24 October 2014

The Bachelor and the Chafing Dish

Long before the microwave, the student, spinster, poet, or bachelor kept a chafing dish in their humble garret.  Yes, that chafing dish was nearly as big as your whole microwave.  Yes, it does seem a bit counterintuitive that a single person or couple would procure something as large as a chafing dish to cook for one or two people, but they did. 

Much like the microwave, the chafing dish spawned a collection of cookbooks to go along with its cult status (One even has the word "cult" in the title!).  In order to get the word out about this wonderful kitchen implement, Deshler Welch wrote The Bachelor and the Chafing Dish.   Welch waxes poetic on the dish:

"The new chafing-dish--which is a most delightful evolution--is accomplishing much more as a civilizer.  It is certainly an important factor nowadays in breaking formality and bringing people around a festive board under the happiest of circumstances. Its very general use by both men and women, its convenience for a quick supper and for a dainty luncheon, and its success as an economical provider where it is necessary--all this is putting the chafing-dish upon a queenly dais."

He then proceeds to make a midnight snack of Welsh Rabbit and calls for two pounds of cheese.  That's a lot of cheese toast for a bachelor--especially at midnight!

Welsh's book was written at the very end of the Victorian Era and just a few years before the Edwardian Era.  It was a kind of precursor to the changes that one would see at beginning of the twentieth century, even though the great manner houses were still flourishing, if only on borrowed money. 

Interspersed with rather tame recipes, the book has a bit of history, a bit of poetry, and a few line drawings to keep our bachelor amused. Frankly, even the most lame of bachelors could cook with this book in hand a fine looking chafing-dish!

Try this recipe:


Put half a walnut of butter into the chafing-dish, and , when melted, add two tablespoons of jelly--and fruit--a dash of red pepper, and half a glass of sherry.  Place sliced or cut-up ham in this and simmer for a few moments.  Dried beef may be served the same way.

Serve this up and you will be on Match.com hunting a wife in no time!


  1. I have a lovely cookery book for the chafing dish which spends a lot of time saying how appealing it made the cook!

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