When you were little, did you ever stand by your Mom or your Grandmother at the kitchen counter, fascinated that they could effortlessly create something edible out of powders, liquids, chunks of produce or meat? If you’re lucky, you did. Even if they kept busy and didn’t explain what they were doing, it was fascinating to watch a grown-up with a flair for culinary creations. I look back at these moments and find myself wishing I had asked more questions. More importantly, I wish I had written down the answers I did get. I will have to do that with my Mom next time I see her.
I am lucky that I come from a line of avid cooks and bakers, male and female on both sides of my family. I will admit that the cooking bug may have skipped a couple people here or there, and the prominently Irish population opted for very plain dishes with minimal seasoning, but it was all good food. I don’t remember a meal that I wouldn’t eat or that I disliked. I trusted their ways, even when I was picky. I remember wondering why hamburger meat was shoved into a green pepper or a plum into potato dough, but the final result was wonderful. Now I can really go for some plum dumplings; those would be from the German/Hungarian side.
To coincide with my memories of the women in my life and my old soul, I wander through antique stores whenever I have any free time. My favorite section is where you’ll find cooking tools because there are so many gadgets that don’t only look fascinating but are also so functional. I try to decorate my kitchen with cooking tools, but only the ones that I can use and that do not appear to have lead paint chipping off the wooden handles. True, they can’t be put in the dishwasher, but their style and efficiency are worth it.
The tools range from aluminum to copper, and the detail and quality can’t be matched by the goofy plastic options you’ll find at Target. They were devised for a cook, for an avid homemaker who spent a lot of time in the kitchen. The well used kind are just as promising as the mint looking ones, but they prove how well they can last. The spoons have just the right shape for scooping, holes for slotting, edges for scraping and angles to maneuver into difficult corners to mix. The mashers are sturdy, the grater’s lip lies across my bowl and my handled strainer lays on the edge of the pot so I don’t have to dirty a big awkward bowl style strainer. My ball jars hold excess rice and beans and are gorgeous on a sunny day because they are an aqua blue. And my favorite metal spatula is the only thing I can use to not break the yokes when I flip my eggs.
These may have been massed produced at one time, but clearly they’ve lasted for generations, at least a couple lifetimes anyway. The worn handles make me daydream about how many cake batters were mixed and if the owner is gone or has just “upgraded” to new stuff. I see “Made in the USA” stamped into the metal or funny patent names on my tools and more than in just the kitchen, I’m reminded of what the US used to be. We used to make stuff. These things are so simple, but make life so easy. I like not using plastic or imported cheap materials, containing chemicals we will find are recalled in a couple years.
I wonder how many nifty things from my family had gone by the wayside and ended up in an antique store corner or in the trash. (I also wonder why I just wrote nifty.) I’m not a hoarder but I am sentimental. I have such an appreciation for what used to be, but without letting that hinder my acceptance of what is current; well, maybe just spoons. So what if I use a seventy year old spoon and listen to big band? I did get this recipe off our iPad, so we’ll call the war of generations a tie…this time.