The Fresh Loaf

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Baguette dispenser debuts in France

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foodslut's picture
foodslut

Baguette dispenser debuts in France

Moderators - if this fits better elsewhere, please feel free to shift it.

One question I have:  how good can these baguettes be?

France is the home of the baguette, that savory, crisp staple of a fabled gastronomy. But just try getting a fresh one in the evening, or on a holiday, or even in August, when many of the country's 33,000 bakeries are closed.

Jean-Louis Hecht thinks he has the answer.

The baker from northeast France has rolled out a 24-hour automated baguette dispenser, promising warm bread for hungry night owls, shift workers or anyone else who didn't have time to pick one up during their bakery's opening hours.

"This is the bakery of tomorrow," proclaimed Hecht, who foresees expansion in Paris, around Europe and even the U.S. "If other bakers don't want to enter the niche, they're going to get decimated."

For now, though, that's a lot of talk.

He's only operating two machines— one in Paris, another in the town of Hombourg-Haut in northeastern France — each next to his own bake shops. The vending machines take partially precooked loaves, bake them up and deliver them steaming within seconds to customers, all for euro1 ($1.42) ....

More here.

copyu's picture
copyu

I think most French customers would say; "...a pre-baked baguette is better than NO baguette!" I'd be inclined to agree with them, even without a 'taste test'. I'd guess they wouldn't be really great at that price, but probably better than some of my 'one-day-too-late' home-baked, hoagy/mini-baguettes that I sometimes have to take to work for lunch. They can get very 'chewy' at times!

I'm going to look at some sourdough rye 'Broetchen' as a replacement for the white breads for my lunch...or I can just wait for this to catch on, here in 'the land of vending machines', Japan!

Thanks for posting the article,

copyu   

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

Vive le France!

Alas, knowing the French, this won't fly.

I can hear it now, "Quel dommage!"

lumos's picture
lumos

Been to Paris a few times and other parts of France, but have encountered 'seriously good' baguettes only a handful of times. Most of other times, unless you go to reasonally good restaurants/bistro or hunt down good ones purposefully, they're nothing to write a home about.  Never horrible, like many of baguettes you get from supermarkets in this country (= ordinary bread shaped like a baguette, with soft and fluffy crumb with no holes to talk about, like ordinary bread), but still, disappointing.

A lot of supermarkets are popping up in many part of France lately, especially in big cities like Paris, and the local people are flocking in to buy their mediocre breads.  Because, mainly, it's convenient...and cheap.   I can see many Parisiens and Prisiennes, especially young generation, buying baguettes from those machines, because it's 'convenient'. 

Thanks for the interesting information. :)

lumos

copyu's picture
copyu

I have no doubt you are 'telling it like it is'...I have many French co-workers who rather enjoy living in Japan because the French baking techniques have been faithfully studied and preserved here (and, very occasionally, improved?) over what is "available everywhere" in France...that's just 'hearsay', of course...However...

Two decades ago I lived in South Australia and the variety of rye breads was amazing! EVERY supermarket had at least six varieties to choose from—whole/sliced/with-without caraway/boule or batard..nowadays it's K-Mart pan-baked 'hi-top' loaves containing some rye flour...Oy Veh! What a waste of money buying good Emmental cheese!

Adam

lumos's picture
lumos

Hi, Adam,

Yeah, I can only sympathise with your French friends. Things are much, much, MUCH better now on British food front last 10 yrs or so, but when I came here, it was quite ******* (censored). And the thing I missed most, more than anything,  in Japanese culinary life was the baguettes, of all things.  So whenever I go to France, I hope I'd get some good baguette fix, but most of the times I'm disappointed. Probably more disappointed because it IS France after all,  it shouldn't be like that.

Two decades ago in Australia was before their foodie boom took off, wasn't it?  I've heard quite a....er....interesting episode about their sense of flavour.  Coffee with a slice of orange floating on top? Ever encountered it? Apparently someone trying to be clever and invented a new version of tea with lemon slice.... :p  But the Aussie culinary life seems to be really exciting. :)

One thing Japan is still quite hopeless at is cheese.  They don't know what they're missing....and messing.  Do you miss your cheese? 

lumos

 

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Well, my butcher was open 10 years ago and they're not ****.  They have a lot of awards for their tasty products, including a Guild of Q 'diamond' pie award [beyond gold, as in 'diamond geezer'], and another from the 'Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding' or 'Confrérie des Chevalier du Gôute-Boudin', if you wish to take that in French ;-)

This latter is some feat, as up to 4000 competitors attend the annual fête, and it is judged by a  proper panel with almost as many robes and medals as the British Academy...Incidently, Sauls also have the 'Daisy_A' award for best black pudding ever eaten' (thus beating both boudin noir and morcillo, delicious as those are), although to add balance chorizo is definitely one of the front runners for best pork sausage!

