2006 - Thanks to – my friend would say ‘due to’ - my passion for cooking and kitchens we’ve visited many a castle kitchen over the years. Some are very austere, like the old kitchen building of the Abbey of Fontevraud.
The round building, which looks a bit like an igloo with a pointed roof, is entirely made of white-greyish stonework. Inside there is no furniture, nor kitchen equipment on display. High above the slightly blackened sidewalls, where the fireplaces used to be, spherical holes act as chimneys. According to the visitor’s guide leaflet each fireplace had a very distinctive purpose: one for cooking meat, the other for boiling vegetables, a third one housed the abbey’s bread oven, and so on. It’s a very strange building, where even the slightest whisper is echoed by the pointed spherical dome.
There is another château however, that has a nice collection of kitchenware on display. It’s the Château of Montpoupon. Although most people will visit the castle for its ‘Musée du Veneur’ (Museum of the Master of the Hunt), the interior with its splendid tapestries, valuable furniture and anecdotic kitchen scene caught our attention. Inside the castle five rooms are open to visitors. When you step into a room, a sound tape is automatically switched on. You hear the so-called voice of the late Marquis and his daughter, with the daughter asking questions about the history and the contents of the room. The Marquis explains everything in a fatherly way, attracting the visitors’ attention to the main features. Each scene takes about three to five minutes … just long enough to learn something without getting bored.
To get to the kitchen, you have to leave the main building and enter the kitchen by the backdoor. There is no sound tape here, but the objects on display hardly need any explanation. Except for the heavy metal bars, separating the public area from the display, the kitchen looks as if its occupants have left it just a few minutes before you arrived. The food is a fake of course … and so is the naughty kitten that has just knocked an egg of a side table. The egg – also a fake one – is lying broken on the floor. With a frightened look in its eyes, the kitten is hiding under the side table, waiting to be scolded by an angry cook.
Montpoupon kitchen: notice the naughty kitten in the left corner
(I borrowed this picture from the Montpoupon website, as the one took in 2006 has the metal bars in it)
Metal bars, spoiling the view, were put in only recently to avoid people handling the objects … as did a colleague of mine some years ago. The plastic roasted chicken looked so real to her, that she couldn’t resist touching it … which set off the alarm! Now tell me, who's the naughty one?