On display in the Ironmongers shop at Beck Isle Museum is an intriguing item. The Norwegian Self-Acting Cooking Apparatus, dating from around the 1860s -1870s, is a wooden box, lined and thickly stuffed with felt. A cooking vessel made of tin fits into an aperture in the centre of the box.
It is similar to a haybox cooker, a form of thermal cooking whereby the compartment was packed full of hay.
It was patented by Herr So’rensen, who was first directed to the subject by the Norwegian peasants, who kept a saucepan hot by surrounding it with chopped hay.
The directions for use are printed on a piece of paper on the underside of the lid.
Food was first cooked in a saucepan and maintained at boiling point for five to ten minutes before being transferred to the tin vessel in the centre of the Norwegian Self-Acting Cooking Apparatus. It then continued to cook at a slower rate with the thick felt lining acting as a non-conductor of heat.
The apparatus could be used for boiling, stewing or roasting meat. Dishes could be kept hot for about 10-20 hours.
It was advertised as being ideal for ‘yachting, boating, shooting, travelling, fishing, and pic-nics’ and metal handles on either side made it easier for trans- porting.
An article about the Norwegian Self-Acting Cooking Apparatus appeared in the Queanbeyan Age newspaper (a weekly newspaper based in New South Wales, Australia) in June 1869. It states that ‘His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is going to have the apparatus tried during his anticipated trip up the Nile’.
The advantages of this apparatus were advertised as:
l Economy of Fuel
l Economy of Labour
l Quality and Quantity of Food Prepared
l Simplicity of Use
We are unsure where the item was manufactured and it is possible that it was imported.
There is also a Norwegian Self-Acting Cooking Apparatus in the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection.
Beck Isle Museum is open daily from 10am-5pm April through to September. You can also see our website www.beckislemuseum.org.uk, or follow us on Facebook to find out more about the museum.