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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/467

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405
GENERAL REMARKS ON COOKING MEAT

the cave-bear. and other wild animals long extinct, in the old drift gravels of the glacial period, which was passing away in Europe thousands of years before the Neolithic Age began, and it is even possible that the existence of man may date from a still earlier pre-glacial period.

The Discovery of Fire is lost in the dim ages of antiquity. No savage tribe has been found so low in the scale of being as to be without its possession; even among the relics found of man's existence during the mammoth period, fragments of charcoal and burnt bones have been discovered. The methods pursued by savage races for producing fire are by the friction of one piece of wood against another, by the use of a fire-drill, consisting of a pointed stick, which is revolved rapidly in a hole made in a piece of wood, or by means of a species of bow-drill. The Brahmins at the present day produce fire for their daily sacrifice by this primitive method. Later, the old fire-drill was improved upon by the flint and steel; and now the safety match in common use provides a ready means of kindling a fire or producing a light. Of such value is the possession of fire to man for warmth, cooking his food and other purposes, that the ancient Greeks in their mythology ascribed its origin to the gods, from whom Prometheus, the brother of Atlas, stole it, concealed in a tube. By the Parsis, the adherents of the ancient religion of Persia or Zoroastrianism, fire is regarded as the emblem of the Divine power, and its worship forms a religious ritual.

Fire having been discovered, mankind endeavoured to make use of it for drying and afterwards for cooking their meat; but for ages the methods and appliances employed in the preparation of food were of the crudest description. Meat brought in actual contact with fire is apt to become smoked, and have an unpleasant flavour. This disadvantage was remedied by passing spits through it, and placing it above the burning fuel. Thus grilling was invented; and simple as is this mode of cookery, yet all meat cooked in this way is richly and pleasantly flavoured. In Homer's time the art of cookery had not advanced much beyond the method of roasting, for we read in the "Iliad" how the hero Achilles and his friend Patroclus regaled the three Grecian leaders on bread, wine and broiled meat. It is noticeable, too, that Homer does not speak of boiled meat anywhere in his poems. We read in the Scriptures, of Sarah cooking her cakes on the hearth; and in the ceremonial law given to the ancient Jews, they were distinctly directed to bring cakes "baked in the oven." The term "oven" may have been applied to a kind of pot, sometimes called "kail-pot," which was a vessel completely closed, and when in use was buried bodily in hot ashes. The tripod and cauldron is the earliest cooking apparatus on record. The former consisted of three rods of iron or hard wood fastened together at the top, at which point was inserted an iron hook to hold the handle of the cauldron.