How I adore my old 1930s enamel range! When we moved here I knew that I had to find something very special to fit into the large fireplace in our cuisine. I heard that there was a wonderful old range for sale just outside Paris - so off we went to look at it.
We arrived at an old house which was about to be renovated, the owner explaining that this was the reason for wanting to replace the range. The cooker was in amazing condition for its age and it didn't seem to have been used very much either. I was so over the moon with it that I really didn`t care if it actually worked or not; my priority was to fill the original fireplace in our house with a nice decorative item which was in keeping with the original cuisine. We had hired a small van to transport it and, with help from a whole host of people who seemed to appear by magic from nowhere - and after a bit of typical French discussion (which seemed to get louder and louder as one person's idea was spurned by another) on how to move it - we eventually managed to get it loaded.
I did know that old ranges and agas can be temperamental at times and have little foibles of their own, and mine was no exception. After a number of test runs I eventually discovered the best positions to place all the openings to achieve a wonderful fire - but found myself talking to it as I did so! As a result, we decided that it should have a name. And as the range carries the name of its Belgian maker, who better than Hercule (after Poirot, the Beligian detective)
We managed to get Hercule home safely - only to discover that his weight prevented us lifting it up the stone steps into the house! So Hercule spent the night standing dejected and alone in the garden until the following morning, when our neighbouring farmer, hearing of our plight, turned up with his tractor and very carefully hoisted and positioned Hercule onto the top step, where we then able to man-handle him into his rightful place. Over coffee afterwards, the farmer told me to wait a moment as he thought he had an old stove pipe that would fit - and he was right. He duly returned with a chimney pipe which fitted perfectly. Hercule was filled with paper, wood and some coal -and off he went!
The oven looks as if it has always been in the house and is just divine! It works perfectly pushing the heat out - and we have found that the two ovens are wonderful for making bread, cooking casseroles - and for heating "mulled wine" around Christmas!! Temperamental or not, I now know Hercules's little quirks and can usually get him to perform perfectly!!
Hercule does share the kitchen with a modern cooker but when he is alight in the cold winter months it's just so easy to use the glowing red-hot ovens. Charles le Baron du Breuil (our kitten) is often found curled up in front of him too.
News travelled fast around the village about the English lady living at "the chateau" who had gone to such lengths to find and install something which their Grandmother's, it would appear, could not wait to discard and replace with "modern" electricity!
Outdated or not, everyone should have a Hercule!!