Pioneer Potluck: About cookin’ on a woodstove and the improvements in my 79 years

  • By Ann 'Grannie Annie' Berg
  • Tuesday, November 8, 2016 5:02pm
  • LifeFood

1937 TO 2016

Cooking on a woodstove is an art you have to learn. You already have the free heat from the stove that keeps you warm, why not cook something for the tummy too.

In 1986, Bob and I lived a small cabin with a small woodstove with a very small area to cook on. When we built our house and installed a woodstove for heat it had a larger surface for me to do my cooking. My imagination went wild and I cooked constantly on it – even bread in the Dutch oven and baking it by putting it in the coals inside the woodstove.

I am not the first person who has had to use her imagination to cook on such a stove. Our antecessors were certainly well educated in the art of cooking in an open fireplace, then graduating to a big black stove that belted out heat and food from ladies such as my Grandma and my Mom.

I do remember my Mom cooking on the big black stove that ate corn cobs, wood and coal as fast as Dad could shove it in. I remember the wood box and the coal pail and the ash bucket. That big stove even had a place to heat water called reservoir. And the big red handled water pump that was next to the stove and beside the sink that, when I got a little older, I got to pump the water out of the cistern, as I was standing an old wooden kitchen chair.

Lots of time was consumed to make the house warm by keeping the big heat-cooking stove going around the clock. The work involved maintaining it. The hand mixing and kneading of breads going into the oven while it was at the right temperature. The beautiful pies and cakes and cookies that came out of my Moms oven makes me smile. She always was so proud of her accomplishments. We were so glad she was so talented. She treated it proudly, as if it was her job to keep us warm, clean and well fed.

Now lets transform our way of living as of today. Electricity changed a way of life on the farm and through out the United States, however we did not get electric until the middle 1940’s on the farm.. That required almost a new house being built to accommodate the wiring, ceiling lights, the electric stoves, the furnace. And lets not forget the clothes iron that no longer had to be heated on the big black stove. Mom was so pleased to have an electric iron and she taught me well, how to use it. I still like ironing. I bet a lot of younger generation do know about this little piece of our history!

AND I will never ever forget how excited Mom was when the new electric “range” cooking stove was installed in the new kitchen of the new addition to the farm house. She would stand back each morning and admire it. Once in a while she would say – its so clean and look, NO ashes!! She would get out her Boston School of Cooking Cookbook and mix up some delicious dessert or bread, to be put in her brand new oven. She said it was so easy to cook on. She loved that stove. It was cleaned spotless every night.

The old part that housed was torn down that old black cooking stove was in. It was a porch like room with large windows and linoleum on the floor. The cooking stove stood in the corner. I so wish I could remember where that big black stove went to. I so wish I had it today. It was well taken care of by its weekly cleaning. Mom scrubbed it and polished it after dad took out the ashes so carefully as to not get them on the floor. Mom hovered over him telling him every step of the way “Don’t get ashes on the floor John.” As he would go out the door, Mom would close it behind him and lock it – so she could scrub the old linoleum floor on her hands and knees, then wait for it to dry and take out the Johnson’s Wax – which by the way, I thought had something to do with my Dad as his name was John. She got a clean rag, got back down on her knees and waxed the floor. It looked so clean and smelled so good.

I have not have the room to discuss the washing machine and Monday wash day here.

Now we fast forward to the present…women rights, women working outside the home, baby sitters, microwave ovens, to cook our food. Fast and efficient washing machines and dryers. And clothes that do not need to be ironed. The list is endless.

I leave it up to you whether you think we have improved or would you like to go back to the old way of life? We would loose our right to vote – our right to work outside the home in big office buildings. Our right to become doctors and lawyers and profession women of all sorts.

I am writing this the day before we will know if we have the First Women President. Although I fear for our country and our children’s future, I can remember my Dad and Mom discussing this same issue with our neighbors and grandparents, and why Roosevelt or Truman should be President. Never was a women president ever discussed, or a man who paid his own way to want to become president, just because he believes he can make a change. We do have rights as Americans and our rights as a women has improved greatly.


The series is written by a 47 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook.

She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.

Grannie Annie can be reached at



The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.

More in Life

These festive gingerbread cookies are topped with royal icing and sprinkles. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Rolling out the gingerbread

With Christmas around the corner, it’s time for the holiday classic

Paper chains made of gratitude strips adorn a Christmas tree at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna. (Photo courtesy Meredith Harber)
Minister’s Message: Grateful and kind

What if, instead of gathering around tables and talking about what has already happened TO us, we challenge ourselves to return kindness to the world around us

Roasted broccoli Caesar salad provides some much-needed greens and fiber to balance out the rolls and gravy. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A toasty, warm salad for a cozy Thanksgiving

This warm side dish provides some much-needed greens and fiber to balance out the rolls and gravy

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Some things never change. Nor should they

In the dawdling days prior to Thanksgiving, things are usually as serene as a gentle snowfall within our modest piece of nirvana

This photo from the early 1960s shows Jackson Ball enjoying the Christmas holidays with his eldest three daughters. His fourth and youngest daughter was born less than a year and a half before Ball’s death in 1968. (Photo from Ball Family memorial slideshow, 2022)
Human Complexity: The Story of Jackson Ball — Part 3

Misfortune was written across the recent history of the Arlon Elwood “Jackson” Ball family

Minister’s Message: Reflect upon our daily joys and blessings this Thanksgiving

There is nothing like missing something like your health to make you grateful for having good health.

Forever Dance performs “Snow” during “Forever Christmas 2022.” (Photo courtesy Forever Dance)
Forever Dance ushers in Christmas season with annual variety show

“Forever Christmas” will bring the sounds and movements of the season to the Kenai Central High School auditorium

Marvel Studios
On the Screen: ‘Marvels’ messy but very fun

Where the film shines is in the stellar performances of its three leads

These snowballs are made of chocolate cupcakes are surrounded with sugary meringue and coconut flakes. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Snowballs for a snow day

Winter-themed cupcakes celebrate a day at home

Minister’s Message: God’s selfie

I can think of no one word that encapsulates our age, that defines our collective priorities and focus better than that innocuous little term

This is an early photo of U.S. Army soldier Arlon Elwood “Jackson” Ball in uniform. The patches, ribbons and medals on this uniform demonstrate that he had not yet served overseas or been involved in any combat. (Photo from Ball Family memorial slideshow, 2022)
Human Complexity: The Story of Jackson Ball — Part 2

Perhaps going to Alaska was the fresh start he needed at this time in his life

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Noise

The first 10 years we were in Alaska we lived remotely