Comments: Gastronomica

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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!

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.

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