Petworth House (Sussex) is one of the grandest houses in England. It belonged to the Egremonts from 1150 (it is now managed by the National Trust). The current building is from the 1600′s.
Today, it has an enormous array of kitchen utensils, over 100 pieces in total. There are rows of saucepans and stewpans, with matching lids, lined up on dressers. There are stockpots with taps at the bottom (like tea-urns), sauté pans and omelette pans, a large braising pan with an indented lid to hold embers (so the food could be cooked from above at the same time).
The Petworth batterie de cuisine.
Copper braising pan (front); small steaming kettle with handle cover (back).
Particulary impressive is the wide variety of fish pans. In the old
days, fish came from the Sussex coast. The kitchen has fish kettles,
with pierced draining-plates inside, so that the fish could be lifted
from the water it was being poached in, without falling to pieces.
There is a fish fryer (a round, open pan with a wire drainer), and a
specialist turbot pan (diamond-shaped, the same shape as the fish).
There are several smaller pans for cooking mackerel.
Victorian copper fish kettles.
A tin fish kettle (cheaper than copper).
Modern fish kettle, with a better view.
The fish fryer probably looked like this.
Of course, not all of these items would have been in use during every
In 1624 (during the Stuart era), Petworth didn’t have any saucepans or
stewpans. For boiling/stewing, they had a large fixed “copper”
(a giant vat of boiling water, which supplied hot water for the whole
household as well as the kitchen); nine stockpots (cauldrons), an
iron cockle pan, a few fish kettles, and five small brass skillets
(3-legged, to stand in the fire).
A brass skillet - not sure of the era.
The kitchen’s focus was on roasting, not boiling. They had 21 spits,
6 dripping pans, 3 basting ladles, and 5 gridirons.
Gridiron (not sure of the era).
Basting ladle (1745).
But by 1764 (in the Georgian Era), things were different. Only 9/21
spits were left. Petworth now had 24 large stewpans, 12 small
stewpans, and 9 bain-maries & saucepans.
This increase in pans (both number & variety) was because of a
new style of cooking. The old heavy medieval cuisine was on its way
out, and a fresher, more “buttery” cuisine was on its way in.
There were many new foods in the Georgian Era that the Stuart Era did
not have. For example: frothy chocolate; crisp biscuits; sharp,
citrusy sauces; the truffly ragouts of French nouvelle cuisine. And
all of these new dishes needed new equipment to cook them in.
Hannah Glasse (1708-70) was one of the most well-known cookery
writers of the 1700’s. She wrote that it was important to use the
right pan when melting butter – a silver pan was best, she thought.
(A type of thickened melted butter was beginning to be served as a
universal sauce, to go with meat or fish.)
But by 1869 (in the Victorian Era), this was definitely not enough.
The focus of the kitchen was finally moving away from spit-roasting –
now the most important equipment was the copper pans, resting on
There were three steamers, for those foods that needed gentler
cooking than boiling. The number of stewpans & saucepans had
risen from 45 to 96. This was because of the huge variety of sauces,
glazes and garnishes that were part of Victorian cuisine.
There isn’t much difference between a saucepan and stewpan. In the
1700’s, saucepans were smaller (like the left-hand one further up),
suitable for furiously whisking sauces and gravies, after
they’d been made in a stewpan, and sieved. Stewpans were bigger, and
had lids. They could hold a lot of food, and they were the main pan
for cooking the meal. However, the saucepan eventually overtook the
In 1844, Thomas Webster wrote in An Encyclopaedia of Domestic
Economy that saucepans were “smaller round vessels for boiling,
made with a single handle”, and that stewpans were made with a
double handle (one on the lid, and one on the pan). The metal of
stewpans was thicker, and they had a more rounded base, which made
them easier to clean.
(Nowadays, we don’t use the term “stewpan” – we say “saucepan”
for pretty much every pan.)
The idea of the batterie de cuisine came out of the 1700’s. It was the opposite idea
of the one-pot cooking – you should have a certain pan/vessel for
each component of the meal. You can’t sauté in a slope-sided frying
pan; you can’t fry in a straight-side sauté pan. You need a turbot
kettle for poaching fish. You need the right tool for every job.
This was influenced by France, and by the new professionalism of
cooking during the 1700’s.
(1715-61) was the chef & landlord of the White Hart Inn (Lewes,
Sussex). He disparaged cooks that tried to make do with “one poor
solitary stewpan” and one frying-pan “black as my hat”. He
said that “a good dinner cannot be got up to look neat and pretty
without proper utensils to work it in, such as neat stew-pans of
several sizes” and various other things. He tells of “half of a
very grand dinner” being completely spoiled “by misplacing only one stew
with pans was partially because of the English copper industry.
