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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The Gipsy method of smelting iron

The art of cooking butcher-meat among the Gipsies is similar to that of making ready fowls, except that linen and clay are substituted for feathers and straw. The piece of flesh to be cooked is first carefully wrapped up in a covering of cloth or linen rags, and covered over with well wrought clay, and either frequently turned before a strong fire, or covered over with hot ashes, till it is roasted, or rather stewed. The covering or crust, of the shape of the article enclosed, and hard with the fire, is broken, and the meat separated from its inner covering of burned rags, which, with the juice of the meat, are reduced to a thick sauce or gravy. Sometimes a little vinegar is poured upon the meat. The tribe are high in their praise of flesh cooked in this manner, declaring that it has a particularly fine flavour. These singular people, I am informed, also boiled the flesh of sheep in the skins of the animals, like the Scottish soldiers in their wars with the English nation, when their camp-kettles were nothing but the hides of the oxen, suspended from poles, driven into the ground.

The only mode of cooking butcher-meat, bearing any resemblance to that of the Gipsies, is practised by some of the tribes of South America, who wrap flesh in _leaves_, and, covering it over with clay, cook it like the Gipsies. Some of the Indians of North America roast deer or a small size in their skins, among hot ashes. An individual of great respectability, who had tasted venison cooked in this fashion, said that it was extremely juicy, and finely flavoured. In the Sandwich Islands, pigs are baked on hot stones in pits, or in the leaves of the bread-fruit tree, on hot stones, covered over with earth, during the operation of cooking. It is probable that the Gipsy art of cooking would be amongst the first modes of making ready animal food, in the first stage of human society, in Asia--the cradle of the human race.[154] Substitute linen rags for the leaves of trees, and what method of cooking can be more primitive than that of our Scottish Gipsies?

[154] Ponqueville considers the Gipsies contemporary of the first societies. _Paris_, 1830.

The Gipsy method of smelting iron, for sole-clout for ploughs, and smoothing-irons, is also simple, rude, and primitive.[155] The tribe erect, on the open field, a small circle, built of stone, turf, and clay, for a furnace, of about three feet in height, and eighteen inches in diameter, and plastered, closely round on the outside, up to the top, with mortar made of clay. The circle is deepened by part of the earth being scooped out from the inside. It is then filled with coal or charred peat; and the iron to be smelted is placed in small pieces upon the top. Below the fuel an aperture is left open, on one side, for admitting a large iron ladle, lined inside with clay. The materials in the furnace are powerfully heated, by the blasts of a large hand-bellows, (generally wrought by females,) admitted at a small hole, a little from the ground. When the metal comes to a state of fusion, it finds its way down to the ladle, and, after being skimmed of its cinders, is poured into the different sand moulds ready to receive it.

[155] According to Grellmann, working in iron is the most usual occupation of the Gipsies. In Hungary it is so common, as to have given rise to the proverb, "So many Gipsies, so many smiths." The same may be said of those in Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia, and all Turkey in Europe; at least, Gipsies following that occupation are very numerous in those countries.

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