Sunday, 18 January 2015

Chenonceau challenge

When, over Christmas, we visited the chateau of Chenonceau with Susan & Simon it was lovely and quiet and we were able to look around in a very leisurely fashion.

The kitchen and food preparation areas, as well as the servants' dining room are located in the cellars of the older building whose foundations, like that of the later gallery extension, are built in the river. The food preparation areas are on one side and the main kitchen with cooking ranges is in the other. There's a set of stairs which links the two areas -- rather like an internal version of a canal bridge; you walk up the inside of an arch span and then descend to the other side. Through the windows you can look out at the river Cher flowing underneath you.


In the photo above - taken on Christmas Day -  you can see the central rounded arch underneath the older, square section of the chateau. The main kitchen area is on the left and the servants' dining hall and food preparation rooms are on the right.
The 19th century kitchen, full of gleaming copper utensils
While we were looking at the 19th century kitchen range and paraphernalia we came across two mystery items.
First mystery object
If you look closely at the first mystery object you'll see our reflections in the beautifully polished copper. It was sat on the main range. The bulbous addition to the pan is what puzzles us. Without it it would seem to be a fish pan, albeit a fairly deep one. The bulbous section isn't a handle -- there are two obvious ones for carrying the pan and it is sealed, there are no vents or apertures. As the pan is on display and there's a strict 'don't touch' policy we didn't lift the lid so we don't know what it looks like inside.
Second mystery object
The second mystery object is obviously a useful Victorian labour-saving gadget of some type but we couldn't decide what for. It reminded me a little of a giant cigar cutter. Simon thought it was to grip something.  The two small 'ax' shapes in the center have blunt serrated edges.

So, despite some extensive speculation and discussion amongst the four of us, none of us have any real idea what these items are for. Do you?

21 comments:

Susan said...

Here's hoping someone knows!

GaynorB said...

I'd go with a gripping tool for item 2, as I don't think it would be precise enough for cigar cutting.

Item 1 is a mystery!

Vera said...

What polished pots and pans! Never in my kitchen would there be such gleam!

Carolyn said...

The nippers resemble this sugar cutter:

http://researcharchive.calacademy.org/research/anthropology/kitchen/tech.html

I have vivid memories of the kitchen at Saltram, a National Trust house in England, where our guide explained every little thing and the labor that was required. They were proud of their sugar cone, hard to come by these days unless you're the N. T., and the tool for breaking it into usable bits.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Gaynor - you're right it isn't. It's just the shape of it reminded me vaguely of a cigar cutter.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Vera - nor in mine I can assure you! :-)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Carolyn - I think you're absolutely right. Excellent! That's one mystery down.

Susan said...

The only thing that makes me hesitate re the sugar nippers is that the Chenonceau tool has teeth and none of the pics of sugar nippers I could find did. Also the Chenonceau tool has the 'blades' in the middle, whereas all the pics of sugar nippers show an arrangement with the 'blades' at one end, usually more like pliers, but even the bench mounted ones have the 'blades' at the end not the middle.

I think it is an inspired guess and it may well turn out to be sugar nippers because there certainly are similarities, but at this stage I wouldn't put money on it.

I'm just going to have to ask them aren't I? :-)

the fly in the web said...

Whatever it is I'm not polishing it...

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - LOL! Nor me!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Susan

Have a look at this Swedish contraption. Looks to be the same as the Chenonceau gadget but with a box around it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_nips#mediaviewer/File:Sugarloaf_Box_-_Open.jpg

Tim said...

After a lot of thought...
the first item has got to be a casserole for very small bottle-nosed dolphins!!

Tim said...

Alternatively....
it is where you shove the knucle end of a large ham....
let's face it, that is a big pan!

Tim said...

Or it may have a removable grid on the inside of the bulge...
and you put herbs &/or spices that you don't want to spoil a sauce, or the appearance of the cooked food....


and for "knucle"...
please read "knuckle"!!

Ida said...

Antoinette,

isn't the copper pan to cook rabbit in or anything else with feet .....:-)

Susan said...

Antoinette: Aha! That Swedish contraption is by far the most practical arrangement I've seen, and the nipping tool is much more like the one at Chenonceau. Thanks.

Tim: I wondered about ham too, but I can't see any advantage to manoeuvering the bone into that socket.

Tim said...

Nor, Susan, can I!!
But you know me....
I fire ideas with a scatter-gun approach...
often just for the humour...
and it is the wrong shape for a ham, IMO, too!
The only 'real' suggestion....
if there is a grid inside...
IF....
is the herbs & spices one!!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Ida - lord knows... :-)
Maybe it's to keep the french trimmed bone of a large joint out of the main part of the pan....

Vagabonde said...

This is a strange piece of kitchen equipment. Chenonceau is one of the most romantic looking castles in France I think. The kitchen is also beautiful.

Perpetua said...

I think the sugar cutter solution looks right for the second mystery, but I can't even hazard a guess for the copper item, though I'd love to know how they keep it so burnished. :)

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