Prior to the 1700’s, copper had been imported from Sweden. But in
1689, their monopoly had ended, and England’s production of copper
increased greatly (especially from Bristol). And of course, now it
cost less – so cooks could have many copper pans. The French word
means copper that has been battered into shape. By the 1800′s, batterie de cuisine had become the universal term to refer to cooking equipment (excluding fixed objects such as the oven).
Victorian copper batterie
was the apogee of the history of pots and pans. They were
well-crafted, and made from high-quality metal; they were tailored to
the specific requirements of cooking; and wealthy Victorians had huge
kitchens, with many cooks.
have criticized the Victorians for boiling vegetables for too long,
and reducing everything to a soupy mush. Victorian and Regency-era
recipes say to boil asparagus for 15-18min; broccoli for 20min;
carrots for 45min to an hour! But this actually made sense for the
time, and didn’t actually wreck the vegetables.
Kitchiner (author of The Cook’s Oracle)
says to boil asparagus for 20-30min, which seems far too long to us.
He also says, “Great care must be taken to watch the exact time of
their becoming tender; take them up just at that instant, and they
will have their true flavour and colour: a minute or two more boiling
destroys both.” We tend to boil asparagus as individual stalks,
whereas he says to tie it in a bundle – which takes longer to cook.
But there is a lot more to the long boiling times than that.
in the 1800’s were very keen on cooking scientifically. And the most
important thing about boiling, they said, was that no matter how long
you boil water for, it’ll never go above 100°C.
This was noted by Robert Buchanan (an expert on fuel economy) in
1815, and cookbook-writers often quoted him on this. What was the
point of boiling things hard, when it doesn’t raise the temperature
any more? It was just a waste of fuel/energy.
Kitchiner experimented with putting a thermometer in water “in that
state which cooks call gentle simmering”. At simmering-level, the
water was also 100°C
– the same as if it was boiling. Logically speaking, it would be
better to cook at a simmer, rather than a boil – same temperature,
1868, Pierre Blot (Professor of Gastronomy at the New York Cooking
Academy) criticized cooks & housewives who boiled “fast instead
of slowly”. “Set a small ocean of water on a brisk fire and boil
something in it as fast as you can, you make as much steam but do not
cook faster; the degree of heat being the same as if you were boiling
instead of boiling is good for meat. Kitchiner said, “The slower
it boils, the tenderer, the plumper and whiter it will be.” But
for vegetables (except for potatoes), it takes ages
– especially because Victorian cooks liked to cook things in the
smallest pan possible.
said that the size of the boiling-pot should be proportional to what
it will contain. The reason for that, he continued, was that the
larger the pot, the more space it took up on the fire, and the more
water & fire was needed. This
Victorians were partially right, and partially wrong. It is true
that boiling water won’t go above 100°C (unless under higher
pressure, such as in a pressure cooker). But temperature isn’t the
only important factor. Another factor is ebullition
– how much boiling water bubbles. Heat transfer is determined by
the temperature difference between the food and the heat source
(water). Boiling water moves more chaotically, and transfers heat to
the foot several times faster than simmering. Also, heat transfer is
faster when there is more water in the pan (in proportion to the
food). So Kitchiner’s small, simmering pot will take ages longer to
cook than a modern-day large, boiling pot.
reason for the long cooking times was that Victorian vegetables were
different from now – less tender. Their asparagus was stalkier,
and their carrots & greens were tougher.
pots and pans, despite their craftmanship and variety, had a big
problem – their material. Copper is a great heat conductor, second
only to silver. But when it comes into contact with food
(particularly acidic foods) pure copper is poisonous.
is neutral, and their copper pans were thinly lined with it. Of
course it wore down over time, exposing the copper beneath.
Therefore, 1700’s & 1800’s recipe books often give the advice to
“Let your pans be frequently retinned.”
cooks probably put off retinning their pans as long as possible. In
fact, cooks who didn’t realize
that the copper was poisonous used its “greening” powers, using
unlined copper pans to pickle green walnuts and green gherkins.
fact that eggs can be used as a raising agent in baking was
discovered during the Renaissance. Previously, cakes (when made at
all) used ale barm or yeast for this purpose, which made them taste
rather yeasty, and have a bread-like texture.
cooks could produce a wide variety of sweet dishes, with air as the
primary component. Pillowy cakes with a much lighter sponge were
made. The Elizabethans had yellow and white tarts (made from beaten
yolks & whites respectively), sweetened with sugar & cream.
