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TURNSPIT DOGS (best kitchen gadget of the 1600's)


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These poor dogs- specially bred for shape/endurance to run and run in a wheel to keep the roasting meat turning on a spit ....


excerpt :


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 oh—a giant hamster wheel-like contraption holding a small, live, constantly running 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.

Edward Jessy included the turnspit dog in his 19th-century book Anecdotes of Dogs, and he remembered it well from his youth. “They were long-bodied, crooked-legged, and ugly dogs, with a suspicious, unhappy look about them,

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When I was a little kid (was an early reader) used to get three books fortnightly from Melbourne Library, you'd read the books, send them back on the train, and order the three books for the next fortnight.  The train station would phone when the parcel arrived, and it was an hours walk to pick up the books from there. Recall one book was called something like "Ten Animal Stories from England and Abroad".  One chapter-story was the life of a kitchen dog, harrowing stuff about kitchen staff forgetting to change the dogs over and a dog having to run for double-shifts, about the fires too hot and older dogs would be blind from the heat among other things.  None of it was nice, some was horrendous, and definitely a story written to raise awareness, although that expression probably hadn't been invented.  Another in the book was the life of pit ponies underground, so kudos to that author of over 100 years ago for using the technology of the time to get the message across - pen and paper and find a publisher.  

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Lots of dogs were used to provide motive power prior to the industrial revolution. Just Google on "dog-powered". Apart from cart dogs, dogs were used to run on treadmills to operate butter churns etc.Dogs were also used in coal mines where tunnels were too small to accommodate pit ponies - replacing children after child labour laws were introduced.


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Edited by Tempus Fugit
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