Plain or Toasted?

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Early residents of the Hammond-Harwood House were dependent upon the fireplace in the kitchen for all of their meals. Dinners were served either à la russe, where dishes were presented in succession by enslaved servers, or à la française, where all the dishes in each course were presented at the same time. Breakfast was usually buffet style with an assortment of breads, leftover meat, eggs–all depending upon available goods. Bread was often toasted, not just for its taste, but for preservation. Our early families loved their toast just as many of us do today. 

But how was bread toasted in a fireplace? Well, they had a special toaster that turned on a pivot. The toaster in the Hammond-Harwood House kitchen hearth sits on legs and has a long handle to which a rotating bar is attached. There are several round loops to hold the bread in an upright vertical position.. The toaster (which is made of iron) would be placed near the fire. The rotating bar permits the toaster to swing 180o, so the cook (who was probably an enslaved woman) would turn the bread around until it was suitably browned, watching it carefully so it wouldn’t burn. This certainly entailed a lot of labor for a couple of pieces of toast, compared with the “pop-up” and “pop-down” buttons on our modern toasters, nor was this a “quick, grab a piece of toast and dash out the door” moment. It makes me appreciate our modern kitchen conveniences. Bon appétit!


By Lucinda Dukes Edinberg

Hammond-Harwood House Curator


Posted on Sep 1, 2023 in , by Hammond-Harwood House



Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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