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.
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.
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.
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 CORER – This 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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