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Author Topic: on baking in ovens of old.  (Read 82 times)
Zeppelin Admiral
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« on: September 04, 2020, 01:48:00 am »

For multiple discussions hopefully in the future, but also because apparently the internets have forgotten some things I swear I remember learning a a little one.

I remember when I was little we had a large brick fireplace in our living room with two brick compartments on the side of it. One on top of the other. (There was also the large iron arm build into the fireplace clearly meant to hold a pot or kettle over the fire) and I was always told that the small brick cubbies were ovens. Apparently there were several ways to use them. You could have a fire in the main fireplace and the ones on the side would warm or cook something on a low temperature. You could also heat the lower one ad it would be more like an over in the upper one. and you could also do the old standard of putting coals or fire in the upper one directly and then rake them out before closing things like breaks in it to bake.

The thing that I remember from when I was a kid was that I was told that when an oven like that was sealed up you usually had a wooden door shaped tho fit the opening roughly and then you made a type of dough that you sealed around it that would bake and harden in place. it would often be charred and hard as a rock afterwards and you chipped it away.

I was told this was sometimes called Cake, and that this what was being referred to by the phrase "let them eat cake". As in, if they are starving let them eat the hard chunks of lightly burn flour pastes used to seal the ovens. Seems either that was a bit of a story or that others have fogotten this and come up with other stories for that phrase to fill the gaps.

von Corax
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Prof. Darwin Prætorius von Corax

« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2020, 04:41:07 am »

It certainly sounds reasonable.

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Zeppelin Captain
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2020, 04:57:18 am »

The Victorian house I lived in as a child had an oven built in next to the fire.
My Grandmother would cook bread in it.

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Zeppelin Captain

« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2020, 03:27:26 pm »

It certainly sounds reasonable.

Except that it's simply not true. The "cake" being referred to in the quote "let them eat cake" was cake. Pretty much cake as we know it today.

The quote is from a French noblewoman just prior to the French Revolution. It was in response to someone telling her that the poor had no bread to eat. The point of the quote was that the French aristocracy were so far removed from the reality of the poor class that they simply couldn't comprehend their plight. The poor have no bread? Why don't they eat cake?
J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2020, 08:28:39 pm »

The odd thing about it, is that Marie Antoinette may not have even uttered that phrase. It seems to have no reference other than a single anecdote written by a single person - Jean Jacques Rousseau's autobiographical book "Les Confessions"), after her death. Even worse, the original phrase was "Let them eat Brioche" not "Let them eat cake."

The phrase "Let them eat cake" is often attributed to Marie Antoinette, but there is no evidence that she ever uttered it, and it is now generally regarded as a journalistic cliché. This phrase originally appeared in Book VI of the first part of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's autobiographical work Les Confessions, finished in 1767 and published in 1782: "Enfin Je me rappelai le pis-aller d'une grande Princesse à qui l'on disait que les paysans n'avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit: Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" ("Finally I recalled the stopgap solution of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: 'Let them eat brioche'"). Rousseau ascribes these words to a "great princess", but the purported writing date precedes Marie Antoinette's arrival in France. Some think that he invented it altogether.

Rogue Ætherlord
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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2020, 09:53:16 pm »

My own iunderstanding of the the term stems from an explanation from a fellow blackpowder enthusiast (I was briefly into cap-and-ball revolvers several centuries *cough* decades *cough* ago).

Seems a buildup of material called "cake" would often foul the riflings and, if left unremoved, the muzzle and touchhole of blackpowder rifles and earlier black powder weapons; it was especially a malady that affected the various types of flint and matchlocks. Basically, it was the carboniferous residue left behind by  the burning black powder, literally, the "soot," so to speak, and was something that was always occurring in small deposits, no matter how finely-made and "clean" the powder in question actually was. The "caking" occurred when one fired the musket (or whatever, and yes, it also occurred in artillery pieces) multiple times without cleaning the weapon afterwards (even today's "smokeless" firearms produce it, just in smaller quantities, which is the reason people still pull oily bits of rag and bottlebrush-like devices through the bores of their weapons to clean them. Yes, such deposits, if allowed to accumulate can still seriously foul the bore and even gum up the actions of even the most modern firearms).

It relates here, in that my friend explained that "cake" was a term and concept that already existed before firearms, in reference to several practices that used things that left hard residues, such as low-grade coal in hand-bellowed forges, and yes, dough spilled in or applied to ovens of mud, clay, brick or whatever, and several other furnace-related and baking trades. In almost all cases, he said, it was something that was burned dark, hard and foul-smelling (or foul-tasting, in terms of baked goods, one would assume).

He was of the opinion that the term was adapted to firearms, borrowed, as it were, from baking or blacksmithing, rather than shooting being the origin of it.

« Last Edit: September 04, 2020, 10:01:42 pm by MWBailey » Logged

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