Creamy Polenta with Sage; Chimneys don’t go to the top

While I take a break visiting family, step back with me in time to 3 years ago, when we were homeless, to the beginning of this project…. And all of our frustrations:

I'm not quite sure how to say this….

But our chimneys don't go all the way to the top.

We've gone from four fireplaces to one in the blink of an eye…. So to speak.

Why didn't we think to check that the chimneys went all the way to the top?

I mean, really, how silly of us!

We were driving down a small lane the other day, exploring, and I looked back to see if I could spot our house.

I could.

That's when I noticed that there was only one chimney. 

There should be four.

In defense of our apparent carelessness and incredible lack of observational skills, this was the first time we had been high enough to see the roof. 

As to the roof, it's in great shape; fairly new….

It would seem that when they put said new roof on they didn't want to bother tiling around the chimneys so they just lopped them off. 

The story is that the old man had moved into one room and closed the rest of the house off. No need for working fireplaces in closed off rooms, right?

As to the fireplace in the room he lived in…  It was a bit of a mess so mon mari decided to clean it.  (We're allowed to clean, prior to closing)

He got out his trusty chimney cleaning tools and set to work.

For those of you who have never cleaned a chimney, he has a round, wire brush that fits in the flue and cleans the soot and gunk.  He stuck it up the chimney, as normal, and it kind of flailed wildly, not making contact with anything.

What the ****?

He stuck his head inside the chimney.

He stepped inside the chimney. 

The he stood up inside the chimney.

A proper, fat Santa Claus would have no problem sliding down this chimney.

With a very, very large bag of toys.

Mon mari found meat hooks, and chains and all sorts of cool stuff.  Very dirty stuff, but cool.

He's planning on putting his extra long ladder inside and climbing up to clean it.

Now the problem:  with a chimney that huge every speck of hot air in the house will fly up and out, except when we have a fire burning.  Since we don't have a small serf child to tend the fires night and day, this will present certain difficulties for us in trying to stay warm.

It's the oldest, biggest and best fireplace in the house.  The opening is about 4 1/2 feet wide by 5 feet high, so a fireplace insert is really out of the question.  And it's so gorgeous and such a focal point of the room I don't want to close it off or put in a stove.  I really want one room with an open fire.  An old house like this one needs that (or so I declare).  We're contemplating having glass doors made to close it off when not in use.  Any suggestions?

As to the other 3 fireplaces, whose chimneys don't go all the way to the top…

We're going to put stoves (wood burning for heat – see definitions) in the fireplaces in what will be the kitchen and what will be the living room.  The stove flues can go up the existing chimneys to the roof and we've found someone who will build the necessary bits on top.

We're closing off the fireplace in what will be the dining room.  There are windows in the middle of 2 walls, a door in the middle of the third wall and the non-usable fireplace in the middle of the fourth.  If we close the fireplace we'll have one, empty wall for a sideboard/bookcase/whatever.  Yeah, I know, TMI.  (Too Much Information).

Enough with the house and on to the food. 

I decided a bit more comfort was in order…. Like bacon!

Polenta, Bacon, Sage
Creamy Polenta with Bacon and Sage 

This should have the consistancy of wet mashed potatoes – but studded with crisp bacon and fragrant sage!

1oz (30gr) bacon 
1 tbs chopped fresh sage 
1/4 cup polenta
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup milk 
1/4 cup Parmesan

Slice bacon crosswise into 1/4 inch strips. Sauté in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Do not eat! Pour off all but 1 tsp fat from pan. Add sage to pan and sauté briefly. Add stock and bring to a boil. Slowly pour in polenta, whisking constantly – or it will have little volcanic eruptions spewing polenta all over your cook top. Turn heat down and cook about 5 minutes (or whatever your package tells you), stirring constantly. You may have to switch to a wooden spoon. When done, stir in milk, Parmesan and bacon. Serve.

A new bit of knowledge:  our ceilings are just under 10 feet.  The windows start at 3 feet and go to the ceiling.  They are called 'porte-fentres' – door-windows, rather than plain 'fenetre' or windows.

You always wanted to know that, didn't you? 


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