Now We're Cooking: Chim-chim-inea style

Gas stoves are so bland. Electric stoves (first introduced at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893) have no style. Out in the country, there are so many fresh ideas for cooking, I'm just all aflutter saving dollars so we can do away with Better Farm's outdated 1980s-esque kitchen design.

Out here, it seems everybody has a wood-burning stove. Extremely energy efficient, wood ovens heat houses remarkably well; and the smell of them is second-to-none. But once you start looking at alternative cooking and heating styles, you realize the sky's the limit and restricting yourself to one type of oven is just foolhardy.

Cob ovens are easy and cheap to assemble, and will give you some of the best pizza of your life outside of New York City. I don't need to expound any more on the power of a sweet fire pit. And then there's the chiminea; which is sort of the darling of difficult-to-heat outdoor or rustic living spaces.

Mexicans have for hundreds if not thousands of years utilized the quirky chiminea stove for heating, cooking, and baking. The funky little structures—generally cast in clay or iron—keep rainfall from hitting the flames, hold heat exceptionally well, and do a lot with a just a few sticks.

The genius of chimineas is in the design: clay and cast iron are excellent radiators of heat; the tall chimney-like stacks take smoke out of the way of fire-revelers, and spark screens (found on most models today) mean you don't have to worry about errant embers spoiling all the fun.

Nowadays, you can track down chimineas that even sport cooking grids for grilling in old-world style. Suddenly, October in the North Country doesn't seem quite so cold.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.