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KITCHEN GADGETS

viding an account of early kitchen tools is difficult as such items rarely made their way onto household inventories. It is well established that, apart from the kitchens of the aristocracy, pre-Victorian cookery, at least in the British Isles, was almost entirely a matter of boiling in a pot, cauldron, or kettle; baking in an oven or on a bake stone; and roasting on a spit. A number of devices were designed to assist the pre-Victorian cook with each of these kitchen tasks.

Victorian Gadgets

The jack was one of the most useful Victorian aids. Roast- ing spits, also known as “broches,” “peakes,” or “flesh pikes,” were mounted in the fireplace. A jack is a device that rotates the roasting spit without the constant atten- tion of the cook. A great variety of techniques for spit rotation were designed over the years. The earliest jacks relied on a system of weights akin to those in a weight- driven clock for their slow and steady movement. An- other early form of jack was the smokejack, first imported into England from Germany in the second half of the sixteenth century. The force of air and smoke rising in the fireplace chimney powered this kind of jack. Perhaps the most unusual were the animal-powered jacks, which relied on animals, such as dogs or geese. Geese were con- sidered a better source of power, as dogs quickly became bored with the work and were far craftier than geese at shirking their duties. The most popular kind of jack was the windup or spring jack, which the Swedish botanist and noted traveler Pehr Kalm observed in almost every English home he visited in 1748.

Another kitchen implement from this era was the tin roaster. In its earliest form, a piece of wood lined with reflective tin was placed next to the meat to reflect the heat back and increase cooking efficiency. This arrange- ment evolved into a small and elegant device that only occupied the width of the fire bars. The tin roaster con- sisted of a tin enclosure to reflect heat back onto the meat, a dripping pan, and a door on the front through which the cook could baste and otherwise attend to the meat. Tin roasters often incorporated that other essential roast- ing gadget, a windup or bottle jack.

Another common kind of hearth-front gadget was the toaster. Hearthstones, a variety of toasting forks, and hinged devices mounted on the side of the hearth were all used to toast bread. One of the more common devices was the hearth toaster, a long-handled piece of cast iron that held the bread between small arches that could be swiveled to toast both sides of the bread.

Boiling and simmering called for some arrangement to regulate temperature by shifting pots closer to or far- ther away from the fire. The most basic technique used a series of pothooks or hangers of varying lengths. An- other technique used a chain wrapped around a rod so it could be rotated. The chimney crane was perhaps the most elegant of these devices. The rod and hook tech- niques could only be used to move a pot up and down,

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

whereas the chimney crane could move a pot through three dimensions. This afforded much more precise heat regulation than the hook or rod techniques and allowed the cook to move the pot out of the fireplace without di- rectly picking it up. The chimney crane saw wide use, es- pecially in southeastern England from the sixteenth century through the eighteenth century.

Within the great houses, an altogether more so- phisticated battery of kitchen equipment existed. For ex- ample, inventories of the British estate Ham House from the 1670s and 1680s list sixty-two kinds of items. This list includes such specialized equipment as a tin apple roaster, colanders, a tin grater, a three-chain jack, a fish kettle and a carp pan with false bottoms, numerous lard- ing pins, several mortars and pestles, pastry peels, a “rowl- ing” (rolling) pin, skimmers, lark spits, iron toasting tongs, a wooden whisk, and a sieve (made of hair) along with the sundry common items like knives, pots, pans, and skillets.

The list of items at Ham House includes a number of “basons” (basins) of undesignated use. It is a safe as- sumption that they may be freezing basins. Hannah Glasse published several editions of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy from 1747 on. Each edition included instructions for making ice cream using two pewter basins, one with a tightly fitted lid enclosed within the larger basin. She suggested two kinds of basins. One, manufactured in France, was tall and cylindrical; the other was three-cornered and wedge-shaped. The wedge basin was used with three other identically shaped basins so the cook could make a multihued circle of ice cream.

During the Victorian era, the use of the hand- cranked ice cream machine became widespread. The English inventor William Fuller sold a pamphlet titled A

Manual Containing Numerous Original Recipes for Prepar-

ing Neapolitan Ices along with a hand-cranked machine patented in 1853. The machines of Fuller and his com- petitors were popular with professional confectioners and the wealthier and innovative set. They were not in com- mon use at the household level. The first hand-cranked machine was patented in the United States in 1848, and domestic versions were available in the 1860s. By the 1880s numerous hand-cranked machines were designed for the domestic market, and many were still available in the early twenty-first century. The basic ice cream ma- chine is a coopered wooden bucket into which an en- closed rotating chamber is inserted. A hand crank rotates the chamber. The chamber is surrounded by ice and salt, which reduces the chamber’s temperature low enough to congeal its contents.

Some of the characteristic beliefs of modernity are that everything can be known and that all nature can be mastered if one applies sufficient time, expertise, and spe- cialized technology to the task. This positivism was the prevalent mindset of the Victorian era. It should come as no surprise that the term “gadget” originated in the 1880s as the Victorian era saw an immense explosion in the

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