I wrote this piece 17 years ago… and thought I’d post it here in memory of Jim Haynes
I don’t think it is presumptuous to say that I have the place d’honneur in the Atelier on rue Tombe d’Issoire. But how, you are dying to ask, did I find my way to Paris? It is an interesting story that began in Paris if you ignore my actual creation.
Well, I’ll be brief about that: it was a factory birth. I was assembled along with my many siblings in Holland. And who knows what became of them? I imagine most have toiled away anonymously in various greasy eateries, canteens, small restaurants. But not I. I was destined for the City of Lights.
My name is (formally) ATAG #23pQW 6r2 but I am known as Jim’s Stove. Now here is what happened.
One evening, many years ago, Jim Haynes was strolling to a nearby restaurant when he spied an attractive woman examining the menu out front. Without hesitating, he addressed her thusly, “This is a good restaurant, reasonably priced. I eat here frequently. Tonight I am dining alone and you would be most welcome to join me.”
This woman, an American, who we will call Felicity (as I have actually forgotten her name) accepted the offer. They had quite a good meal followed by a short affair. At the end of the week, Felicity departed but told Jim that should he or a friend of his need a place to stay in New York, her apartment was available.
A few months later, Jim’s friend Rudolph (again, I’m making up names!), an opera director and a photographer Harold had an assignment in New York and needed a place to stay. Felicity was as good as her word and the two men stayed at her apartment. Harold and Felicity’s roommate, Morgan (a woman – and this is her real name) fell hammer and tongs for each other. Such was the intensity of their love that Morgan left New York and followed Harold to Amsterdam where he lived.
Alas, the love affair sputtered after a few months and Morgan found herself needing a job. She met up with another American ( let’s call him Wilbur!) and together they set up a small baking operation, cooking brownies and chocolate chip cookies and other confections the Dutch found a bit exotic and very sweet. Naturally, they needed a professional stove and as it happened, they bought ATAG #23pQW 6r2 or Yours Truly.
Things went rather well for the bakery and I, a callow youth, could hardly complain about my daily dose of cookies. But one day, Wilbur ran a traffic light and it was discovered that not only were his papers not in order but there were financial difficulties (and now I’m really gossiping: it was tax evasion, actually). So the business flopped.
Where did this put me? Into the hands of yet another American! This person, a friend of the tax cheat and a passionate cook was living on a houseboat which frankly, made me very queasy. If there’s one thing I do like, it’s stability!
Circumstances in this man’s life were such that a stay in Paris seemed like a good plan. You cannot imagine my joy when I was bundled up and carted off to Paris. It was my first international voyage! Via Volkswagen camper! Jim Haynes took us both in and it is here that I reside today. The passionate cook left Paris and left me but I was very content to stay and be the crown jewel of the kitchen.
Now, what is my life like? Are my innards blazing from dawn until dusk? Not at all. On the weekends, things can be a bit strenuous but during the week, apart from the tea kettle or a few boiled eggs, I relax and enjoy a wipe down nearly every day. At the famous Sunday night dinners, I am clearly the center of attention and have become very used to the multitudes of praise showered on me. Oh yes, Jim gives a lot of credit to all those cooks by saying (over and over) such things as “Brigitte cooked! Or Fred baked the cake!” but this doesn’t bother me in the least.
And whatever you may think, I can keep secrets.
I do have a confession: my thermostat does not work. That is to say, I have managed to either lose it or ignore it. Therefore, when Jim – and it’s always Jim that does this- lights me up, I’m on but that’s it. Usually my left oven is hotter than my right but not always. I’m either on or off. And I Hate Slammed Doors. Slam my oven door and I will just cut the flame off immediately. I’ve made this very clear and now I’m treated exquisitely by all.
The volunteer cooks at Jim’s are always dismayed since nothing can really be determined in advance. A cake may take 20 minutes or 3 hours! Whole roasts might cook up in an hour and a half while the potatoes drag on for half the day! Without a really sharp eye on things, one dish may brown in minutes while another may loll pale and moist (and not terribly warm) for quite some time. This really infuriates some people but I say, “Have a little sense of adventure.”
There’s one woman in particular who really has it in for me and doesn’t hesitate to tell anyone who will listen that I Ought to be Fixed! The nerve.
Well, as Jim’s Stove, I can tell you I have a protector.
His name is Jim and he treats me the way he treats everyone: he accepts me as I am.
Paris November 2004