Monday, February 18, 2013
Less Work for Mother
QUESTION: I recently purchased a box lot of old kitchen gadgets at an estate sale. Some I recognize and others I don’t. What types of gadgets did women use in the kitchen? Are some of these worth anything?
ANSWER: Kitchen gadgets are a popular collectible. And what’s interesting about them is that most are still usable in today’s kitchen. Even with all the electric and electronic devices available to today’s cooks, there are just some things that need to be done by hand, preferably with some sort of gadget. The proliferation of gadgets advertised on T.V. attests to this, even now.
Once upon a time the kitchen was a place where every member of the family gathered informally to take in the daily chores: cooking, weaving, butter making, canning, potato peeling, herb drying, baking, and dish washing. It was always a place of wonderful smells, textures, and colors. For many decades kitchen gadgets could be found to make work easier, to fill a drawer, sit on a shelf or counter top.
The Victorian Age ushered in many useful kitchen gadgets. But during the 1920's through the 1940's, large and small companies manufactured literally hundreds of these gadgets, trying to help make kitchen work easier.
Remember Grandma's cookies? Does your box contain any? Collectors seek them out today. There are all sorts of shapes, sizes, and styles. Some had plain wooden handles, others were painted red or green. Plus, every housewife had a biscuit or doughnut cutter. There were even revolving cookie cutters with green wooden handles.
What could be better than homemade pie with homemade crust? Pie crimpers are collectibles now. Most pie crimpers had wooden handles and resembled small versions of today's pizza cutters. Of course, there are many other baking gadgets like dough blenders, pie lifters, rolling pins, and spatulas.
Before food processors and electric beaters, there were efficient hand and mechanical beaters. Among these were a variety of wooden handled spiral whisks, flat wire whips, and, of course, those very efficient rotary beaters. The forerunner to the food processor had to be glass pitcher beaters which came in all shapes and sizes.
With the invention of bottles, jars, and cans came openers. Let’s face it, you couldn't have a can you couldn’t open. Some bottle, can, and jar openers were an all-in-one gadget. The double-handled opener is still a great standby and standard item in many kitchens. Remember the one mounted to the wall with a handle you cranked to open a can? Jars had their own openers called jar lifters or wrenches. They sort of looked like surgeon's devices. And while you can find modern, technically improved versions of these gadgets, the old ones work just as well.
Old choppers and mincers are also popular collectibles. Some of the more popular have wooden handles and stainless steel curved blades. Many of the old ones were made of glass, wood, or steel, not plastic, making them more durable. Some glass jar choppers and mincers had handles to turn, making the work easier and faster. Of course, don’t forget the grinders mounted to the corner of the table. Simply by putting almost anything into the wide opening at the top and turning the handle, you could grind meat, nuts, berries, etc.
Graters, ice cream scoops, ice picks, slicers, juicers, peelers, knives, sharpeners, mashers, ricers, strainers, sifters, scoops, scales, and ladles re also popular collectibles. The list is almost endless.
To make sure some of your kitchen gadgets are really collectible, first note their condition. It’s got to be good—no rust, peeling paint, or missing parts. Second, look for trademarks. Some are wonderfully descriptive, such as The Handy Andy juicer, Hi Speed egg beater, Juice-0-Mat, Chi Chop, Drip-O-Lator, Presto, and Surry Suzy.
Kitchen gadgets are part of our past, a past when the kitchen really was the center of the home.