In late November 1898, a small coastal schooner entering Salem Harbor in the midst of a blinding snowstorm lost her bearings and crashed on the rocks at Naugus Head. Fortunately, the vessel's captain and crew managed to scramble safely ashore where, soaked to their hides and lashed by the same icy blasts that had driven their schooner aground, they hurriedly searched for shelter.
Much to their relief, they soon glimpsed a light glowing dimly through the murk and snow. As it happened, the light marked the home of a local market gardener, highly esteemed for his amiable disposition, honesty and truthfulness. There, the bedraggled and half-frozen seamen were warmly received, wrapped in blankets and proffered huge cups of "Grand Banks" coffee, a brew renowned for its robust flavor, unsurpassed strength and restorative powers.
Late that afternoon, the schooner's captain approached the farmer and asked if he would allow the vessel's cook to prepare the family's supper. The schooner's cook, he explained, was a culinary diamond-in-the-rough, one of the finest to ever sail the Seven Seas. On more than one occasion, the cook had devised and whipped up meals fit for a king. If permitted the use of the kitchen, the captain boasted, he would turn out a meal warranted to put to shame any meal this farmer's family had ever eaten.
And to give this highly touted master of pots and pans his due, the meal he served that winter evening was a gastronomic delight. The soup was pure ambrosia, the entree full-flavored and toothsome, the vegetables a delight to eye and palate, and the dessert an ethereal joy!
But it was the cook's biscuits that made this stormy night both memorable and unforgettable. As they began to "rise" in the oven, featherlight and fluffy, the stove rose with them, floating gently upward till it hit the ceiling.
Needless to say, this was an eerie and mindboggling spectacle and a sight to behold. It also provided the farmer with a tale worth telling. And, like all Old Timers, he dearly loved nothing better than to relate how the schooner was wrecked, how its crew had nearly frozen to death, and how its talented cook had prepared an unforgettable meal on that stormy night. But all too often some smart aleck, itching for a chance to spoil a good yarn, would interrupt.
"If what you say is true," he'd smirk, "how was you able to bring down a stove that was being held to the ceiling by an oven full of biscuits?"
With a chuckle, and a knowing wink, directed at the listeners circled about him, the farmer always answered:
"It tweren't hard. I just got me a stepladder, opened the door of the oven, and picked out the biscuits, and as I pulled them out one by one, the stove lost its 'lift' and slowly settled back in place!"
(If you want to tell the truth and nothing but the whole truth, you have to lie a little bit.)