Monday, October 30, 2017

Reflector ovens…in the 17th century?!

© March 9, 2012 by Carolina Capehart

On Facebook recently [2012] there was quite a lively discussion, as well as plenty of oooohhhing and ahhhhhing, amongst my assorted friends about the tin (or is it copper?) reflector oven that’s depicted in the painting below:

This is entitled simply “The Cook.” It was done by the Dutch painter Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667) and was most likely completed by him at some point between 1657 and 1662.

Yes, you read that correctly: between the years 1657 and 1662. Indeed, Metsu was a mid-17th century painter.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit it: I thought these ovens were only in use during the 19th, maybe the very late 18th, century (at least here in America). I’m not really sure why. I’ve used them often, but I’ve never really given it much thought. I’ve never investigated whether they were available/used earlier. Of course, I’ve done quite a bit of 18th century hearth cooking, but my main focus has typically been the 19th. Not to mention, that’s the time period in which I was initially trained (at Conner Prairie, back when the year 1836 was the focus). However, based on this painting, apparently reflector ovens were around, even as early as the mid-1600s.

At the same time, though, it is a Dutch painting. So perhaps reflector ovens were common in Europe, even during the 17th century, but were they also used on this side of the pond? It seems likely that they may’ve been imported. Or perhaps they were made here. However, I think it is generally believed that being a tinsmith was more of an 1800s profession. You know, due to British control of manufactured goods, that sort of thing. Or, perhaps not? It’d definitely be interesting to research this further, and to look at store inventories, newspaper ads, ship records, and other assorted documents, to see if, and when, such ovens were made in, or transported to, the colonies.

In any event, when this painting and the ensuing discussion took place on Facebook, I remembered a passage I’d read in Prospect Books’ facsimile reprint of Hannah Glasse’s book, The Art of Cookery, made Plain & Easy (1747). In the glossary is this definition (and illustration) of “Tin Oven”: The reference to a tin oven, [on page] 91, is to the ‘Dutch oven’ which was in common use and which stood in front of the fire. The food being cooked was exposed to direct heat and also to reflected heat from the polished tin interior. A door in the back could be opened to permit viewing and basting.

Now, what’s interesting is that all the receipts on page 91 in Glasse’s book are for fish, and only one specifically calls for cooking the dish in “a Tin Oven.” It’s the receipt [recipe] “Salmon in Cases.” The instructions say to wrap salmon pieces in paper and “lay them on a Tin Plate.” It then states that “a Tin Oven before the Fire does best” (I imagine as opposed to a brick bake oven). Which, of course, obviously means that the fish is not put on the spit!

So, in a typical tin reflector oven, where would you put a plate of fish “in cases”? On the floor/bottom of it? But that puts it too low in relationship to the fire, yes? So, in order to gain some height, could the plate perhaps be balanced on top of the spit? Could that work, would it stay securely? (I’m thinking maybe, but not likely?) Then I thought, “Well, perhaps Glasse means one of those tin ovens with a shelf? The ones that are often used for small breads (either loose or in a pan)?” And if so, does that mean those types of tin ovens were also around in the early to mid 18th century? Makes perfect sense, yes? Or no? And so, is there possibly a slight problem with this glossary’s definition of “Tin Oven”: i.e. it’s not just the ones with a spit and basting door, but it’s also other types?

Luckily for me, I was scheduled to cook again at the hearth in the kitchen of the Israel Crane House on Sunday, March 1, which meant I’d be able to conduct my own experiments.

I could figure out just how this fish receipt was to be cooked. What fun!

So, stay tuned!

For the results of Carolina’s experiment with reflector ovens, along with photos, see her blog article: 

*****  *****  *****
 Carolina Capehart, who passed away in April 2017, dabnabit (one of her favorite words), was a friend of those of us who study and report on the 17th century.  This is my remembrance of Carolina:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Clothing fashions during the Dyers' lifetimes--part 2

© 2017  Christy K Robinson 

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article. 
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This post is the second of two, on fashions of the early and mid-17th century, during the lifetimes of William and Mary Barrett Dyer and Anne and William Hutchinson. I tried to cover the various social strata. Part one of the fashion parade is HERE.

25. 1630s: Posthumous Portrait of Mary Fielding,
by Anthony Van Dyck

26. Lady Penelope Nicholas Wearing a Brown Dress and White Chemise

27. 1630s: Portrait of Miss May, by John Michael Wright

28. 1637: Lucy Percy, Countess of Carlisle.
Her husband was governor of Barbados.

29. 1638: Anne Carr, Countess of Bedford

30. 1640s: Frances, Lady Whitelock, 1614-1649, by Michael Dahl

31. 1649-Gloves worn to his execution by King Charles I

32. 1640s: A royalist's child is interrogated by Roundheads
(puritans/parliamentarians) during the Civil Wars.
"When did you last see your father?"

33. 1640s-Esther Tradescant and son detail,
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Was Esther murdered for her husband's valuable

34. English puritan children

35. Dutch colonists in New Netherland (New York)

36. 1640s-50s: Lady Elizabeth Cromwell, daughter of Oliver Cromwell

37. 1655: Woman Writing a Letter, by Gerard Terborch

38. Woman Reading a Letter, by Jan Vermeer

39. A woman arranging flowers, by William Bradford.

40. 1650s-60s: Lady Elizabeth Cromwell
41.  ca 1630s: Anna Dalkeith, Countess of Morton and Lady Anna Kirk

42. ca 1640s-50s: Anne Dudley Bradstreet, 1612-1672,
Massachusetts Bay Colony pioneer. Her father was
Governor Thomas Dudley, and her husband,
Simon Bradstreet, also became governor.

43. 1660: Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-feather Fan,
by Rembrandt

44. 1670s: Elizabeth Clarke Freake and Baby Mary

45. Netherlands family group: The Christmas Feast or St. Nicholas Feest, by Jan Steen.
The puritan English did not observe Christmas, and no New Englanders
celebrated Christmas, as it was considered too close to Catholicism.
I like the details of new toys, new shoes, food treats, and all the children happy
but the boy--I wonder what disappointed him?

46. Late 1600s (or more likely early 1700s): An English family group.
Notice the extended family of grandparents, adult children, and grandchildren.

47. 1660s-Man and woman holding hands

Christy K Robinson is author of these books:

We Shall Be Changed (2010) 

Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)   

Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This Vol. 2 (2014) 

The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport Vol. 3 (2014)  

Effigy Hunter (2015)   

Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)


And of these sites:  

Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)

Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)

William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)

Mary Dyer Illuminated (Vol. 1)
Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (Vol. 2)
The DYERS of London, Boston & Newport (Vol. 3)

All are available in paperback and Kindle at