Reflector oven 101
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, having a separate building to prepare food helped keep the main house cool in warm weather and reduced the chances that a kitchen fire might destroy the whole house, Sally says.
“I made a deal with John way back when: ‘If I can have this for cooking, you can build other buildings on the property,’ ” she says. “It took us a year and a half to clean it out. There were so many good things in there, antique things, just piled up. It was a wonderful game, sorting through the treasures.”
Barrels, firkins, long-handled utensils and 20-gallon iron kettles; these stirred a curiosity about rural Maryland’s culinary heritage and helped spark Sally’s passion for open-hearth cooking. The Waltzes use the cookhouse about four times a year. At Thanksgiving, it comes to life as they produce a fine feast.
Now married for almost a half-century, the couple had been husband and wife for seven years when they moved to the 153-acre farm in Washington County to raise sheep and hogs. The land, which remains far from any main road, has been in John’s family since 1774. It promised to be a different way of life, one that a girl born and raised in two small, close-knit communities nearby was not up for.
“It was a time of adjustment,” says Sally, 68. “I missed having neighbors. There was too much solitude. It wasn’t as pleasurable as it is now.”
Surfing the Web does not fill her hours between farm chores. Sally figures she might waste too much time that way and doesn’t miss having the connection. Instead, her pastimes are contained in tidy, distinct spaces that dot the Waltzes’ wide yard. They provide a continuum for a simpler, more strenuous life, one that suits her positive, can-do demeanor. Her gated herb garden is punctuated with nasturtiums. There are separate sheds for potting plants and for drying herbs and flowers. Crayola-colored spools of thread and baskets of wool and yarn line the shelves and floor of her one-room sewing and weaving house.
Inside the kitchen in the main house, a hutch holds Sally’s collection of redware, earthenware pottery that turns brownish-red when it’s fired in the kiln. Some of the casseroles, round-bellied stew pots, bowls and plates are plain, and some are adorned with Old World flourishes.
The redware prompts a story; both she and John, 71, have a way of charming a visitor with their gentle humor and thoughtfulness. Nuggets of history are dispensed like treats. Sally puts this talent to work as a volunteer docent for the Rural Heritage Museum in nearby Boonsboro.