Anne and John Moss are true renaissance people. When not working at their family-run veterinary clinic or tending the myriad animals on their small Southern Pennsylvania farm, the pair can be found participating in a wide range of eccentric activities. But whether re-enacting a civil war battle, sailing a reproduction pirate ship, fighting a medieval joust, or performing in a traveling circus, food plays a big role in their history- and merry-making.
So when John proposed they replace an underutilized greenhouse with a log cabin, Anne didn't bat an eye. Instead, the intrepid cook hatched a plan to add an open hearth and bake oven to the grown-up pioneer playhouse.
The 12' X 14' cabin was made using overgrown Douglas Fir Christmas trees from a farm in nearby Pomeroy, PA. Each of the 90 trees used in construction was cut and hewn by hand with a hatchet and adze. John and his friends engineered the dovetailed joining of the logs and built the stone chimney with local rocks provided by a neighbor.
The hearth stones came from a local Parkesburg quarry and are flecked with industrial garnets. The huge beam under the mantelpiece was cut from a local oak tree limb that had been aging in a neighbor's woods for several years. They used Sassafras for the door jams and Acer Negundo (a local trash tree) for the mantel trim. John made the tremmel that hangs in the fireplace and many of the cooking tools on his own small forge.
The chimney, three windows, and two doors provide plenty of light and ventilation for cooking, and a simple brick floor keeps out moisture. Though there is an electrical outlet leftover from the old greenhouse, the cabin is usually lit with candles in mirror-backed sconces.
So far the cabin has played host to some memorable gatherings, including holiday dinners and impromptu bluegrass jams. We asked Anne to tell us a little bit about her experience so far in the new digs. Here's what she said:
At a time when many homeowners are upgrading their kitchens with modern, professional-grade appliances, what inspired you to build a rustic log cabin kitchen?
I had been harboring jealous envy in my heart over seeing friends' beautiful open hearths that were not used for cooking and had always wanted a bake oven. We don't know why we didn't build it years ago. We had been needing a party cabin and didn't even know it!
Describe your cooking style?
My rustic cooking interests stem from campfire cooking over the past 15 years and taking open hearth and bake oven cooking classes at Landis Valley Museum Institute in nearby Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The menu depends on the fantasy, but we usually have a theme such as Williamsburg Inn faire, Lewis and Clark Expedition, Civil War, Wild West Chuck Wagon, etc.
What's the most memorable meal you've prepared in this kitchen?
We had a Christmas Eve feast where we did the bread in the bake oven, roasted a duck 'on a string' and a beautiful sirloin roast stuffed with forced meat in a reflector oven in the open hearth with a home grown tomato soup and oysters roasted on hearth coals...Yum!
What would you cook in the cabin that you wouldn't in the main house?
No holds barred &mdash Dare me!
Related: Cooking at 10,000 Feet: Storm Peak Laboratory
(Images: Anne Moss)