Kitchen gadgets: treasures in them thar drawers
I sometimes joke that I was born in the wrong century, and then four words spring to mind: dental care and indoor plumbing. Nope, I’m very happy in the twenty-first century as long as I can benefit from modern medicine and hot showers, while still enjoying the best of vintage culinary tools, namely the kitchen gadgets of a bygone era. Of course, when it comes to farm tools, I draw the line, and am quite satisfied with all things powered and designed for ease-of-use (broadfork included).
American ingenuity certainly found a perfect design studio in the kitchen. When it came to the tools of the kitchen trade, form followed function, and beautifully, I might add. Who knew cooking a waffle or blending pastry dough could be performance art.
So let me share with you some great kitchen gadgets, favorites of mine and vintage all. As much fun to look at as to use, and I do use them regularly.
Griswold Rotating Waffle Iron
My friend Jacquie gave me this weighty cast iron treasure, my holy grail of kitchen gadgets. The Griswold American No. 8 waffle iron fits over the stovetop burner, reaches heat, and sizzles a satisfying song when the batter floods the griddle base. The design-genius is found in the ball and socket joinery. When the waffle needs to be turned, you simply lift and pivot the closed waffle round to brown the other side of the waffle. As if this gift wasn’t special enough, the 1908 waffle iron has the inimitable patina of a well-loved tool from the kitchen of Jacquie’s mother who lived on the Yakama Reservation in Washington state.
Turn-Key Nut Chopper
There are nut choppers, and then, there are nut choppers. This little gem on the left elevates the task with its nifty glass storage jar and it nut-chopper topper of tenacious tines. Simply turn the jar over a salad or a sundae and twist the turn-key to release a hailstorm of chopped nuts. I’ve managed to secure three: one for salted Virginia peanuts, one for walnuts; and one for Georgia pecans.
Tin Flour Shaker
It’s no secret I like to make and bake pies, so I beamed when I stumbled across this handsome tinman at our island thrift shop. To use, just remove the dome top sporting holes in the shape of a star, and fill the handled cylinder with flour about halfway up. Return the lid and turn over and shake lightly for a dusting of flour on any surface your heart desires.
This red-handled, wired wizard blends pie dough perfectly. The heavy-gauge wires flex and cut through cold lard, butter and shortening with ease. New pastry blenders are fine, but the old ones have cool wooden handles and a springiness not found in most modern pastry cutters.
Rapid Kitchen Utensils: Great Graters
Hashbrowns are as rare as grits around these parts so I’ve taken to making my own pan-fried potatoes a couple times a week. (And for the record, diners of America, home fries are not hashbrowns.) My quintet of “Rapid Kitchen Utensils” old graters are my go-to shredders of choice. Because the ends sport quarter-circle curves, the grater catches the edge to secure hand grating over bowls and frying pans.
I have more kitchen gadgets to share in forthcoming posts, but for now these should keep you busy in thrift shops and at yard sales. Happy Looking and Cooking!
I am swooning over the waffle iron! It’s perfect. And, in amazing condition for its age.
Thanks Marne, I bet there’s some fine thrift-storing available in NC. Keep your eyes open!
All favorites of mine as well..I have a “Peel Away” brand of apple peeler-slicer-corer with a suction base. I can position it on my tile counter and all the peels drop conveniently into the sink. They still make this brand and they are very reasonable…I have tried other styles and brands and they were all less rugged and durable. I have bushels of apples to prep in the fall and I depend on this gadget to make my work lots easier. I love old kitchen gadgets and use them all the time, so I am looking forward to the rest you will be sharing. Tom, I hope you have seen the Feb issue of Bon Appetite…some stunning pies by Tara Jensen that she bakes in a brick oven, made with her own hand ground flour..
Thanks Sue, I just checked out Tara’s pies over at Bon Appetit and wow, I love her artistry and work ethic. And I also have a “Peel Away” apple peeler which I love, though mine is a clamp type since my counters are uneven and rustic, so no suction there. I’m almost out of applesauce, I may have to sift through the last of my apples and see if any are worthy candidates. Take care!
