Friday, 20 January 2012

The Bargee's Pail

This months Waterways World has an article about a "Bargee's Pail." This is an early version of a slow cooker. With food in a pot that is placed inside the pail and then suspended over a fire. It made me think back to when I was a child.

My grandfather had a Yorkshire Range in the kitchen. This was where he cooked "seven day stew" in a small cast iron cauldron which was hanging on a arm that allowed it to be placed near the flames in the hearth. Seven day stew was concocted from any items that were left over from preparing other meals, everything went into the pot.

Food that was left on the plate went to feed his pigs which he kept on a small holding. The pigs were on occasions invited indoors after they were "boned and rolled" then hung from a hook on the staircase. Whenever I went to visit, a sharp knife which was almost worn through from all the sharpening (bit like a sickle) was used to cut a thick piece of bacon off the bottom of the pig roll. All these years later I can remember the wonderful taste of seven day stew with a bacon slice and a large hunk of fresh bread which he baked everyday on the range.

But going back to the Bargee's Pail. I can remember when I was quite young, a new gas main was being installed down our road. I was interested in the contents of the spoil heap because of all the finds that were being thrown up. The broken clay tobacco pipes were my main interest. I found several with decorated bowls. One that I remember was something like a small Toby jug character who was sat on a chamber pot. At that time most of the road excavations had a night watchman. He was housed in a small portable shed (sentry box) and kept warm with the aid of a brazier just outside the door.

I remember one night watchman had what looked like a small milk churn. This was placed over the brazier to slow cook the contents. Just like the bargee's pail it contained an earthenware pot with a lid and a glass bottle inside. The churn was a dull green in colour and it could have been of military origin. There were always "billy cans" full of hot water round the brazier in the daytime as the labourers got them ready for the dinner break cup of tea.

On another topic.

Two BBC Radio Leeds presenters have begun intensive training for a special waterborne challenge in March in aid of BBC Sport Relief 2012. Adam Pope and Katherine Hannah aim to navigate along the entire 127 miles (204km) of the historic Leeds Liverpool Canal - using just a pedalo boat. Travelling at an average speed of about 2mph (4km/h), and negotiating 91 locks along the way, the pair aim to complete their pedal-powered journey in just 10 days, collecting cash for Sport Relief along the way. I wonder if they will stay on board for passing through the locks?


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