Please note I have no material interest in promoting my local butchers' products and will not get so much as an extra sausage for doing so. However...if anyone still thinks all British food is rubbish, get down to Sauls of Spratton and er...eat all the pies...

I'm not saying Britain is or was a food wonderland. There are plenty of scabby meals to be had both at fast food joints and in hotspots feted by the Metropolitan media, that aren't always all they're cracked up to be (a geared up joint in Daisy's opinion being anything from a 'ma and pa' café to a top drawer joint whose food is extremely well sourced, made up on the premises, tasty and fresh, fresh, fresh...)

Also I'm not saying you didn't suffer a shock when you arrived, lumos, or have some dreadful meals - I bet you did and may I apologise for that on behalf of the nation (seriously)!

However. in the interests of balance, it was never a complete wilderness. There were always small, dedicated places like Sauls or Woodall's pork butcher's, producing superb food at reasonable prices for their local area and beyond, plus non-chain idiosyncratic restaurants, market canteens and cafés - not always but often - fulfilling the same task...Artists Gilbert and George, for example, who have eaten out every day since the 1950s, rated the food at the late, lamented Market Café on Fournier Street (which served British staples such as homemade pies, roasts, potted meats, stews and steamed puddings), as better than both St. John and Simpsons of the Strand...

I'm not saying everywhere was good - I also remember really wan, unfriendly tea rooms replete with stale food. Moreover, anyone who wants a couple of cameos of the worst cafés of the incoming Thatcher years need only watch Withnail and I... Nevertheless, there were some stars in the dark night!

Also we are GOOD AT CHEESE! This is not only my opinion but also that of Masterchef winner 2011 and lover of many things Japanese, Tim Anderson (who probably wants to stay in the country a while longer LOL), and also the two Italian blokies down the Christmas Market.

Picture the scene: Brass monkey temperatures at the market, small Daisy is trying to buy some Italian cheese. Stallholder: I shouldn't say this as I am Italian but...the British have some of the BEST  CHEESES IN THE WORLD (reels off several names). Italian customer: Yes, it's true, you do (reels off more names). [More of a surprise than the stallholder doing it as affability was a welcome part of his sales pitch]. Stallholder: So why do so many British people buy horrible, cheap, orange squares of cheese at the supermarket? Daisy: Search me, I love British cheese and er...can I have some taleggio and dolcelatte please and also some limoncello....?

Cordially, Daisy

lumos's picture
lumos

Hi, Daisy,

Never said Britain's never had those quality small places. Yes there were. Always been.  But the problem is not whether there is or there isn't, but there have been too far and between.  It's muc, much  better now, I agree, but compared to other gourmet countries, I must say they're still scarce, unfortunately.  It's very easy cherry-picking a very good, award-winning small treasure you know as 'the proof' of good standard, but that's not 'a standard', that's 'an exception.'   And that's still the reality, unfortunately. 

I'm quite happy to declare that I'm happy living here because the food is so much better and it's so easy to obtain a lot of goodies from other countries here,  but I can only say this because I know exactly where I get them.  I really spend so much time and effort (and often money) to find those places, whether it's a food shop or a restaurants,  find the time to get there. I literally spend hours in front of PC, looking for every information I can possibly get in search for those information, every day!  So do my foodie friends, and we exchange our infos.   If you have managed to gather up those info and have drawn up your own mental (both literally and figuratively :p) map of where to get what, Britain is the true food heaven, no doubt about that.  That's why I love living here, but I have made a huge effort for that, too. I'm just a bit happier because it's easier to find these kinds of places than it used to be before.

But unfortunately, just popping into your nearest local shop or a little place in a strange town where you know nothing about and find a really good quality food is a rare occasion.  I'm not saying that never happens, but it happens less occasionally than some other countries which have been known as 'foodie countries' for a long time. We are still far to go. We're getting there, for sure, but not that close yet.

