.

Shari Randall said...

Your creativity is amazing, Margaret! Your situation would have sent me looking for a caterer - and take out, lots of take out. Delightful blog!
You all have the beginnings of a cool cookbook here - Holiday Cooking With No Oven (but with a car engine) - could be a bestseller.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Shari, agreed! Especially with Molly's input and Kait's experience.

I did purchase a pie and buche de noel to supplement my daughter's slow cooker bourbon bread pudding for desserts.

KM Rockwood said...

When my oven went out, it was the baking I missed far more than the ability to roast. No bread! Disaster.

I wasn't particularly happy with what the appliance sales people told me, so I contacted a local, very low-key, appliance repairman. He said he could probably find a used part (it was something on the control panel.)

Do they have appliance junkyards, like they do for cars? Complete with the guy who remembers he has two of those models somewhere in the back, on the right, and will see if he can pull the necessary part? I didn't ask.

He showed up and took the oven (it was a wall oven) out, set it on the floor and got to work. He had to return a few times to his truck for something or other.

After he got it fixed and back in place, he was tightening the fasteners when we heard a plaintive "meow" coming from behind it.

Sure enough, a cat had climbed into the wall and was now entombed behind the oven.

I was just glad that we discovered that before he left so he could take the oven out again and let the cat out.

Good luck with your new oven!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Kathleen, love your cat in the oven story (which equals Edna the chicken trapped under the hood of a car)! I pursued a secondary control panel, but the appliance repair guy told me he wasn't allowed to install them.

Jaden Terrell said...

Brilliant, Margaret. I admire your resourcefulness. Your Christmas dinner sounds like a feast!