Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814, Count Rumford) was a physicist & inventor who
worked to improve English kitchens. He was not pleased at all with
their design, both in terms of health and economics. In the 1790’s,
he wrote, “More fuel is frequently consumed in a kitchen range to
boil a tea-kettle than, with proper management, would be sufficient
to cook a dinner for fifty men.”
He didn’t think it was worth it for the roast meat that England was
famous for, and complained that English cooks had neglected the art
of making of “nourishing soups and broths”. The main problem, he
said, was that the hearth was open.
At this time, the typical English kitchen had a very long range
(because of all the pots that had to be put on the fire). This meant
that a huge, very tall chimney was needed, wasting fuel and making
the kitchen extremely hot and constantly smoky. There were also cold
draughts by the chimney.
To solve this problem, Rumford built invented his own custom-built
closed range, which he installed in the House of Industry in
Munich (i.e. the workhouse). It used far less fuel.
Rumford’s range had many small enclosed fires, instead of one large
fire. Each pot had its own separate, closed fireplace. The
fireplaces were built with bricks (for good insulation), had a door
to shut them, and each had their own individual canal which took the
smoke into the chimney.
But while Rumford’s design was a major improvement, it never caught
to a wide audience. Part of the problem was that ironmongers (the
main producers of cooking apparatus at the time) didn’t want to sell
it, because it was made from bricks and not iron. (Later on, various
“Rumford stoves” would be marketed and sold, but with no
connection to the original.)
But it wasn’t just a marketing issue. People hate change, and they
were determined to stick to the old ways. The English believed that
open fires roasted, and bread ovens baked. You couldn’t mix the two
together. In 1838, Mary Randolph said, “No meat can be
well-roasted except on a spit turned by a jack, and before a clear,
steady fire – other methods are no better than baking.”
Inventors kept working on spit-jacks for ages. In 1845, a patent was
taken out for an electrically-propelled spit-jack, using two magnets.
Even in 1907, the Skinners’ Company in London had a 3.3m-wide
roasting range in the Guildhall kitchen. Progress was not so easily
Baking vs. Roasting
In the Middle East, this baking/roasting division did not exist. The
Arabic word khubz means “bread”, and from this comes the
verb khabaza, which means “to bake/make khubz”.
But it can also mean “to grill” or “to roast”.
Mesopotamian bread ovens have been found dating back to 3000 BC
(modern-day Pakistan, Syria, Iran & Iraq). They are round
cylinders, made of clay. A fire is lit in the bottom of the
cylinder; then dough is lowered through a hole in the top and slapped
on the inside of the oven. A few minutes later, it has baked into
flatbread, and is lifted out again.
These clay ovens are still used today in the Middle East, Central &
South-East Asia, and in many rural areas in African countries. It is
called a tandoor. Many other things are cooked in it, not just
The tandoor cooks with intense, dry baking heat. Even poor
households used them to bake bread. In Amarna (an Ancient Egyptian
village from 1350 BC), half of the labourers’ houses showed traces of
a tandoor. Unlike in medieval Europe, where it was believed
that the only real bread was professionally baked, home-made bread
was the preference. In medieval Baghdad, a marketplace inspector
once remarked that “most people avoid eating bread baked in the
Like the portable braziers of Ancient Greece, the tandoor was
portable, and far better than building a fire in the hearth. They
were also cheap. An “eye” at the bottom of the cylinder gave
control over the level of heat, by opening & shutting. For
example, a round Iraqi water-bread coated in sesame oil would be
cooked in a moderate heat, but other breads needed extreme heat. The
fuel is burned directly inside the tandoor, on the bottom, so
temperatures can reach up to 480°C (most domestic ovens can only get
up to 220°C).
The tandoor wasn’t just used for baking – it was also used
for stewing, and for roasting as well. In the West, tandoori chicken
(chicken marinated in yoghurt & red spices) is well-known, and it
is cooked in a tandoor.
In Baghdad in the 900’s AD, the tandoor’s roasting
capabilities were mostly used for “fatty whole lamb or kid –
mostly stuffed…big chunks of meat, plump poultry or fish.” These
were either laid on flat brick tiles, which were arranged on the
fire; or put on metal skewers and lowered in from the top.
There are three different types of cooking heat. In all of them (as
physics requires), heat moves from the hotter area/object to the
is used for grilling. It’s like when you put your hand above a
heater, without touching it: the heat blasts out from it and warms
your hand without you even needing to touch it. No contact is
needed. A red-hot fire gives plenty of radiant heat from the flames
works through direct touch, from one object to another. This is like
touching the heater, instead of putting your hand above it. Metals
are excellent conductors; brick, wood and clay are poor conductors.