I'm sorry, I do understand you want to defend your country. I really do, because a long time ago when I still lived in Japan I tended to feel the same when some 'foreigner' said something negetive about 'MY' country.  But I've lived in England for half my life,  so I really feel this IS my country now, I feel more patriatic about Britain than about Japan these days (except for breads....especially baguettes. :p), so I hope you'll understand I'm trying to look at those things as a British-citizen but with two perspectives because I have another root as well,  not a 'b***dy foreigner' who only came to this country yesterday and still claims she knows everything about Britain.

best wishes, sincerely,

lumos

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi lumos, all

Please rest assured, lumos,  I don't think of you as a 'b foreigner'! I think of you as a passionate food champion, one who relishes what is excellent but is not afraid to give a poke when things are not good. This is very much needed in a country in which people will still often sit down in public to a dreadful plate of food and when asked how it was, say 'oh fine'...

Also probably worth quoting Withnail and I to flesh out the point that I know British food establishments can be and were bad. This is from the original screenplay (rather than highly edited current downloads), and greatly bowdlerised for a family board. 

INT. ******* CAFE. CAMDEN TOWN. DAY. 

A dozen eggs billow in a massive pan […]  you can hear them flap […] This café is a hovel. Grease and fumes and ketchup bottles with […enough:editor]

Cracks me up every time as it's so accurate. However now these owner-managed caffs are closing hand over fist due to punishing rate rises, lack of successors and the 'McDonaldification' of the High Street, I miss them like crazy...

To me the hollowing out of the High Street is one of the major factors in the loss of a fresh food culture in Britain. When we looked at a historical census map of our local area, at the turn of the century, 13 of the buildings on the nearby main street were butchers, 4 alone were pork butchers. This is also a snapshot of British food culture. 

We are a mid-sized town and I think they often suffer the worst: the High Street is small enough to hollow out completely, leaving only chains. This is one reason why I go to a nearby village to buy meat, or order an organic meat box. 

However, I have to say I'm hearing this about so many different places, from so many different nationals from both West and East. A well-traveled, very open-minded colleague recently went to a famed Middle-Eastern capital, which she loved, but stated that until you got off the High Street she might as well have been in Tunbridge Wells - the main street was all the same chains...I'm hearing French, Spanish and Italian nationals saying that their food cultures are now also changing rapidly.

I'm not saying that Britain has all the great markets and so on that some countries have, but what I've heard from numerous sources leads me to believe that the journey to source really good food and to hand on knowledge of good eating, both in public and at home, is becoming harder in many parts of the world. Your comments above, for instance, suggest that good baguettes are not available on every corner in Paris, but need tracking down. 

This is not to bash other nations: I've had some utterly fantastic meals in France.  However I'm not sure how long the concept of 'gourmet nations' will stand or how this ties in with the regional basis of much currently 'gourmet' food. 

By the way, I don't think Britain is a 'gourmet nation' as such. We certainly don't have the Michelin record of France, Spain, Japan. However this does not mean that Britons have not eaten good, fresh food or that 'fine dining' has not continuously drawn on regional British specialities. 

This is what I think needs to be said. I don't want to knock down your house, lumos, just add an annexe to it. I know that you know that the small, good producers are there but if they are not named, then they are effectively edited out of the general picture. 

[Will pm source as have yet to take this up with the original poster but  what concerns me is I have seen how general pictures can be read awry. On another board, that I ultimately declined to join, an assessment of the current British bread scene - which focused legitimately on the shortcomings of currently fashionable establishments and the dearth of different national breads in a culturally mixed nation -  failed to mention the range of pioneering, non-Metropolitan artisan bakeries. From my perspective, this was generally taken up by respondents as 'thanks mate for telling us how bad the UK bread scene is'].

My concern is that alternative food histories need to be told and that generalizations for effect can obscure the lights that there are or have been, which I know is absolutely not your intention!

Yes I was making a comic picture of myself at the market but I'm not claiming that all is good because I can shop at a few treasured places. In many towns you do have to go on a hunt for the good places. 

However stepping into another character for a while, my claims are that gourmet/non-gourmet and national/local food binaries aren't that tight or precise and begin to break down on closer scrutiny. 

For me one of the major rising UK food slogans, is 'fresh, organic, local'. This informs current fine dining culture. However,  despite the resurgence of specialist food producers, at the level of the High Street my impression is that things have got a lot worse. Good butchers, good fishmongers are harder for me to find than 10 years ago. But I search them down doggedly, not because of my national culture, but largely because of my regional culture. 

