Time for another round of What Would You Rather Cook On? Today’s contestant is a toy – yes, a toy, measuring just 4 inches high- potbellied heater with one cooktop. Bonus: it’s real cast iron.
While working stove and oven ranges were available in miniature to teach children how to care for the home, this tiny heater is more likely a salesman’s model. If you were interested in buying one, you could see it in small size before making the commitment to the bigger one.
The history of this type of stove goes way back, even though its first recorded usage was in the 1800-1820s in The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Robert Bailey Thomas wrote the first entry about it; he really enjoyed that it used half the wood as other stoves*. Usually people had these to cook on, but it also made an excellent heater, because its large midsection – the belly – got extremely hot and could warm up a room very efficiently. The fact that it was more portable than other stoves and fireplaces (obviously) made it desirable as well.
We don’t use these items today very much, so production of the small versions have ceased. They are still available online for the avid collector.
If you’re thinking of making a 5-course meal anytime soon, ask yourself: tiny heater with ONE cooktop, or a new 30 inch/5.6 cubic feet gas range in stainless steel? The choice is yours.