Friday, January 27, 2017

Turnspit Dogs

Here's a very strange bit of history:
The Best Kitchen Gadget of the 1600s Was a Small, Short-Legged Dog

In the hot, smoky kitchens of 17th-century Europe, you’d find a lot of things you’d never see in kitchens today; a large open fire, an iron roasting spit, and a giant hamster wheel-like contraption holding a small, live, constantly running dog referred to as a turnspit dog.

For hundreds of years the now-extinct turnspit dog, also called Canis Vertigus (“dizzy dog”), vernepator cur, kitchen dog and turn-tyke, was specially bred just to turn a roasting mechanism for meat. And weirdly, this animal was a high-tech fixture for the professional and home cook from the 16th century until the mid-1800s.
The dogs replaced the servant boys who did this before the dogs were bred for the task, and they were eventually replaced by steam-driven and then electrical devices.

This is said to be a stuffed turnspit dog named Whiskey. Wikipedia has this from John George Wood in The Illustrated Natural History (Mammalia), 1853:
Just as the invention of the spinning jenny abolished the use of distaff and wheel, which were formerly the occupants of every well-ordained English cottage, so the invention of automaton roasting-jacks has destroyed the occupation of the Turnspit Dog, and by degrees has almost annihilated its very existence. Here and there a solitary Turnspit may be seen, just as a spinning-wheel or a distaff may be seen in a few isolated cottages; but both the Dog and the implement are exceptions to the general rule, and are only worthy of notice as being curious relics of a bygone time.

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