For cooking, conduction is the type of heat transfer when you put a
piece of meat in a pan.
a gas/liquid. The hot parts of the gas/liquid are less dense than
the cool ones, but gradually it evens out (for density and
temperature). This is like the heat of the heater spreading
gradually through the room. For cooking, convection happens when
cooking porridge or boiling water.
any cooking method will use a combination of these forms of heat
transfer, one will usually dominate, and it is this which makes the
unusual – it uses all three at the same time. Radiant heat from
the fire below, and from the hot clay walls; conduction from the clay
to the bread, or the metal skewers to the meat; and convection within
the hot air circulating in the tandoor.
This is what makes this oven so versatile.
old Western ovens were basically brick boxes. They used both about
20% radiation and 80% convection. Instead of the constant intense
heat of the tandoor,
their fire started off fierce (radiation) but then cooled down
gradually, and convection took over. In fact, the food didn’t even
usually get put in until the fire had cooled down.
the centuries, cooking methods evolved to make the best use of this
type of heat transfer. Food was cooked in order – bread when the
oven was hottest; then stews, pastries and puddings; herbs might be
left to dry in it overnight, when the oven was barely warm.
ancient & medieval times, bread ovens were huge, communal
affairs. A manor/monastery kitchen had massive equipment to match
the ovens – wooden spoons as big as oars; massive trestle tables to
knead the dough on.
of fuel (wood/charcoal) were heaved into the back of the oven, taken
from stoking sheds outside, and then fired up. When the oven was
hot, the ashes were raked out into the stoking sheds. Then the dough
was shoved in on peels
– extremely long wooden spoons. Bakers worked almost naked because
of the heat, like the turnspits.
the 1700’s, baking equipment included wooden kneading troughs; pastry
jaggers; hoops & traps for tarts & pies; peels; patty pans;
wafer irons; earthenware dishes.
Baking oven & kneading trough.
Pastry jagger (American, 1800-50).
Peels in a medieval baker shop.
Modern patty pans.
Wafer iron (Italian, 1500′s).
Royal kitchen at St. James’ Palace (1819). There is an open-grate fire for roasting (back right); a closed oven for baking (front right); and a raised brick hearth for stewing & sauces (front left?) Each type of cooking was separate.
wasn’t just the baking/roasting division that hindered the adoption
of ovens. A fire is homey and comforting, and people were unsure
about centering their home around an enclosed fire instead of an open
one. Stoves were introduced in America during the 1830’s, but people
said that they might be fine for heating public places such as bars
or courthouses, but not their homes.
they got used to it eventually. The “model cookstove” became the
new focus of the home, and it was one of the great “consumer status
symbols of the industrial age”.
Victorian stove was a large, unwieldy cast-iron contraption. It had
a hot-water tank for boiling; hotplates to put pots & pans on; a
coal-fired oven closed with iron doors; and “complicated
arrangements of flues, their temperature controlled by a register and
dampers” linking all the parts together.
the mid-1800’s, the “kitchener” was the
essential object in an American or British middle-class kitchen. And
like the home, the kitchen was now centered around the stove, instead
of around the fire.
Britain’s Great Exhibition of 1851, the Improved Leamington Kitchener
won first prize of all the kitcheners on display. It used a single
fire to combine roasting and baking. A wrought-iron roaster with
dripping-pan was inside, but by closing the back valves, it could be
turned into a baking oven. And it could provide the household with
gallons of boiling water – for a kitchener wasn’t just for cooking,
but also for warmth and hot water, and also for heating up irons.
Leamington range was one of the first pieces of cooking equipment to
become a household name in Britain. It ended up being used to refer
to closed ranges in general. There were many other competing models,
such as the Coastal Grand Pacific and the Plantress.
fancier stoves were as much about fashion as they were about
practicality. But it wasn’t just about “keeping up” with
everyone else. Part of the reason for the stove’s popularity was the
Industrial Revolution, which created a coal & iron boom, and
flooded the market with cheap cast iron. Ironmongers loved this type
of stove (unlike Rumford’s brick stove) because it was made almost
entirely out of iron, and so were its accessories. And new versions
were always coming out, so they were constantly selling new stoves,
as people wanted the latest ones.
in the mid-1700’s, a new method of cast-iron production had been
discovered, which used coal instead of charcoal. John “Iron-Mad”
Wilkinson’s invention of the steam engine pushed production even
further. A generation later, cast iron was everywhere. And
kitcheners also supported the coal industry, because they were almost
all coal-fired (rather than wood, peat or turf).
