Gamerith, Anni

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GAMERITH, ANNI. Anni Gamerith (19061990) was one of the most famous European food ethnologists, known for her fieldwork and her theoretical insights. Born in Austria and a teacher by profession, Gamerith received her doctorate late in life at the University of Graz. The same university later gave her an honorary professorship for her scientific achievements. Her theory about the structure of traditional cookery was put forward for the first time at the First International Symposion of Ethnological Food Research held at Lund, Sweden, in 1970. This immediately won her international recognition. She proposed that there was an interdependence between food, cooking utensils, and cooking processes on the one hand and the fireplace on the other.

In essence, the type of food produced by a culture was dependent on one of two basic technologies. In former times, before the so-called Sparherd (literally "fuel-frugal" kitchen range) was invented, kitchen fireplaces were designed either for an open fire (hearth) or for a cooking oven. The hearth with its open fire could be close to the floor (where the cook had to bend down) or as high as a table (where the cook could stand upright while cooking). The food was boiled in the hot water of an iron kettle (hanging over the fire) or fried in the hot fat of an iron three-legged pan (standing over the fire). The food prepared in this way included both meat, which was often boiled, and various kinds of pancakes, with the dough fried in different ways. During the whole process of preparing the food on the hearth, the cook could intervene at any time.

Preparing the food in the cooking oven was another matter. Here, the food was cooked in the superheated air of the oven. Once the food was placed in the oven, the oven door was shut, and the door stayed shut to avoid having the oven cool down. The pots and pans used in this case were ceramic and were placed in the oven through the small hole in front by special devices called "pot forks" (Ofengabel ) or "pot forks with wheels" (Ofenwagen ). The food systems connected with the hearth and the cooking oven as the two main places of food preparation were structurally different and, according to Gamerith, could be referred to as "hearth food" (Herdkost ) and "cooking oven food" (Ofenkost ). In former times a region was characterized by one category or the other. The Sparherd or kitchen range changed the situation completely. The incentive for its invention was the necessity of saving wood (hence the name, German sparen meaning 'to save'). The kitchen range combined the two formerly separate principles of preparing food: the hot surface of this stove is equivalent to the open fire (allowing boiling or frying), while the baking oven corresponds to the cooking oven (where one could bake or braise). With this innovation, the two previously separate food systems could be combined, and the former differences between areas where one method or the other was dominant disappeared.

Gamerith had encountered these exclusive systems in her fieldwork and was finally successful in finding the theoretical explanation. She also found a classification for the many different kinds of gruel and concerned herself very early with old methods of processing cereals from the aspect of nutrition. She was involved to a great extent in the organization of the museum at Feldbach, Austria, with its special attention to rural material culture in general, including many objects that were relevant for ethnological food research. In the museum at Stainz, Austriaagain due to Anni Gamerithfood plays an important role.

See also Germany, Austria, Switzerland; Hearth Cookery; Preparation of Food.


Gamerith, Anni. "Feuerstättenbedingte Kochtechniken und Speisen." Ethnologia Scandinavica 1 (1971): 7885.

Gamerith, Anni. Speise und Trank im südoststeirischen Bauernland. Grazer Beiträge zur Europäischen Ethnologie Bd. 1. Graz: Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, 1988.

For further publications see "Rund um das bäuerliche Essen." Festschrift zum 80. Geburtstag von Anni Gamerith. Feldbach 1986. Also contains a curriculum vitae written by herself.

Edith Hörandner