The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Christ Church kitchen

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The kitchen of Christ Church College is 40 ft. square and 40 ft. high, lighted from a lantern in the centre of the roof. There are three fireplaces, each 20 ft. wide; one of which, for roasting, has a grate formed of upright iron bars 4.5 ft. high, forming a grating about 9 in. distant from the brickwork which forms the back of the fireplace. When roasting is to be performed, a vertical stratum of coals is filled in between the grating end the brickwork, and six tiers of spits, each between 13 ft. and 14 ft. long, and each having on it six or eight joints, or twelve or thirteen fowls, are placed on the racks, and set in motion by the smoke-jack. The dripping from the whole drops into the same dripping-pan, and every separate article is basted with the combined dripping so produced. Thus, if ducks, geese, turkeys, fowls, pork, beef, mutton, venison, veal, and lamb, were all roasting at the same time, each of these articles would be basted with the combined fat of ducks, geese, turkeys, fowls, pork, beef, mutton, venison, veal, and lamb. On expressing our surprise at this to one of the under-cooks who attended us, she informed us that she believed none of the gentlemen knew of the practice; but that the two or three tutors or poorer students who remained during vacations, and who dined sometimes on one joint roasted by itself, expressed their satisfaction at its goodness. It is not a little instructive to reflect on this fact. Here are a number of young men of the first rank and wealth in the kingdom, who affect, and indeed have a right from their station in society, to be epicures, eating what would disgust the humblest mechanic or poorest tradesman. If these frequently dine on meat roasted along with other sorts in a close oven, they are still aware of the difference in flavour between such meat and that roasted by itself in a free current of air; but these noble epicures, who would, no doubt, be shocked beyond measure at the idea of eating meat which had been roasted or baked in a baker's oven, on account of its having been exposed to the exhalations of other kinds of meat supposed to be roasting in it at the same time, are yet faring every day on what is a great deal worse both in reality and idea. There is a curious old gridiron in the kitchen at Christ Church, 5 ft. square, with iron wheels. It is said that formerly, when meat was dressed on it, a hole in the floor was filled with lighted charcoal, and, the gridiron being charged, it was wheeled over the fire, and afterwards wheeled off and on as it became requisite. The larders, and all the other subordinate arrangements of this kitchen, are of a very clumsy and imperfect description, badly lighted and ventilated, and altogether unfavourable to cleanliness. Properly ventilated roasting-ovens would not only roast every kind of meat with its proper flavour, as well as it is done before an open fire in a private gentleman's house, but they would save a great deal of fuel and labour. Let Mr. Sylvester, or some such engineer, be consulted, and we will venture to say that modern innovations on long-established forms will be adopted in the utensils and the arrangements of college cookery, whatever others suggested for the gardens and grounds may be rejected.