Syllabub – a dessert made with wine, cream and egg whites – was
very much in fashion.
banqueting course after a feast often included “a dishful of snow”.
This was made by frothing up many egg whites with cream, sugar and
rose-water; it was then piled on a platter.
the new discovery was not accompanied by any technological innovation
to do it. So cooks and servants toiled away, wearing out their arms
to beat the eggs for the grandees. This was the norm, of course, for
no-one cared for the comfort of servants.
de Paris, an advice book from
1393, gives a pancake recipe. These are the instructions: Get a
quart-sized copper pan, and melt a large quantity of salted butter in
it. Take eggs, some “warm white wine” (we would use milk) and
“the fairest wheaten flour” and beat it all together “long
enough to weary one person or two”. When one person was worn out,
the next took their place.
raise a cake because the stable protein foam holds the bubbles
together as it cooks. For this to happen, the protein molecules must
partially unfold (upon contact with the air), and re-form as an
air-filled lattice, or “stiff peaks” as we say. This was very
hard work back then, because they didn’t have the balloon whisk that
we do now. It is possible that some households made their own
versions of our whisk – an illustration in The Opera of
Bartolomeo Scappi (1570) looks
rather like one – but none have survived. If they did exist, they
certainly weren’t common.
usual tool for whisking eggs was a birchen rod - a bunch of stripped twigs
(occasionally feathers), tied together. The twigs were usually
birch, and this twig bunch was used well into the 1800’s. The
benefit was that they could flavour the cream or egg whites. Some
recipes taslk of tying the twigs together with peach branches, or
strips of lemon peel.
they were very slow. A 1654 recipe by Joseph Cooper, “chiefe cook
to the late king”, says that beating eggs for pancakes will take
30min or more. Mary Eaton (early 1800’s) advises that it will take
THREE HOURS to beat the egg whites enough for a cake.
to make matters worse, superstition said that the eggs had to be beat
in the same direction the whole way through. This superstition may
have come about because it was so difficult to get the froth, and
they were worried about not achieving it. Some believed that on damp
days, the egg whites would become bewitched, and not get stiff
the birchen rod was better than a lot of other tools used for beating
eggs. Some cooks used a spoon, or a broad-bladed knife – neither
gave much traction. Forks became common from the late 1600’s
onwards, and of course were much better. A really gross method was
to wring the egg whites repeatedly through a sponge. And it was a
pretty useless method as well.
the end of the 1600’s, the moliquet
or chocolate mill
arrived in Britain. It was made of wood, and is still used in Mexico
& Spain for foaming hot chocolate. It consists of a long handle
and a notched head (rather like a water mill), and is spun between
the palms of the hands. At this time, they begin to appear in the
inventories of large country-house kitchens, probably to whip eggs as
well as froth chocolate (which was the new fashionable drink). Even
as late as 1847, an American cookbook mentions the moliquet as an
alternative to the birchen, for whipping cream. But even the
moliquet was labour-intensive and not as good as the balloon whisk.
A modern moliquet.
was a problem, too. Most recipes with egg whites also included
sugar, or rather, double-refined sugar.It
wasn’t until the late 1800’s that sugar began to be sold
ready-ground, and customers could choose between granular, caster and
was sold in a lump or loaf – a cone-shaped block weighing 5-40lb
(2.3-18.1kg). It was “nipped” into small pieces with sugar
nippers. But for cooking, it had to be pounded (in the mortar) and
then sieved through a series of sieves, gradually getting finer.
Like the mortar and pestle, colanders & sieves have changed
little over the centuries.
1874, the chef Jules Gouffé described what was involved in
processing sugar. This is how he made granulated sugar, which was
sprinkled onto sweet pastries:
three sifters or colanders, one with holes 3/8 inch in diameter,
another with holes ¼ inch in diameter, a third with holes 1/8 inch,
and a hair sieve.
the sugar into pieces with a knife, and break up each piece with the
end of a rolling pin, being careful not to grind any of the sugar to
powder as this would take away the brightness of the remainder.
the sugar is sifted through each sieve, ending with the hair sieve.
Gouffé complains that not everyone does the full process “owing to
its being rather…troublesome”, instead pounding it in a mortar
without sieving it. He regrets such laziness, saying that
mortar-pounded sugar lacks the brightness of sugar sifted “the
old-fashioned way”. He is of course also regretting the decrease
in kitchen staff & the lack of armies of servants who are
expected to wear themselves out for the rich.
