From Too Many Chefs -

March 6, 2004

If ever there was a magazine that covered food and its impact on culture to the very bones (boiling them down to make a nice stock), it's Gastronomica.

I'd seen Gastronomica at a few newsstands, but it didn't look like a traditional foodie magazine. There are few if any recipes inside and the paper is thick, heavy, almost too high quality.

I caved in and bought the Winter issue. Wow. Among the articles - a discussion of how the language of food and of sex merge; a poem to Jacques Pépin: and an exploration of what might be the first technological kitchen gadget - a large antique clockwork device that turned the spit in 18th century kitchens.

You can read one of the more interesting articles on-line. How do sumo wrestlers get so big? The answer is chankonabe, a chunky meat or fish and vegetable stew that they cook for their main meal of the day. Johnathon Deutch investigates the gastro-lore and actuality of a sport that without ritual would be "two fat men hugging" in Chunky Soup: The Sumotori Diet.

The theme is picked up by Merry White in the next article, Feeding Your Face: Fan Fare and Status at a Sumo Tournament, but you'll have to hunt the magazine down to read it.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at March 6, 2004 11:38 PM | TrackBack

Barrett, you can go back to the 15th (or early 16th) century for an example of a mechanical spit. Leonardo da Vinci made one for the kitchens at Amboise in France that was powered by the heat of the fire - the hotter the fire, the faster it turned. Which is very clever, if you think about it. Anyway, from what I recall he wasn't the first to have the idea either!

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 7, 2004 at 12:30 PM

The Da Vinci "smoke jack" is mentioned in the article. Though he did design the device, it was apparently just theoretical and never built. Real ones were mentioned in the diaries of Pepys, but existed earlier as part of this mainly British phenomenon.

One fascinating fact - dogs were apparently critical to British cuisine for a time. Not as an ingredient, but as a means of powering the spit. The dog would walk in what appears to be an oversized hamster wheel, attached to a gear and chain system that turned the roast meats over the fire.

Posted by Barrett on March 7, 2004 at 2:04 PM