[Sca-cooks] ISO resources for history of cast iron cookware

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Tue Jun 14 06:32:32 PDT 2011

> Chinese cauldrons seem like the most likely import, then; and I did 
> specify 1500s, so I had the time right as well. As for compactness and 
> value, two important factors: cauldrons that, unlike brass, bronze and 
> copper, don't make acid foods taste revolting have a high value; two, 
> cauldrons make wonderful containers to ship other things in. So Portugal 
> probably had some cast iron cauldrons, in the homes of the extremely 
> screamingly wealthy (Kings and merchant-princes), that came originally 
> from China, before 1600. Doesn't do the rest of us trying to do cooking at 
> events in period pots any good, but it's interesting.
> Yours in service to both the Societies of which I am a member-
> (Friend) Honour Horne-Jaruk, R.S.F.
> Alizaundre de Brebeuf, C.O.L. S.C.A.- AKA Una the wisewoman, or That Pict

Ceramic cookware was common and that handles the problem of acidic foods.

While cast iron cookware may or may not have been imported from China, 
importing the idea is less expensive, even with the cost of fuel in Europe. 
England and France were expanding iron production in the 16th Century and 
England and the Dutch were major players in the Lisbon spice market (at 
least until 1594).  Examples of cast iron cookware from the 17th Century are 
still around and the cookware became common in the 18th and later Centuries.

There is an interesting parallel with porcelain, which was definitely 
imported from China by the Portuguese.  European manufacture didn't start 
until 1575 and wasn't on par with the Chinese until 1708.  If the Portuguese 
were importing cast iron pots, I would expect to find a few examples still 
with us.  While the lack of pre-17th Century cast iron cookware is not 
definitive, it is suggestive of both lack of import and lack of manufacture.


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