My Mother’s Pastry Blender

They hold memories, and they work well. Who could ask for anything more from a piece of kitchen equipment.

My pastry blender belonged to my mother and probably hers before. It once had a red handle with an ivory stripe, but the paint (yes, probably lead) is nearly worn off and if I’m not careful, it flakes. For this reason I stopped using it for a while, contemplated sealing the paint with something or other to stabilize it, but then put it in the drawer to think about later.

If your hands are hot…

My mother had hot hands, as do I, so she always used a blender when making pastry. She could whip together a pasty crust in what seemed like seconds, and rarely measured the ingredients. She was much better at making pies than I, she baked them all the time, both sweet and savory! I tell myself that when I use her blender, I’ll just do better because it remembers!

I replaced it not long ago with a new one I purchased from a cooking store that was supposed to make easy work of blending chilled butter into flour. It works ok, but mom’s works better, by a long shot. Its blades have never dulled, the handle is comfortable, and its curved design works efficiently and quickly. I’m not sure what I’ll do about the paint issue, but I will continue to use it, even if only now and then.


My kitchen drawers have tons of old gadgets I’ve collected along the way. Old they may be, but often they work better, and it is a big check on the plus side that they’ve lasted for decades. They were designed for a lot of work, and the manufacturers built in comfort because they were put to heavy use.

My large, pink, glass bowl from the 1030s has a thumb rest on the side, much appreciated if mixing a heavy batter. What a wonderful design! When I use it, I wonder why all mixing bowls aren’t designed that way! Your fingers don’t get in the batter, and you can stabilize the bowl better.

Choppers and blenders, corers, and cutters, presses and beaters and bowls. Vintage kitchen gadgets are not only fun to collect, but useful in the kitchen – as long as you can identify their intended use! Photo: The New Vintage Kitchen.

My favorite spoon in the kitchen is a shallow ladle type from the 1940s or so that has marks inside for a tablespoon, two tablespoons, and a quarter cup, making it easy to measure out or remove or add liquid without digging out other equipment. It also has a little pouring spout. Smart people designed this, and contented cooks used it!

Build a better reamer?

I have a glass Depression-era juice reamer that separates the seeds and removes more of the juice from the lemon than the hand-held hinged models we have today. Everyone’s grandmother had one of these. Mine is green glass and from the Depression, and I think using our whole body weight in the process is what allows us to extract so much juice. It is also lovely to look at. I’ve seen others of this style that are made of a kryptonite green “vaseline” glass that actually contains uranium! They are a bit alarming.

My garlic press made of aluminum (the only thing about it I don’t like) makes quick work of crushing and extracting every drop of garlic from the clove, and the peeling only has to be loosened, not removed. I’ve been through lots of garlic crushing gadgets, and this one just makes easy work of it.

Every kitchen needs a food mill

There are some old pieces that are experiencing a revival, and the food mill is one of them. This was the original food processor, only better in a few ways. First of all, it takes no electricity! An electric food processor cannot separate the peelings and seeds from the fruits, but the food mill can, making the easiest and best applesauce, for example. Also, the texture from the food mill process is even and consistent, and you choose how coarse, something a food processor cannot promise. You can find them for over $100 at cooking store, or go to the hardware store and spend about $27.

in food mill
Although this is a new food mill, you can find fully functioning vintage models at many flea markets if you keep your eyes open!

I also have a number of items I use, but rarely: pudding molds, pastry crimpers, angel food cake slicer, apple corer, tin cake tote, and a rolling pin of my grandmother’s that is made of glass with a screw on cap so you can fill it with ice. I actually only used this once, and it worked great at keeping the dough cold but I thought I was going to break it so haven’t gone back to it since. Hmm, this might be the reason this device has lasted so long.

Multi-purpose tools

Sometimes I use the antique tool for something other than its purpose. My little cream skimmer was designed to fit into a milk bottle and gather the cream that had risen to the top. It works nicely to gather fat from stock in a measuring cup!

The collection is a little too large: mashers and mallets, whisks and blenders, spoons and choppers, and a few things I can’t identify but they may be really important in the culinary world (who knows?), so they can’t be thrown out.

