When was the last time you had your stove cleaned, checked or serviced by a professional? We tend to wash our car several times a week, get our motorcycle oil changed periodically and charge our ipod, phone or PDA every few days, but I bet many of you don’t pay much attention to your stoves. Now if you don’t use your stove, I suppose that is a reasonable excuse. But I suspect many folks (particularly in the Philippines) use their stove enough to warrant a regular annual check-up… If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you can probably imagine the number of calories our stoves at home produce in a given year. I just jotted down some numbers, and I believe our stove in the city cooks up some 15-18,000+ calories a day (and we use a rice cooker for rice), and that isn’t counting the millions of calories in jams, preserves, baked goods, etc. that we cook at certain times of the year. So even if you assume we buy a top of the line “local” brand at say PHP45,000 and it lasts just 4 years before we put it out to pasture, then the daily amortized cost net of interest/opportunity cost is roughly PHP30 a day, or less than what most folks spend on inane text messages, and the stove feeds many people in the household! (Btw, local as in La Germania or Elba, is not really local, they would like you to think they are made in Italy, which many are not, instead the recent models are made in China, and frankly, fall apart faster than they should.)
A few weeks ago, I noticed a couple of disconcerting signals while cooking up a few dishes. First, the stove burners appeared to be having some difficulty lighting up and staying lit, almost as if the gas pressure was running low… and it was conveniently explained by the cook that a gas tank (we use the large sized tanks, and always have a second one on the ready) was about to be replaced. Then a few days later, we had problems with the broiler, which fired up really lame, and I was unable to caramelize the top of my onion soup properly, and I had to turn to a hand-held butane torch to get it done right. Then finally, a few days ago, I entered an empty and calm kitchen and I picked up the faint but distinct scent of gas. I immediately called the brand’s service center and made an appointment.
Cesar, the stove dude, arrived an hour ago. He proceeded to take apart the top of the stove, and as with other technicians who we have come across, proceeded to do a “flame test.” What is that? They take a burning gas lighter and pass it over all of the gas lines until they find a leak that then flares up ever so slightly and they confidently pronounce in Filipino, “there is the leak.” Egads. The first time I saw a serviceman do this, I ran out of the kitchen, certain he was about to blow up the entire side of the house and we would be airborne in seconds. I always thought a soap test was the way to go… add soapy water all over the key pipes and tubes and look for some bubbles that would indicate a gas leak… but apparently, in this part of the world, they fight fire with fire… Cesar claims in 10+ years he has never blown up a stove. :(
With constant use, these flimsy locally sourced stoves do spring leaks, and I would strongly recommend that you get your stove serviced at least once a year, if only for you to see the gunk that can accumulate behind the scenes, despite conscientious cleaning standards in your kitchen. All is well now, the stove is working properly, the broiler could singe your eyebrows and we will save more than enough in wasted gas to pay Cesar for his brilliant, if not hair raising work. At PHP400 for a home service call and throw in a generous tip, this is a bargain for your peace of mind and a properly functioning stove. Oh, and don’t think that because you buy a more expensive stove such as a Viking, you will need less servicing… we have the Viking serviced often as well to make sure it is in tip-top working condition… But I do expect the Viking to last 3-4 times a La Germania or ELBA. Now, for your airconditioners, have you had those cleaned out in the past year or so??? :)