Hous Amberherthe

Our Camp Kitchen

Image from Il Cuoco Segreto Di Papa Pio V by Bartolomeo Scappi, 1570

Image from Il Cuoco Segreto Di Papa Pio V (The Private Cheff of Pope Pious V),
by Bartolomeo Scappi, Venice, 1570

When the household decided to build a camping kitchen, we chose this example. The general household rationalisation for our camping activities is that we are on campaign, so the above arrangement seemed to be a reasonable choice. Particularly as the inscription below the canopy says "Cucina per Campagna", or Campaign Kitchen.

The Canopy (Tenda)

We decided that a canopy to protect the fire from rain (and incidentally, also the cooks from both sun and rain) was a very sensible idea.

Our canopy, made of canvas, is somewhat larger than that in the above illustration. We chose to increase the size based on the area we would need to protect during meal preparation and clean up.

We took into considerion how much room is taken up when we have the usual number of cooks (and helpers) seated on stools around the fire, and also how much space is required for the kitchen table when it is in use. The height of the structure was also adjusted to allow our tall men to work under the canopy without stooping.

The canopy set up during Canterbury Faire 2003

Our canopy in use during Canterbury Faire 2003

Vitale explains the canopy construction:

"The canopy is based on the one depicted in illustration. It differs in a number of respects.

It is not apparent how the original was constructed, or if it was in fact 2 closely spaced trees. Credence could be given to the tree theory, due to the splaying of the uprights, as seen at the base.

The cover needs to be portable and able to be dis-assembled, so a modular version was created. This has a pair of tapered uprights, and a pair of out-rigged poles attached to each upright. These mirror the shape of the original.

Due to original being either based on trees, or perhaps buried into the ground, an alternate way was needed to keep the canopy erect while still making it portable and easy to take up and put down. It was decided that it should be held up by a series of ropes, as seen. The extra ropes, meant that additon tension was applied to the canopy. This meant that the supports, seen in the original, from the apex of the uprights to the ends of the out-riggers and along the front and back, were not needed.

The canopy itself is constructed of a heavy weight canvas. This has not been waterproofed. The natural swelling of the fibres, combined with the relatively steep pitch of the roof, has proved conductive in keeping leaks to a minimum.

Additionally as period waterproofing treatments, were often flammable, it seems likely that a cover designed for using over an open fire, would not be so treated."

[UPDATE: After some use in a wide range of conditions (and one very soggy set-up) the canvas relaxed in some areas allowing water to pool in a 'drop down the back of your neck when you least expect it' kind of way. Increasing the tension on the canopy as a whole did little to reduce sag along the edges leading us to believe that the supports seen on the original canopy might be a useful addition.]

The Fire Frame

It was important to ensure the horizontal bar was long enough to support the full number of necessary items at any one time, and strong enough to take the weight of the maximum number of fully laden pots. As a result, both the horizontal rod and uprights are made from steel.

The legs are based on those in the picture, but modified slightly. Tycho altered the curve at the top of each leg so that, at their widest footprint, the legs lock the cross bar in place. As a result the whole fire frame is exceedingly stable. The cross bar cannot slide sideways when unevenly loaded, and the legs cannot slide outwards even when fully loaded. (For additional stability we normally hammer tent pegs over the feet, just to be certain nothing can topple over our dinner.)

A details of Scappi's cucina per campagna showing the fire frame.

A details of Scappi's cucina per campagna showing the fire frame.

Our cooking frame and fire box

Our cooking frame and fire box (configured for gas)

The brackets for supporting the spit have naturally become hooks for hanging unused utensils and pots between meals. On one rare occasion the brackets were successfully used for their intended purpose, but we have not managed a repeat of this experience.

Tycho also constructed hanging hooks based on the illustration. He did, however, make some changes to the arrangement. By adding chain and extra hooks, we can now adjust the height of the pots over the fire.

We hope you enjoy your visit with us.