Coal wasn’t a new
fuel for kitchens. The first “coal revolution” happened back in
the mid-1500’s because of a wood shortage. Industry expanded rapidly
during the 2nd
half of the 1500’s, and timber was essential for the production of
glass, iron and lead. Timber was also required for ship-building
(the English were at war with the Spanish at that time). So there
was less wood for kitchens, and many converted to “sea-coal”
(called that because it was brought by sea), albeit reluctantly.
rural areas, the wood fire was still used, and the poorer folk in the
city and countryside made do with whatever fuel they could find.
switch to coal changed the way open hearths were set up. Previously,
the kitchen fire had really been a bonfire, with andirons or
brandirons to stop the burning logs from rolling out onto the floor.
And that was all. It was dreadfully dangerous.
Saxon archbishop in the 600’s AD said that “if a woman place her
infant by the hearth, and the man put water in the cauldron, and it
boil over and the child be scalded to death, the woman must do
penance for her negligence but the man is acquitted of blame.” The
open fire was especially dangerous for toddlers, and also women,
because of their clothes. Medieval coroners’ reports show that women
were more at risk for accidental death at home than anywhere else.
fires were common, because houses were made of wood. The Great Fire
of London was caused by a kitchen fire at Pudding Lane. The city was
rebuilt with brick, and the new houses had coal-burning grates.
coal, a container or improved barrier was needed, to stop it going
everywhere. A metal grate was used to solve the problem, called a
“chamber grate” or “cole baskett”. Now the open fires were
slightly more enclosed, and a bit safer.
kitchen equipment was needed. A cast-iron
fireback protected the wall from the fierce heat of the fire. Fire
cranes swung pots over the fire, and off it.
Firebacks (Victorian & 1300′s).
biggest change was the chimney. In the 2nd
half of the 1500’s, more chimneys were built. Because of the
disgusting coal fumes, wider chimneys were needed to carry away the
smoke. The increased levels of smoke may have contributed to the
high incidence of lung disease among the English. It was certainly
terrible for people’s health.
to the Victorian kitcheners. While it was a technological
improvement, it wasn’t much of an improvement in terms of
practicality. Many of the early cookstoves were poorly-constructed
and gave off terrible coal fumes, unlike Rumford’s ideal stov. A
letter to The Expositor
in 1853 called them “poison machines”, and spoke of three people
who had recently died from the fumes.
they were inefficient, too. American promoters claimed that they
saved 50-90% on fuel (compared to an open hearth), but a great deal
of heat was wasted. The problem with stoves being made of iron was
that they weren’t insulated (again, unlike Rumford’s stove). Lots of
heat was being radiated out into the kitchen, and the cook had to
deal with not only that, but also the soot and ash dust.
kitchener certainly wasn’t labour-efficient. In fact, it was often
worse than an open hearth in this case. Getting the fire going was
just as difficult, and polishing & cleaning the range took ages.
In 1912, the wife of a policeman listed her daily duties for the
range (excluding the actual cooking):
fender and fire-irons.
out all the ashes and cinders; first throw in some damp tea-leaves to
keep down the dust.
Dear all the WOC representing in these TV shows who constantly receive unwarranted and pointless hate,
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches."
-Dita Von Teese
In other words, don’t change. You’re wonderful. There will always be people who don’t appreciate you. Don’t pay attention to them. Let them think what they please. YOU KNOW YOUR WORTH. And I, among others, know it too. <3
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented the title of Honorary Marine to Wyatt Seth Gillette in a ceremony at the School of Infantry-West Parade Deck, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Saturday July 30, 2016, at 9 a.m.
He received his EGA today as he continues his long battle with a rare, terminal genetic disorder.
(Photo by: Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
“One of the easiest decisions yet as commandant was to make this 8-year-old a Marine. Keep fighting, Wyatt! You are a Marine!” - Gen. Robert B. Neller
[Shout out to the men of Camp Mendleton who helped put this all in motion. A group like ours doing something like this is just plain badass.]
Have you spotted black oystercatchers when visiting your West Coast national marine sanctuaries?
Oystercatchers often are heard before they are seen. Their loud whistling wheep-wheep is shrill and carries above the sound of the surf. At low tide, these large shorebirds can be spotted foraging for mussels and other shellfish. These two were photographed in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
Life is full of beauty. Notice it. The bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Mesmerize the mountains. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Find the joy in everything. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams. Sit back, relax and let life take you to a world of imagination.
Some see and feel ‘traffic’… I see Spring in the Emerald City. I 'reflect’ back… Not to let the hour be rushed, but to feel the rush of the hour. The warmth on my skin, the wind in my hair, the smiles of memories and I hear the laughter of love. A city of positive vibes and I think 12’s! Let any anxiety pass and I see beauty in the moments and I say to myself… what a beautiful world.