The use of coal … and animal dung
In the 18th century, Vincenzo Caruana provided the services of pasticciaro, including the preparation of sfingi to the various clients who wanted to grab a bite while going on with their responsibilities. When boiling this savoury food with a long-standing Arabic tradition, Caruana used coal as a source of fuel for his stove. However, the use of coal for heating for food related purposes is not always easy to come by in the early modern period. For instance, bakers used wood to generate the necessary temperature to bake bread.
Bakers also stocked animal dung as another, and more readily available, source of oven combustible. In some cases, the baker’s neighbours also purchased dried animal dung for cooking purposes. It is difficult here to quantify the spread of this practice. However, evidence of this method of heating up the oven comes down to us as a result of Jean Quintin d’Autun’s 1536 observations.This practice persisted into the eighteenth century as the Libri Carcerati provide isolated incidents of individuals caught stealing animal dung from storage spaces.