Thursday, December 06, 2007

Radiating Heat

I was reading a newspaper last night when the borborygmic radiator in the living room drew my eyes away from the print. The clanky liquidity of the sound was a warm reminder that heat was on the way and that this season's first snowfall had left a soft 3.9 inches of cover on the deck and the yard. A neighbor's back porch light oozed its illumination through some low-lying branches so dark patterns brushed back and forth over the snow as the wind picked up.

I put the paper down and shambled over to the bay window to have a closer look. My thighs leaned into the radiator as I bent over into the bay, turning my head from one direction to the other. The heat of the cast iron slowly warmed and then heated up my legs. Turing off the table lamp in the room, I leaned there for a good 10 minutes listening to the matronly wind putting up a fuss about all of the snow it had to blow off the deck. "Mess, mess, mess. Clean, clean, clean!", it seemed to be scolding the "I'll drop my stuff where I want to" teenaged snow.

The radiator became a bit too hot to lean on and the room now had the toasty comfort that necessitated a lie-down. Somewhere between moving to the couch and rising for bed, I drifted off to short dreams of heating elements.

As a kid in the old country, we'd lived in 3-4 story apartments, each apartment being heated by a musically challenged ping-pang-pong radiator running off of central heating. I use the singular term for radiator as bedrooms, where one was expected only to sleep, were provided with heavy blankets, thereby negating the need for heat, while kitchens, well... had stoves so why waste a radiator in there? Dining rooms were between the heat of the kitchen and the radiator of the living room, so air flow was expected to take care of any coldness there. Besides, you only ate in the dining room and if you are sitting there so long and getting cold, well...go to the kitchen and living room. Ah, living in the warmth of the People's Socialist Republics of (the old) Yugoslavia was sometimes a bit chilly.

In my maternal grandmother's house, where socialism had not yet put a dent in matriarchal rule, heating was more plentiful. In the huge house she lived in, a display of various heating contraptions was available. There was radiator-heating in some rooms, wood-stoked stoves (yes, 2 stoves) in the kitchen, and, my favorites, monolithic sized stand-alone tile-covered heating stoves in the dining and in the living rooms. The latter were about 5 feet high, 3-4 feet wide, and 5 feet deep. Within these heating beauties there was a wood-burning stove buried within soapstone which, in turn, was beautifully tiled. On particularly cold days' walk from school, I cherished coming to see my baka, so that I could do a full body lean against the warm tiles. Her cooking was supreme, so I always made sure to stay for one of her usual winter staples, Roman Bean Soup.

My back and legs, warming up with standing at an angle on the tiled heating elements. My stomach, warming up with each spoonful of the soup. On a few colder winter days, there would be 6-7 of my cousins and myself ringing the tiled stove, all with soup dishes in our hands. Ah, if only someone had thought this funny then and snapped a photo....

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With all that burning wood, the city air must have been quite fragrant. Or...? In our Canadian village, I would estimate that one in every five or six houses has a wood stove going through most of the day (in winter, of course). People are keen to burn hardwood only; if the winter night air is still enough, the whole town smells like a spicy hot drink. We're sending all sorts of that nasty carbon into the air (mea culpa), but that "clean" smell will always be a welcome fragrance for me.
I really like radiators, there is one in every room of my present flat in Sarajevo, and sometimes I have to lean out the window to cool off.

The sound is very nostalgic for me too, as the various apartments my family lived in had radiators quite often. Here they double as clothes dryers. I set things to drain in the tub, so they won't drip all over, and then put them on the radiator to dry fully. I have no balcony. If I had one, things would be hung on the balcony, and the wood smoke filled air would make them smell nice.

Yeah it's supposed to be bad for you, but I love the smell of wood smoke in the air!
The bean soup recipe sounds yummy, but questions:

Where do you get "dried" spareribs? Is this like jerky with the bone left in?

Sauerkraut - do you used canned, jars, and I am supposing very well drained?
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