I grew up in Cumbria, largely in the 70s, close to the height of the massification of the food industry with the rise of the fast food chains in view. However no-one I knew ate predominantly rubbish food. Why would we? We were surrounded by some of the best hill farms in the country, had easy access to great fish and cheese and neighbours brought round fresh veg. grown on their allotments. Moreover the citizens of the city actively and successfully resisted the hollowing out of the city centre and fought to retain their local businesses. Don't know what it's like now but the only fast food place of my teenage years closed down due to lack of business. We ate great, fresh, local food at very reasonable prices.

The food culture that I learnt there and now share with foodie friends is one I take with me everywhere: whether tucking into a crab on Cromer seafront or in a fine Metropolitan fish restaurant, I relish fresh fish. But my betting is that there are many other Britons - often from the poorer regions of the country - who could tell you a similar story, of tucking into a tangy piece of Swaledale cheese or a delicious Highland lobster, a tasty Lancashire hotpot or a Dover sole…

It's true that Britain in general has had a rubbish High Street food culture for a few decades now. We have suffered from the massification of food production and the blanding down of our food. This does mean that if you hit a new town it's hard to know where to get good food.

However my view is that there is never one national food history or culture. Many people have fought hard, even in the period in which you describe the culture as so poor, to maintain and even extend the provision of good, fresh local food. 

We've heard about the bad stuff. These alternative, and often continuous histories need to be told so that current food heroes have something to draw on. 

I'm not offering a range of small treasures as a measure of a general standard. The general standard of food in many places and institutions in the UK is still pretty low, sometimes alarmingly so.

However I can't separate the excellent local places from the best of the national food culture. Great local providers are not simply there in my back pocket: they precede me in the wider fine food networks, including those that are nationally and internationally recognised. 

I also can't separate the great food of poorer communities from the fine dining tables. I'm sure I'm pointing out something you know, but much of what is now considered 'gourmet' comes from the tables of the poor as much as courtly tables - oysters being the prime example - not only enjoyed widely in France but in the many historic London 'chop houses'.

So, to extend one example of how the local has also been national and global, the tasty economic meal also the fine dining experience: Cumbrian pork and Cumberland sausages, eaten by just about everyone I knew growing up, are and have long been one mainstay of several nominally 'foodie' and Metropolitan hotspots, known not just nationally but internationally. (Not saying these are the best places to get food in London, but they are fêted). 

Three Cumbrian hill farms are among the major suppliers of the meat stalls in Borough Market. Such farms also supply specialist sausages to the Dorchester and Harrods food hall. Cumbrian Sillfield Farm now trains students from Fifteen in pork butchery and also supplies Caprice and Mark Hix restaurants .

Woodhalls hams are ham-makers to the Queen, and they have long supplied the court, informing what is presented to international dignitaries as 'the best of British'. 

One of my main points is that much-loved local products have not only been enjoyed regularly in their region of origin in the UK, but have also dressed the nation's 'finest' tables continuously through the period which you sum up as 'quite *******'.

My concern is that unless the alternative food histories are told, for readers who don't know the field, tags like 'quite *******' begin to stand in for the whole national history (as appeared to happen in the bread post mentioned earlier).  

I also think a revision of the widely-acknowledged but generalised histories of bad food provision in the UK is needed to provide cultural support for artisan food producers, who are battling to promote good food now.  

Trust me this is not about your nationality - I relish the fact that you are passionate about great food and that the London food scene in particular is punctuated by so many varied voices. I value what you say. I know you bat for the great producers. I know you've gone out to bat on a recent thread for the best points of contemporary British food culture. 

Besides which, to the older generation of Cumbrian hill farmers whose produce I ate as a child, we would both be 'foreigners', as the domain of the 'foreigner' started at the next valley! (seriously…).

So, onward everyone in the fight for good food...

With very best wishes, Daisy

*Daisy gets down from her soap box*

Will pm from now on as this is not about baguettes. Just wanted to make some alternative histories more public. Baguette response to follow.

copyu's picture
copyu

yeah, I had hot coffee with lemon, once, in Adelaide. Apparently, it's not that unusual in eastern Europe...a lady friend from Bulgaria had suggested it. I also found some online photos from Russia of very strong, hot, black coffee served with lemon slices...and one online 'food pundit' who suggested orange slices were even nicer. Not to my taste, but to each his/her own!