“technological conservatism” of food-processing equipment is part
of this issue. Cookbook-writers wrote for people who didn’t do the
work themselves, but took credit for it. In their eyes, there was no
need for technological innovations in the kitchen, if there were
servants to do it for them (or a wife in poorer households).
was really only after the Industrial Revolution that things began to
change, due to the changing labour situation, and factories that
could mass-produce cheap metal objects.
The term “labour-saving” was first used in 1791, in a
manufacturing context. It was another half-century before the
concept was used for the kitchen.
In the 2nd half of the 1800’s, the US was suddenly flooded
with various types of “labour-saving” kitchen devices, including
apple-corers, cherry-pitters, coffee-mills, potato-mashers, and
raisin-seeders. Many were cheap and made of tin, and many were heavy
pieces of equipment, meant to be clamped to the kitchen table (like
mincing machines). And there were so many egg-beaters. Hundreds and
hundreds of varieties of them.
From 1856-1920, 692 patents for egg-beaters were granted in the US
(east coast only?) In 1856, only one was issued; in 1857, only two;
in 1858, only three. But in 1866, 18 patents were granted. The
1870’s 1880’s and 1890’s were the worst for it. Designs included
jar-shakers, tin-shakers, ratchets, and the Archimedes – a sort of
up-and-down mixer, based on the Archimedes screw used in
An Archimedes egg-beater.
Late 1800′s egg-beaters.
Most were no good at all. Wooden handles fell off, and tin handles
stained your hands black. Some were made of “whirligigs” inside
a tin cylinder, which was great until you had to wash them, and they
were too big to whip small quantities.
The Williams’ Egg Beater, patented on May 31st, 1870, was
one of the first egg-beaters to make it past the novelty stage. It
was known as the Dover, and it set the basic form of the cheapest
hand-operated egg-beaters, using two whisks instead of one. The
earliest Dover egg-beaters consisted of two bulbous beaters, and a
rotary wheel to turn them. The inventor was Turner Williams
(Providence, Rhode Island), and he said that the advantage of his
invention was the “very peculiar shearing action” which resulted
from two wheels revolving in opposite directions, in the same space
and at the same time. This was the first egg-beater to have that
1870 Dover egg-beater.
The Dover was an immediate success. “Dover” became the generic
term in America for an egg-beater. A 1891 advertisement says to look
for “DOVER” on the handle, because “NONE OTHERS ARE GENUINE”.
The 1883 book Practical Housekeeping informs the reader that
the Dover is “the best in the market”.
Marion Harland, a cookery writer whose real name was Mary Virginia
Terhune, also praised the Dover. In 1875, she wrote that “egg
whipping ceased to be a bugbear to me” the day she bought one, and
that she wouldn’t sell it for $100. A portable egg-beater cost about
10-25c at that time.
Light, portable, rapid, easy and comparatively noiseless, my pet
implement works like a benevolent brownie. With it I turn out a
meringue in five minutes without staying my song or talk.
was born in 1830, in rural Virginia, one of nine children. Her
mother did little cooking: the task was left to “black mammies”.
Harland was more active in the kitchen, and she believed it was her
calling to master the role of “homemaker”. After she married,
she decided to teach herself and her cook, to increase their skills
in the kitchen. In 1873, she published the results in Common
Sense in the Household.
It sold 100,000 copies.
the book, Harland assumes that her readers will have a cook, but one
who will need a lot of guidance. At this point, middle-class
American women usually only had one cook, so they also worked in the
kitchen. Harland writes about her servant Katey in a very
egg-beater boom coincided with a period in American cuisine when
desserts at respectable tables were very much aerated. Apple snow,
orange snow and lemon snow each required four egg whites, whipped to
a “standing froth”. The Orleans cake needed 6 eggs beaten light,
and the yolks strained; the Mont Blanc cake needed 6 very stiff egg
creams, muffins, syllabubs, trifles, waffles, whipped frostings, and
of course meringues – all these needed highly-aerated eggs (the
yolks were beaten to a cream, and the whites to a fluff). They were
important to a housewife’s reputation, and even though her cook did
most of the work, Harland took credit. She criticizes her friend for
not having been “alert” that her cook wasn’t beating her eggs
properly, with “half a dozen strokes of the wooden spoon”.