Now I know where to get a replacement for my favorite pastry blender that finally reached the point dear hubby could no longer repair it. Bwa ha ha. Unless, of course, you’ve trained the new dog to kill. Then i guess I must comb the antique stores…………
Ruh-row, I better start locking the door. 😉 And as for Buddy, no threat there. You only have to be worried about being licked to death. And as you suspected, he can be bought for a treat and a butt rub (and in that order).
I also covet that waffle iron. I still have my Grandmother’s pastry blender, just like yours, that I used to make my first pie crust in 1958 for a 4H project.
What a great memory to conjure up each time you make a pie!
The photo composition is wonderful.
Thanks V, I really appreciate that.
I love vintage kitchen stuff. I have my fair share..things were made to last back then.
Your waffle iron is a real beauty.
Thanks Mel, I look forward to sharing more about that waffle iron, and a recipe for sesame applesauce waffles — crunchy good!
I also love the old kitchen tools, particularly those passed on from friends and family. My similar set of graters nest in readiness! Yes, to your remarks about the springiness of pastry cutters of old, maybe the metal itself is also not of the same quality. And I feel their are fewer random materials entering my food with the old utensils, so prefer the wooden spoon, and metal or enamel for cooking. Recently I listened to Consider The Fork, by Bee Wilson. Great book about the technologies of cooking. Fascinating and beautifully read. Thanks for the post!
And Pat, thanks for the tip. I love books like that and I shall order it from our library. Thank you. I love these little trivia books by Ben Schott, my favorite being the one about food and drink, of course. http://www.benschott.com/miscellanies/schotts-food-drink-miscellany/
Let me add an accolade for your waffle iron. I think the best part about kitchen-artifacts-into-art is that they inspire us to use them, thus, more sundaes with nuts, more pies, more chances to waffle this and that. (And if you’re me, that antique French fry cutter you picked up at the antiques mall one day introduces, delightfully, more poutine into your dinner rotation….)
Anne, I could not have said it better. You’ve inspired me to search out one antique French fry cutter, as well as a willing Québécois to show me the mysteries of potatoes, gravy and cheese curds. Let my food quest begin!
Trust me, Tom. You really don’t want a poutine!
Tom great minds think alike!! I have every one of those things (except) you flour shaker is a little fancier than mind: ) Jim found the cast iron waffle make in a dump years ago! Cleaned it up and it makes perfect heart shaped waffles. Do you remember church key can openers? I was in a thrift store a few years ago and a man had one in his hand and commented that he had lost everything when his house burnt down and he was restocking his new house. He said he had bought a new church key opener at Walmart and it bent when he tried to open a bottle of beer!
Great minds indeed! Now I’ll be interested to hear if you possess any of the gadgets in my next round of show and tell. And like you pointed out, there quality in them thar vintage pieces.
i love all of these. my friend had one of those waffle irons and it made the best waffles. i just jumped on ebay and ordered 2 of those nut grinders! now i need to find a flour shaker like that. the secret to the best poutine is rich gravy and very crisp fries!
jaz you had me at rich gravy and very crisp fries. 😉
I’m thrilled to see Mom’s waffle iron earned first place! She, like you was an incredible cook/baker. She would have loved you, as I do and would be thrilled the cast iron beauty is being put to such good use. On the subject of the “good old days” however, her response was always, they were “just a lot of hard work”! Aren’t we fortunate to live at a time of so many choices. Thanks for reminding us to bring with us the best from the past.
Jacquie, you gave me a real treasure both in its sentiment, and its functional beauty. You Mom sounded like a very wise woman, my little acorn-who-doesn’t-fall-far-from-tree. 🙂
Tom I love your vintage gadgets…that waffle cast iron pan is a beauty! I must look for a nut grinder – what a time saver! 🙂
Yep, mine just sit on the counter (with way too much other stuff) just in case I need a sprinkling of crunchy, meaty goodness on something.
Tom- I went to your, very enjoyable, fountain building class last summer; and now my lovely, musical fountain has talked me into buying your book and following your blog. Here is my question, have you ever considered offering pie baking classes at Tall Clover Farm? A day on Vashon, laughing and making pie sounds like pure heaven to me. I’m ready to sign up.