Yes, the cheese situation in Japan is pretty grim...you can get German, French, Japanese and Scandinavian cheese anywhere—as long as it's Camembert! The Japanese are very 'thingy' about what's good and what's not: strawberries, melon, Camembert, RED cheddar, canned or fresh tuna, mayonnaise, demi-glace sauce, sweet corn and recently, blueberries, all get a double-thumbs-up from most (Tokyo) Japanese. They are really BIG on so-called "functional foods" here and need to be told by one of three rival weekend TV programs what's good for you and in what way. (I'm hoping they do a program on Pilsener beer or German sourdough rye bread soon!) A young lady whom I met a few years ago, worked for a Tokyo cheese import company. She told me that Japanese disliked the 'smell' of regular cheddar cheese...they'll eat red cheddar, though, because of the extra shot of beta-carotenes. Go figure! There are a few special cheese shops, here, but the average price for any import hovers between US$60-80 per kilo...a bit rich for my blood! Still, we have CostCo now, which is a bit of a life-saver...more like $9-15/kg. I can afford that!

Best wishes,

Adam       

lumos's picture
lumos

Yeah, their functional foods.... As you know Japanese's have been extremely health conscious, which rooted  in the post-war period when majority of Japanese, especially in large cities, were near starvasion with frail body, but in recent years it's really getting over the top. Sadly many of them aren't aware there huge marketing machines of manufacturers in various industries (food, medicine, etc. etc) behind all these 'movement' and who are cleverly pushing their 'new healthy things' to make more bucks.   Actually  I quite enjoy crushing those silly illusions the students of my cookery class (they're all wives of Japanese expats) one by one, explaining how irrelevant and untrue those 'wonderful effect' those food supposed to work wonders to your body, in the normal amount a normal human can eat. 

You should go to food floors in large department stores  or post supermarkets with lots of imported food in Tokyo to get decent cheeses. And do have lots of cheeses, quite often in a temperature and humidity controlled room, and they are not Camambert...as long as it's not Camambert.  Though you may have to get another mortgage because they're unbelievably expensive.

It shouldn't be too difficult to get good German breads in Japan, either sourdough based or yeasted ones. German style breads have always been quite popular, even before French ones. A lot of artisan bakers in Japan are trained in Germany, almost as many as the French trained ones. It's always been like that.  I first learned  the taste of German sourdough bread in Tokyo when I was a high-school student and that's like a million years ago.  Heard there's a big revival of German style bakeries in recent years, too. Google with 'baeckerei'  or 'ベッカライ' or  'ベカライ’ You should be able to find a few German style bakeries in any major big cities. 

Re; beer..... my hubby (English) and many of his friends who used to live in Japan seem to think Kirin and Asahi are the best larger around. :p  Or you really want to get proper European style beer, head for those department stores and posh supermarkets.....after you applied for a top-up in the mortgage.

lumos

 

ETA : I thought 'blueberries' were several years ago... or have they found another magic power?  :p

fermento's picture
fermento

Sorry, took me a while to catch up with this thread, but I'm guessing the rye bread varieties  in South Australia would have been a direct outcome of the very strong German contingent in the Barossa valley? As a native of SA (left there when I was 6, and I don't think the industrial town I was born in had any German influences), I love going to the Barossa and enjoying the still very prevalent German foods - such as lovely mettwurst and of course cakes! The influence is not universal however; one new year's eve not that long ago the only nourishment I could find was in a retro (real not applied) café in Gawler - white wonder bread with very processed flat cheese slices. The food was awful, but the time warp delicious...

Kym

copyu's picture
copyu

Not sure how up-to-date you are on Oz history, so, yeah...SA was one of the few places on the continent which was not a penal colony--free settlers only. Early arrivals were from Germany and there's a small suburb of Adelaide called "Klemzig" after the village the first German settlers came from. The town of "Hahndorf" in the Adelaide Hills was named for the captain of the ship that delivered them safely half-way around the planet. It wasn't too long before the Barossa was settled by Germans. We can probably thank them for the great Oz wine industry! (I'm suspicious about the name 'Barossa', though...Spanish? Portuguese?) It's possible that the name was changed during WW-I and was never changed back...I'm guessing, here, but it happened to many places with German names at that time. Some survived (Lobethal) and some were changed back to the original (German) names after hostilities ceased.

