Monday, 26 March 2012

Cooking and Kitchens...

My usual weekend baking session went a little awry yesterday- me at home with the evening meal almost ready (I was planning to make the lemon drizzle cake after dinner) when my husband rang to say the car had broken down and they were waiting for the recovery service.

So the cake never got done, so one of my sons got to take chocolate cake in his lunchbox today instead of lemon drizzle cake...Not that he minds, but I'd like some of the chocolate cake for myself.

The cake-making got me thinking about the cooks of the past and how hard it must have been providing food every day, even for a small household.

We take it for granted that we can pop to the shops for a loaf of bread, a pint of milk or half a dozen eggs, but have forgotten how much time and effort those few items would have taken to obtain in the past- and that's before you even start cooking with them.

Quite a few larger homes open to the public now have kitchens you can visit and they're well worth spending a little extra time looking around. They echo the past in a way grander rooms sometimes don't.

A long time ago I lived in a house that had a small pantry in the kitchen, and it had the wonderful stone shelf for keeping food cool. It's such a shame that many of the houses that still have them, often rip them out during kitchen modernisations.

I was brought up in a late Victorian terrace house which still had a small scullery attached to the kitchen- with a view out to the coal bunker... I became quite adept at cleaning the ash out of the living room fireplace and laying a new fire. :-)

You can see an abandoned Victorian kitchen that was discovered in a basement of an old stately home here. Or on a grand scale there's the Tudor Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.

For some good illustrations of kitchen objects have a look at this website- Old and Interesting.

Shire books has a section, Household Bygones, which has a selection of books- fire grates and ranges, old cooking utensils and table knives and forks among them.

If you want to look at some old recipes or 'Receipts' as they were called, then you'll find 'English Housewifery' by Elizabeth Moxon, on the Gutenberg website, interesting.

If you've visited any old kitchens open to the public, then please share your recommendations for a visit.


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Loved your post, Carol - and what a kitchen find! Funnily enough I was just writing a short description of a Victorian kitchen for something I'm working on.

The Georgian house we like to visit near Glasgow, Pollok House, has a later kitchen dating from Victorian or Edwardian times which is now the cafe.

Carolb said...

Victorian and Edwardian kitchens do seem to be popular, Rosemary.

Perhaps Downton Abbey has sparked the interest.

Lime Tree House in Blanford Forum, in Dorset, has it's costume collection displayed in the various rooms, and I think their tea room was actually the old kitchen originally.

Maxi said...

Wow, that place is amazing! Hampton Court is still on our To Do list, so I'll look forward to the kitchens there. I agree with you that sometimes those rooms tell more of a story than the grander ones. I'm interested in Carolb's mention of Lime Tree House too as I love fashion/costumes.
Hope the car got sorted!

Carolb said...

I've heard the Hampton Court kitchens are brilliant, Maxi.

It was quite a number of years ago that I visited Blanford Forum, and I know the House only opened certain days as it was run by volunteers, I believe.
Hopefully it is still going.