Erin, I love your idea, and have considered it. My kitchen is a room untouched for decades so if folks don’t mind my funky kitchen, I may just have to do a pie class or two. I promise to let you know if I do this. Thank you for the kind words and wonderful support.
Ooh, good old kitchen gadgets. Cast iron is the best. We have used most of those items — though where our nut grinder thingy went, I have no idea. Maybe I’m remembering one my mom had, which has vanished into the mists of time. I will admit that we use, er, modern versions of two of your items, though we own the old ones too.
Years ago we inherited one of those humongous, tremendously heavy professional cast iron Belgian waffle makers — and that is our waffle maker of choice nowadays. It too has the rotating mechanism, but the entire thing stands on its own cast iron legs on the counter. It’s a real hit at breakfast parties and brunches. And alas, my sweetheart, who is The Pie Man in the family, has been converted to the food processor for making his fabulous pie crusts — and who am I to say nay, when he makes the pies and I eat ’em.
But we love our old inherited and acquired kitchen gadgets. I am looking forward to seeing more of your faves. BTW do you have one of the old-fashioned wire potato graters? I first saw one in action when my husband’s Lithuanian grandmother used it to make kaldunas (Lithuanian filled potato dumplings). There was a big family gathering, and the bros were grating potatoes for the kaldunas (it takes a lot). Grandma Stank, all 4’10” of her, snorted impatiently, grabbed the grater and went into overdrive. She had grated a whole pile of potatoes in the time it was taking each guy to do one. They built ’em tough in Olde Country.
Kathy, I know of the waffle iron of which you speak. The Sunlight Cafe in Seattle has one and makes some seriously fine waffles from it. As for pie crusts in the food processor, I hear they work really well. I may give it a try in the future and do a side by side comparison. Now as for Grandma Stank, she sounds like quite a woman, with serious cooking skills. Ummmm, dumplings! Wonder if she ever made these: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/lithuanian-cepelinai-potato-dumplings-mushroom-sauce-bacon
Very similar! Though she did not use mushrooms and her filling and topping were the same: a mince of finely diced bacon and beef (though surely you could use whatever leftovers you had in the frig), onions and butter). The topping was called spirgucha (my phonetic fake spelling). These are amazingly good and FILLING. You make as many as you like, but no one except possibly the hardiest, hungriest Lithuanian farmer, could eat more than two. The part that intrigued me was using part raw and part cooked potatoes. And part of the starch that drains off the grated raw potatoes is added back to the potato mixture. Oh yum. You should see if you can track down a sweet little Lithuanian grandmother to make them for you. I wonder why the name is different. Maybe ‘cepelinai’ refers to the zeppelin shape. She called hers ‘kaldunai’ or ‘kaldunas’ (I forget which is singular and which is plural).
Those are wonderful kitchen gadgets. I’ve always been a fan of old tools and gadgets, kitchen or otherwise. A few of my favorites are old carbon steel butchering and skinning knives owned by my grandfathers. The knives hold a wonderful edge. One grandfather butchered moose in his basement shop each fall for extra money and the other skinned hogs and deer, usually taking some of the meat in trade. Every time my family cuts up meat for general use and sausage making (with an old recipe) it’s a happy connection to the past.
I flew over your island yesterday on my way to my home in the north. What a beautiful place to work the soil.
Thanks Jim, and what wonderful memories you have with those knives, and I totally agree, carbon steel knives hold an edge like no other (samurai excluded, of course). Here’s to moose sausage and more fine memories for you and yours. North to Alaska!
Love gadgets too! The apple peeler is by far my favorite piece. I have peeled hundreds of pounds of apples with that gadget.
This is the first time to you blog. I love it! I will be back.
[…] I showed off my vintage Griswold waffle iron in the last post, I felt it only appropriate to share the recipe that makes this little cast iron […]
We have been looking for a waffle iron just like that! Fun to follow along with a fellow islander’s blog. looking forward to reading more! – Lauren & Matt