The breads and cakes I was eating in the 60's and onwards were mostly thanks to post-WW-II immigration: Hungarians, Austrians, Germans, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Yugoslavs, etc, all contributed a lot to food culture. By then, there was a lot of Italian and Greek immigration as well. However, it was unusual for Aussies to eat any of the Euro foods available...just walking into an Italian or Greek grocery, or even a German butcher-shop might have been embarrassing for all parties, as language was a barrier and in SA, the Anglo-Aussies didn't know that much about food in 1960 (in my opinion.) No zucchini, eggplant, paprika/capsicum, silverbeet, sweet corn, and so on. Those things came from the back-yard gardens that every Euro-immigrant family needed.

No supermarkets in Adelaide back then, either. We had corner shops: Aussie butcher; Irish grocer; Lebanese Deli where I lived. The food was all "oh-so-British"--meat and 2 or 3 veg, all neatly separated on a plate. Hmm...there were benefits, though--FABULOUS meat pies and pasties, great fish and chips, Aussie BBQ, English curries, Banbury pasties, rock cakes and London buns...excellent British crumpets, scones, candies and desserts...no complaints from me--I had the best of both worlds! 

Cheers,

Adam   

fermento's picture
fermento

Hi Adam

Thanks for that snapshot which captures it perfectly! 

One of my forebears on my mother's side sailed from Hamburg to Oz in the late 1800s - Johann Carl Augustus (insert about 4 more names here) Klem, having been head gardener to the Russian Czar for a time, settled in the Barossa and won some prizes for his Pewsey Vale wines in the great exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London about 1890. But none of those German traditions survived in my part of the family, which was predominantly English with a little Scottish - indeed even the winemaking traditions had been wiped out by the tee-total protestantism which was another strong SA strain. I was happy to correct that omission though! : )

I moved to Melbourne when I was 6, have lived here ever since - so I saw the wonderful influences on food and culture, initially of Italians and Greeks, then Vietnamese and others. Chinese had been a strong part of Melbourne since the 1850s. We have a very strong foodie culture here of course - as does Adelaide, a very mellow place.

Enough rambling on my part, and thanks for bringing back those pleasant memories.

Fermento.

 

foodslut's picture
foodslut
Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

I was encouraged to see that the baguettes going into the machine looked reasonably fresh. I do think losing a human exchange at the point of sale is a loss. For the baguettes, it depends how they are baked and how fresh they are, I suppose.

Not sure any baguette is better than no baguette, though. Andrew Whitley records how baguettes bought from a French village bakery made his children's mouths bleed…So my view would be better a top baguette from a machine than a poor baguette from the hand of a live baker. Worst of all a poor baguette from a machine: best of all a great baguette from a live baker…

Daisy

 

jennyloh's picture
jennyloh

ever since I read this report from the local newspaper,  I've wondered what the taste is like? 

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

In the video the tasters seem to be going 'Mmmm'. Not sure, however, if this signifies 'This is as good as the traditional baguettes I get from the gnarled but skilled hands of my artisan baker' or 'Not bad for a baguette out of a machine on a Saturday night when all the boulangeries are closed'?

Talking of food vending machines like this one: We can tend to see them as the fruits of a particularly late or post-modern alienation of food producer, vendor and consumer - food passed across without the touching of hands, as it were. However...turns out that like professional mixers and sliced bread, they have been around in one form or another for quite a long time. Came across this when researching best dry gin for martini:

'Old Tom Gin is the last remaining example of the original lightly sweetened gins that were so popular in 18th-century England. The name comes from what may be the first example of a beverage vending machine. In the 1700s some pubs in England would have a wooden plaque shaped like a black cat (an "Old Tom") mounted on the outside wall. Thirsty passersby would deposit a penny in the cat’s mouth and place their lips around a small tube between the cat’s paws. The bartender inside would then pour a shot of Gin through the tube and into the customer’s waiting mouth'. 

Classy, no?

Source is as below:Very interesting account of spread of dry gin. Most recent review of trends would have to mention return of C18-style beverages in some bars and the rise of the micro-distillery brewed gin, such as Brecon in Wales, Caorunn in Scotland and the barnstorming Sipsmiths in er...a garage in Hammersmith. Top source of info on the historical vending machine though...

http://www.tastings.com/spirits/gin.html

Kind regards, Daisy_A

(Is off to sit under the gin pipe now: Joking - will be using a glass...)