Food preparation in the 18th century was a more intensive process than today. During an age without refrigerators, ovens, and electric appliances---all standard issue in today's modern kitchen---food was prepared over an open fire in a hearth, the central feature of an 18th-century kitchen. Cooking utensils had to be sturdy enough to endure the direct heat of fire, and constant, daily use. Sometimes they also doubled as serving ware.
One of the hallmark dishes from this era was roasted meat, whether beef, chicken, or wild game. Traditionally, the meat was skewered to the spit and then turned by hand, an arduous task that demanded constant attention and a fair degree of arm stamina. By the middle of the 18th century, however, many wealthier kitchens featured a motorized spit comprised of chains and pulleys. While the earliest versions were turned by dogs or even geese, the more inventive ones were turned by the smoke rising from the fire.
Whereas today's kitchen might be filled with items made of plastic, rubber, and synthetic materials that resist the heat of a dishwasher, the most common material for utensils in the 18th century was wood. When spun on a lathe, wood could be formed into an array of shapes, from ladles to bowls. Nutcrackers, butter churns, and salt boxes were all important devices that were used daily in the preparation of 18th century cuisine.
Cooking over an open fire meant that heavy, lidded pots were an important part of daily cooking. The most common piece, known as a "dutch oven," is still widely used today. This simple cast iron pot with a snug lid, once properly seasoned, cooks food uniformly from all sides since the heat is distributed throughout the walls of the pot. In the 18th century, an era without egg timers, cooks would time their recipes by reciting the Lord's Prayer from the Bible a set number of times, according to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.
Many of the side dishes and desserts in 18th century cuisine were made with the aid of a mold. Developed in many shapes and sizes, from a variety of materials such as wood or copper, molds could be used to make nougats (a confectionary dessert made with nuts and sometimes dried fruit), curds, jellies, cakes, pies, and various puddings. These pieces were often ornate and doubled as serving dishes.
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