Monday, 31 October 2011
TORCHONS ROUND THE KITCHEN
THESE ARE TYPICAL TORCHONS (TOWELS OR CLOTHS) used in French kitchens to dry, clean and wrap, china, cutlery, glass, iron pots and pans, as well as preserve bread, meat and fish, and keep flies off . Most kitchens in old France had open fires for cooking, with hobs and chains to fix the saucepans at different heights as well as spits for roasting and any ovens were mostly used for bread baking. For the Sunday roasts, the pans were often carried down to the bakers' ovens which were still hot and were empty - Frequently without hot water, no handy detergents and dim lighting, it must have been a hard and awful job to get the pots and pans clean. The Pot au Feu was a staple with bits of meat and any veggies being thrown in to make a hot nourishing dish and of course, all kinds of casserole were popular, economical and filling. The first course was often soup taken in a bowl, and supped, with plenty of bread, and the next was the more solid bits fished out and put on a flat plate. Washing up was done in big flat stone sinks and of course the soft, creamy pottery soon became cracked and chipped. The drying cloths came in many weights and patterns - coarse and dark hemp for black pots, lighter linen for china and and very fine for glasses - with special ones for cutlery as well. They were hung to dry from rows of hooks and sometimes you find enamel racks with the different labels printed on them. Hemp, linen and cotton were used in varying mixes and amounts, depending on local crops and weavers, and you can still find masses of them at any good linen stand at antique fairs and brocantes. Most have initials neatly embroidered and they come in large sets - I would not bother with any that are worn or stained!