While crawling around the chafing dish rabbit hole, I stumbled over something I had never seen before. In the chapter on chafing dish cooking in Fammie Farmer’s 1896 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book, she makes a throwaway mention: ” The Davy Toaster may be used over the chafing dish for toasting and broiling.”
I immediately hit up Google Images to see what she was calling a ‘Davy’ toaster, imagining one of those pyramid shaped camping toasters, but what I actually found was another rabbit hole inside this rabbit hole.
Humphrey Davy was a Cornish INVENTOR in the multifaceted sense of the word, discovered a LOT of things among which was the first electric light and a miner’s safety lamp.
“In 1809, Humphry Davy invented the first electric light by connecting two wires to a battery and attaching a charcoal strip between the other ends of the wires. The charged carbon glowed making the first arc lamp. Davy later invented the miner’s safety lamp in 1815. The lamp called firedamp or minedamp, allowed for the mining of deep seams despite the presence of methane and other flammable gasses.”from thoughtco.com
The Davy Toaster and Broiler from the Silver & Co., a Brooklyn NY metalwork company, was a child of his miner’s lamp discovery, implementing the same fine mesh wire gauze in its design. It’s rather nice that they give a nod to his invention with the naming of the device.
“On both sides of the frame work and on the outside are sheets of wire gauze held by a frame work of tin and wired at the corners to the broiler proper. The wires are tinned and a loop proveded to heel the handles together when in use. he Broilers are intended for chops, steaks toast, and kindred articles to be cooked over an open flame of gas, gasoline, oil or spirit stove, without, the manufacturer says, the risk of burning. The discoverery made by Sir Humphrey Davy which led to the inventition of the safety miners’ lamp, has been utilitized in this production, it being impossible for the flame to pass through the gauze.”
I found a mention of her using the Davy Toaster in one of her in person demonstrations in Cambridge Mass in 1894.
“The dishes prepared by Miss Farmer were anchovy toast with eggs, devilled almonds, Welsh rarebit, chicken and oysters a la Metropole, devilled tomatoes, and tenderloin of beef, thus showing the cooking of eggs, meat, fish and vegetables in the chafing dish.
“The tenderloin of beef was broiled on a Davy toaster, made of steel wires and wire gauze. Turn by means of tiny skewers. Have meat trimmed into shape of cutlets. Time carefully by the clock, broiling about eight minutes. Servie around canned peas, French beans or with parsley garnis, after seasoning with salt, pepper and slightly creamed butter.”
Ms. Farmer makes mention of this device in the 1896 edition and it appears in the 1920 edition, but it does not appear in her book Chafing Dish Possibilities, perhaps because that book is not all inclusive and restricted to JUST chafing dish recipes.
I wonder if Silver and Co, stopped making these clever grills, perhaps they fell out of favor as did the fad of chafing dish cookery, or the invention of other better methods of making toast were invented.
I swear it looks just like what we call a stove top sandwich maker or hot dog grill. Now I am wondering if I can make one…first I need some of Mr. Davy’s mesh.