Kitchen Gadgets of the 18th Century

It was a beautiful early autumn weekend here in Kentucky, and the Pastry clan took advantage by spending most of it roving around the Louisville area. One of our stops was at an historic plantation home where a variety of performances and reenactments were taking place. Truth be told, we really went there for the free pony rides, which were unfortunately over by the time we arrived. I enjoy a nice pony ride as well as the next guy, but it was our 2-year-old who was the most let down. We’d sort of gotten her hopes up.

A consolation, at least for me, was a cooking demonstration that was underway in the kitchen, a small brick outbuilding about 50 yards from the house. The big brick hearth was truly impressive, even though they cooks — in period dress — were only using a fraction of it. As you can see a full meal was in process when we went in:

The dutch oven at the very bottom was opened just before this photo was taken (you can see the lid with embers on top in the far corner), and the apple pie within smelled great. What really caught my attention, however, was the bottle jack, which is the brass contraption that the chicken is mounted on. I’d heard of them before, but had never actually seen one in action. Basically it’s a clockwork rotisserie, wound by a key, which rotates the chicken slowly in front of the fire. This one, I was told, was over 100 years old and still worked just fine. Amazing.

It made me want to build a cooking hearth. Mrs. Pastry put the hammer down on that idea immediately.

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