williams fork

Culinary Technology (Part 8): The Aristocracy

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.

Turbot pan.

Of course, not all of these items would have been in use during every era.

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).

Modern stockpots.

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.

Medieval spit.

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.

Modern stewpans.

Georgian 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 steam-heated hotplates.

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 stewpan.

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.

William Verrall (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 pan.”

This obsession 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 batterie actually 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).

The 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.

Some 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.

William 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.

Recipe-writers 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.

William 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, less fuel.

In 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 slowly.”

Simmering 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.

Kitchiner 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 is true.

The 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.

Another 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.

Victorian 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.

Tin 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.”

But 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.

Brian Michael Bendis Heads to DC in Exclusive Deal
After an association with Marvel Comics that extends back to 2000, writer Brian Michael Bendis has signed an exclusive deal with DC Comics.

Holy shit, there is a lot to unpack here:

Bendis was Marvel’s Golden Boy, if he’s out, then clearly there’s something big going on behind the scenes. His departure leaves a massive power gap at Marvel. My guess was that Nick Spencer was being groomed to take his place, but with Secret Empire flopping, his push has been sidelined.

This is Miles Morales’s judgement day. If Marvel can’t hook him up with a good or better writer than Bendis then the Miles Morales experiment is almost as good as done and over. And Riri Williams? Stick a fork in her and call her done.

The future of Jessica Jones is very much in doubt, without one of her primary writers. This goes for the comic and the TV Show: Jones is another one of Bendis’s babies and while she’ll last for a while based on her current wave of popularity, when she’s done, she’s done.

DC Rebirth is about taking advantage of DC’s rich heritage and continuity. “Heritage and Continuity” are fucking anathema to Bendis as he’s proven in Age of Ultron and Civil War II. He’ll be a hard fit in my opinion without strong editorial help.

My fear is that Bendis is going to look for DC’s “diversity” characters who have been leagues better than Marvel’s transparent tokens and then turn them into shitty tokens. If Bendis goes for Aqualad, I’ll be mad. Ditto with Kenan Kong.

Hopefully if Bendis does that shitty “Bendis-Speak” thing of repetition and questions, Tom King will execute some sort of CIA technique to break his fucking fingers.

anonymous asked:

William totally shipping his daddy and Barry tho

I drabbled again. I’m not even sorry.

An Outsider’s Perspective

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?”

“Nothing,” William shrugs, abandoning his fork and dipping one nugget into his ketchup. “Mom didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend.”

“That’s not-” 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 age.

“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.

“Y-yeah.” Barry 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 relationship.