the new egg-beaters were welcomed by middle-class housewives, who
wanted to get more air into their eggs, and more work out of their
servants. And to those who didn’t have servants, they could feel
that they weren’t really doing much work, even when they were. A
Holt-Lyon egg-beater (similar to the Dover one) in 1901 was
advertised with the claim that its unique “flared dashes” could
“instantly tear the eggs into the minutest particles”; it could
beat “eggs lighter and stiffer than the best hand whips in
one-fourth the time.”
the new egg-beaters weren’t very labour-saving at all, really. The
Dover egg-beater (and others like it) needs both hands to use, so you
can’t hold the mixing bowl. The paddles sometimes jam in one place
as they rotate, or rotate too fast. They often slip around in the
bowl and spatter mess everywhere. The Dover promoters claimed that
it could beat 2 egg whites in 10sec, but this is nonsense – it
would take minutes, not seconds.
people invented egg-beaters that (supposedly) fixed these problems,
but they only created new ones. Some inserted the paddles into an
attached jar/bowl so that the bowl wouldn’t slide around, but you
could only use it for small quantities, and the bowl attachment was
just one more thing to wash up.
beaters tried to fix the problem of needing two hands. A 1902
Roberts egg-beater was a type of Archimedes whisk, and its
advertisement claimed it was “A New Idea in Egg Beaters”. It was
“the only automatic beater made that works with one hand…simply
press on the handle and release.”
was a good idea, but as usual, there were other problems. The
one-handed beaters (their mechanisms including wire whirls, springs,
and discs like potato-ricers) took ages to beat the eggs, and could
malfunction if you tried to speed them up.
was also a family of water-operated egg-beaters, which you hooked up
to the new running water that was appearing in American homes. A
World Beater advertisement proclaimed, “Turn the Faucet and it
Water-powered egg-beater (1924).
all the effort put into creating new fancy egg-beaters, none of them
were better than the French balloon whisk, which had been used since
the 1700’s by confectioners (only by them?) The egg-beater boom
wasn’t really useful, and wasn’t really about saving labour &
time, just the illusion
of it. Cooks had started to rebel against tired arms, and they could
feel that the manufacturers were on their side in this. But their
arms would only get a rest with the advent of the mixer and food
Oliver hadn’t planned
on running into Barry during his time with William, but William seemed all too happy to have Oliver’s friend join them, and both Barry and
William had looked so hopeful, and, well, who was he to refuse them?
He’s starting to regret
it, though. Every warm feeling towards Barry that he’d repressed –
every ounce of love and devotion that he’s felt towards the younger
man seems to flurry through him as Barry sits next to him in the diner booth, and William stabs at his chicken nuggets with his fork across from them,
eyes fixed on his plate.
“You look tired,”
is one of the first things that Barry tells him in a concerned voice.
Oliver peers at his
friend, narrowing his gaze. “Well, work has been sort
of… tiring, lately,” he offers weakly, eyes darting towards his
son, and Barry nods in understanding, ducking his head with his lips
dipped into a frown.
“You know, if you
ever need any help for, uh, work-” Barry tells him, and it’s with a
meaningful look that pierces right through him, “You can always ask
for help. I’d race over in a heartbeat.”
It’s a simple statement
– something that Oliver’s always known, but the tone, the look in
his eyes, the way that Barry nibbles on his bottom lip… it’s laced
with a meaning that he can’t quite decipher.
His son, though, having
been distracted from playing with his food, is now staring between
the two men with a smirk on his face, and Oliver sends him a
questioning look. “What’s that look for?”
shrugs, abandoning his fork and dipping one nugget into his ketchup.
“Mom didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend.”
Oliver starts in an attempt to correct his son.
“We- we’re not-”
Barry splutters, a panicked look sent in Oliver’s direction, all
wide-eyed and adorable and fuck, Oliver just wants to reach
over and kiss him right then and there.
William just raises his
eyebrows, though, sending them a skeptical look, and damn, the kid is
way more perceptive than Oliver would have expected from someone his
“I should, um… I
should go,” Barry practically squeaks, face flushed and eyes
adamantly avoiding Oliver’s gaze.
It doesn’t take a lot
of thinking. He reaches over and clasps his hand over Barry’s, before
turning his palm to lace their fingers together,
and Barry’s expression goes from panicked to confused in a matter of
seconds, soft eyes once more landing his own, questioning.
“We’ll talk about it
later,” Oliver tells him gently, giving his hand a gentle squeeze and
sending the younger man a soft smile.
replies, his own lips spreading into a hopeful smile. “Later.”
They’re so lost in
staring into one another’s eyes, that Oliver barely registers the
grin lighting up his son’s face as his eyes dart between the two men,
proud of himself for being right about the obvious nature of their