BAKED APPLE CORERThis corer makes a nice flat base about two-thirds down the cavity of the apple, making filling for baked apples much easier!

Of course, there is nostalgia built into the items that are inherited from family and friends, so I might not see the shortcomings. I wouldn’t want to give up my food processor or immersion blender and just rely on old tools, but luckily, there is room for everything in my kitchen, although a bit crowded.

And when I use my Aunt Mary’s paring knife, I think of her, a nice thing to do while peeling potatoes.

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22 Comments Add yours

  1. Ally Bean says:

    I have the same pastry blender in about the same state of slight deterioration. I’ve never seen a baked apple corer. Now that’s a device that seems incredibly useful. I sometimes go into antique shops and am amazed by how many kitchen tools they have for sale that I’m still using.

    1. It took a while to figure out that the little tool was indeed an apple corer, it doesn’t look like any other I’d seed. I knew it had to scrape something. But my husband figured it all, and the first time I tried it I was amazed. You didn’t have to guess how deep to go because the tool did that for you. It made a nice flat bottom and took out a perfect cylinder of apple core, so there was plenty of room for filling it! I agree how wonderful it is to look at the flea market finds and know they are still functioning in our own kitchens.

  2. I love every bit of this post!

    1. Thank you so much Laura! I’m glad you enjoyed the read.

  3. Angela says:

    This was an absolutely wonderful post, and I would feel right at home in your kitchen. My mother made perfect pie dough but thought the pastry blender was a pain. She used a fork!

    1. The fork works really well too. If mom was in a hurry, she would grab a fork as well (her kitchen drawer was deeper and even messier than mine!). Good memories Angela!

      1. Angela says:

        I failed with the fork! LOL

  4. Sheryl says:

    Old-time kitchen gadgets are the best.

  5. Such a wonderful trip down Memory Lane. What a great way to stay connected to your relatives who have passed. 💜💕

    1. I try to keep that connection going as well. My grandkids know the cast iron frying pan was their great-great-grandmother’s, and the fried chicken recipe was ‘Nana’s” their great-grandmother.

      1. Sooo cool. 💕

  6. Averyl says:

    It’s wonderful that you have this memento from mom. I’m glad you opened this post with the acknowledgement of flaking lead paint on the handle! Not many people are aware so it’s good that you are cooking safely!

    Two years ago I bought a electric hand mixer that I pretty much only use for making whipped cream. After a minimal amount of usage the motor is already dying! Have you ever tried whipping cream by hand?

    1. Yes, Avery, I have whipped cream by hand with the old fashioned “egg beater,” and it is fun! Also, if you use “ultra pasteurized” heavy cream it can take quite a while. However, we try to find the local cream that is pasteurized but not ultra pasteurized. It whips really fast! So fast, that my husband quickly turned it to butter one time! Thanks for stopping by. I’ll save you some peaches and (hand whipped) cream (or butter).

      1. Averyl says:

        Yum! We went peach-picking this past weekend!

      2. My little peach tree finally gave me peaches. At first, I thought the tree was mislabeled and I had apricots…

  7. Nancy says:

    The pastry cutter! Can’t live without it- mine is my grandmother’s, and I am now a grandmother, so it’s really old!! The paint on mine has been gone for years…you might try using a wire brush and/or sandpaper to get the rest of the paint off so you can use it again. (Or perhaps you have already tried that…)

    1. I have hesitated to take the rest of the paint off, but if I’m going to actually use it, I will probably have to keep that as an option! After all, it will be gone soon enough.

  8. I love tools of any kind that have a history. I have a small shovel that was my mother-in-laws and use it all the time, and I also have several others that belonged to different family members. I think I’d take a photo of the pastry blender with the paint as a keepsake, and then I’d scrape the paint off so I’d feel safe using it all the time. Good tools, good memories.

    1. That they are! I will probably do exactly that, with a sigh, and perhaps repaint it with something safe. Thank you for stopping by!

  9. Nice article! Your affection for these antique gadgets is evident. In addition to doing what they were intended to do, they hold the memories and bring the magic of all those dishes they’ve been used to prepare over the years. I feel the same way about my vintage kitchen gadgets, especially my grandmother’s corn scraper and the handmade cutting boards from my dad.

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