POT SUR LE FEU
Fumées et bouillonnements intérieurs
"Interiors were lighted by a few windows, shuttered but unglazed, and by doors, often open during the daytime, through which children and animals wandered freely. Floors were of beaten earth covered with straw or rushes. In the center, a fire of wood, or of peat, commonly used in Elton 9 burned on a raised stone hearth, vented through a hole in the roof. Some hearths were crowned by hoods or funnels to channel the smoke to the makeshift chimney, which might be capped by a barrel with its ends knocked out. The atmosphere of the house was perpetually smoky from the fire burning all day as water, milk, or porridge simmered in pots on a trivet or in footed brass or iron kettles. At night a fire-cover, a large round ceramic lid with holes, could be put over the blaze. 10
A thirteenth-century writer, contrasting the joys of a nun’s life with the trials of marriage, pictured the domestic crisis of a wife who hears her child scream and hastens into the house to find “the cat at the bacon and the dog at the hide. Her cake is burning on the [hearth] stone, and her calf is licking up the milk. The pot is boiling over into the fire, and the churl her husband is scolding.” 11
Medieval sermons, too, yield a glimpse of peasant interiors : the hall “black with smoke,” the cat sitting by the fire and often singeing her fur, the floor strewn with green rushes and sweet flowers at Easter, or straw in winter. They picture the housewife at her cleaning : “She takes a broom and drives all the dirt of the house together ; and, lest the dust rise… she casts it with great violence out of the door.”
9. E.M.R., p. 170.
10. Beresford and Hurst, Deserted Medieval Villages, pp. 98, 100; Wood, English Mediaeval House, pp. 257-260.
11. Hali Meidenhod, ed. by O. Cockayne, London, 1922, p. 53."