Dat Good Ole Drum Oven
My friend Aubrey Gould at de Archives Department, has developed an interest in Cuchiments, ole time household appliances and equipment like de Mortar ‘n’ Pistle; de cast-iron Coal Pot, even coal pot made from clay; de Goose-Iron dat was de tailor’s best tool to iron clothes, and of course de Oil Drum Oven.
He forwarded me ah photograph of an ole time Oil Drum Oven, maybe foh me to get one made and bake bread and cake foh both of us. Long before 4-burner stoves wid Grill and Rotisseur, dat Oil Drum Oven was King at Christmas time.
Actually it was either an Oil Drum or de slightly smaller Cement Drum. Quite ah simple gadget: ah Drum with ah side door in de middle and ah small opening at de bottom; two rows of metal bars inside to form a top and a bottom shelf.
Heat is generated from wood-fire on top of de Drum; and heat inside, from coals in ah coal pot at de bottom. De real skill is to control de fire and rotate de bead or cake from top shelf to bottom and vice versa; mek sure dey come out brown, soft and moist..
Now Oil Drum Oven had its cost advantages. Ah Drum was about $ 2. 00; De Black Smith charged another $ 2. 00 to convert Drum to Oven. Fire wood was free and a 25 cent plastic bag of coals was eight cents. But herein lies de problem. Baking wid an Oil Drum Oven was an outside exercise, and wid heat coming from all angles, one was liable to catch ah cold or ah stroke if one got wet from de slightest drizzle of rain. So about ten feet from de house, yuh would knock up ah simple shed, four posts and two sheets ah Galvanize and problem solved.; if by chance one couldn’t afford to buy Galvanize sheets, den ah few coconut branches worked just as good.
Christmas Baking was ah family tradition where sometimes two near-bars would team up. Sometimes it took six hands on deck to produce six pans ah cake dat took almost ah day. But everything was manual no cake mixer, no measuring scale;
no blender or electrical appliances, no gas, no thermometer. Dey was dat element of Tradition and Folklore in every stage from de melting ah de butter and sugar, to de beating or whipping of de eggs from home grown chicken, flavoured wid local Gonsalves Black wine. We had Mt Bentick brown sugar but did not have ECGC flour back den. Christmas Cake baking was ah once ah year exercise, so lots ah responsibility rested on de shoulders of de more experienced hands, who widout measuring utensils would apply good ole “trial and error” method, until all agreed dat de mixture was now ready foh de final journey. Therein was de importance of dat good and ever faithful Oil Drum Oven. Is a PT we can’t enjoy some ah de ole traditions like ah Christmas Cake baked in an Oil Drum Oven. Have ah Blessed Christmas everybody, and wid dat is gone ah gone again.
One Love Bassy
Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.