Article by Elizabeth Semmelhack

HIS CLOG PRICKS the imagination. Was it an implement of medieval torture or was it perhaps a weapon? Its form does, in fact, follow its function, but first impressions are not always correct. The long, menacing-looking serrated tines were actually designed for the innocent task of crushing chestnuts and acorns in the Haute ArdËches region of Auvergne, France, in the nineteenth century.

The fruit of the chestnut was an important source of food for people and animals in this part of France, and even today chestnuts remain central to many regional dishes. Dried chestnuts as well as acorns were also commonly used to feed pigs, another staple of ArdËches cuisine, and spiked clogs were used to crush the hard outer shells of these fruits.

Excerpted from Fall/Winter 2015 Ornamentum. Click here to subscribe.

Elizabeth Semmelhack is Senior Curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.

Chestnut-crushing clogs were used in nineteenth-century France to de-shell acorns and chestnuts. The meat from the nuts was ground into flour or used as pig feed.
France, 1800-1900 Wood, forged iron, leather
L: 28.5 cm; W: 10.5 cm;
H: 22 cm
Photograph: Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada