Sunday, 30 March 2014

(Kitchen) Cabinet of Curiosities by Mary Hoffman

I was listening to The Archers (long-running BBC radio soap for our non-English Followers) when I heard 80-year-old Jill Archer rejoicing to her daughter-in-law Ruth that she had found "the old mincer" at the back of the pantry. Jill was going to make a Shepherd's Pie by mincing up leftover lamb from the family's Sunday roast.

It reminded me of two things.

The first: two wildly successful posts written by History Girl Adèle Geras Kitchen Stuff Part One and Kitchen Stuff Part Two.

The second: my childhood now counts as History! My mother had just such a mincer and we also had a kind of coffee percolator that you put on the stove.

This happened only at the weekend; during the week my parents drank either Bev or Camp liquid coffee, the precursors of instant coffee powders and granules.

As a complete coffee snob now, I shudder at the memory. Even the percolator boiled the coffee over the gas until our kitchen was filled with an acrid smell, nothing like the delicious aroma coming from any half-decent café with an Italian machine. When I met my husband, he had a coffee grinder a bit like this one:

© Benjamin Hell –
Not so very different in principle from the meat mincer! These are all museum objects now so I thought I'd put them in my own little cabinet of curiosities. We have always both been fascinated by kitchen gadgets and no Cook Shop is left unvisited whenever we are in a new town.

We own (listing just off the top of my head):

A teabag squeezer
Olive spoon
Gherkin prong
Pickled onion prong
Pasta tester
Cherry/olive stoner
Icing sugar dredger (like a tiny tea-strainer)
2 jam/chutney spoons
Glass lemon squeezer
Tala measure (see Adèle's first post above) - our second one bought recently
Lemon zester
Jelly bag on stand

I could go on!

This kind of thing is now apparently considered "retro." Go on, count how many of these items are in your kitchen!

Though I don't know why you'd need the glass lemon squeezer AND the wooden reamer. I have the pie funnel and the ?jam thermometer. And we do own an "egg-murderer" though only my husband can bear to use it.

If this sort of thing fascinates you, you might like to read this book:


Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks! I have bought the ebook, it looks like something that will be hr.pful in my research. My mother used to ave a mincer like the one in your picture, when she still had the energy to mince(these days she buys ready-minced, though it can be a problem with kosher meat, which has to be salted as part of the process and often the butchers forget to rinse off the salt). I remember that mincer, which had to be bolted to the end of the table, and then you had to work out how to put the bowl underneath to catch it. I am quite sure I've seen those mincers, without bolt, in kitchen shops, I have a juicer like the one in your picture, bought only a year or two ago, when I got sick of pastic ones breaking. The egg slicer is handy for making egg sandwiches(murderer?).

Forks came quite late in history, as I recall. They were regarded as one of them newfangled gadgets you could keep!

Petrea Burchard said...

I grew up with many of these, too.
The strangest one I ever found was an egg cuber, still in the box.

My friend collects such items and I gave it to her. She doesn't know what a big deal that was to me!

Joan Lennon said...

Lots of familiar history there! Going a bit further back, my mother's implement of choice was an ice pick - small with a wooden handle, incredibly handy for all sorts of things like making an extra belt hole and ... now I've gone blank, but it came out of the kitchen drawer on a regular basis!

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I loved Consider the Fork. It was useful for research and made me think about things in different ways.
Three pronged forks did come later on the scene, but two pronged were in use in Carolingian times.
I can remember so many of those gadgets but confess I don't own that many of them these day - although I'd love another of those pastry maker horseshoe-shaped things for mashing fat and flour together. A zyliss onion chopper was once a favourite too!

maryom said...

I have fond memories of the horlicks 'maker' and feeling really grown-up when I was allowed to use it myself :)I wonder if it's still lurking somewhere in my parents' pantry....Something a little more modern that my mother loved was a hand-held slicing/grating gadget with a rotating 'drum'- mainly use for grating hard boiled egg! I remember trying to buy one when I first got married but having to 'settle' for a more complicated, presumably improved, surface mounted version which I still use for mincing fruit for marmalades and jam.

Marjorie said...

My parents have a mincer like that, and it is regular use - how else could you use up cold roast lamb, to make shepherds pie?

I own (and use) a glass lemon squeezer, a hand-held rotary whisk like the one in the picture, and a couple of balloon whisks, a jam thermometer (although unfortunately the numbers on mine turned out to be printed on, not engraved like on my mum's, and they have worn off, so I have just bought a thermospatula from Lakeland, instead)and a jam funnel

I don't have a egg slicer (I don't like hard boiled eggs) but I think my parents have one of those, too.

They also have a coffee bean grinder similar to the one pictured - it was made by a french firm called 'peugeot' I wonder what became of them ;-)
We used to use it quite regularly and only really stopped because when my parents bought a new food mixer it turned out that one of the fittings can grind coffee beans,as well as making breadcrumbs.

julia lee said...

I too have an olive spoon - it's great! I use it for other things, like tiny pickled onions; much easier to hit the target with than the above-mentioned pickled onion prong. But now I yearn for an icing sugar dredger too...

Sue Purkiss said...

Mary - yesterday, my brother-in-law introduced me to his favourite shop in Oxford - it's called Objects of Use, and It's full of beautifully made implements, both for the house and the garden - have you seen it? There is a website.

Mary Hoffman said...

No, I didn't know about it! Will investigate.

Leslie Wilson said...

My German grandfather and his second wife had such a coffee grinder. I adored it, with its little drawer, and my brother and I used to compete to grind the coffee and open the drawer. It was excellent coffee, and that smell, and the smell of my grandfather's cigars, are an intrinsic part of the holidays with him.

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Kate Lord Brown said...

Wonderful post. Collecting kitchen gadgets on travels is a bit of a passion - still love my mezzaluna from Zabars in New York, and the pestle and mortar from living in Spain. Here I'm stocking up on chatty (chatti?) pots and tiffin boxes from the souq. Off to download the ebook - thanks!

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