Forgot essential kitchen gadgets for the time being!
The march of kitchen advances has put some completely pointless gadgets into an evolutionary cul-de-sac, aka the back of the drawer: the grape shears, the egg slicer, the strawberry huller. But have you seen these forgotten gems?
Obsessed with your air fryer? Love your pressure cooker? Can’t live without your erm, pickle juice separator, even though deep down you know a fork is just as good? It would be fair to say that people love kitchen gadgets. But not every innovation… is progress.
For each food processor leap in evolution, there’s a banana slicer (use just one knife), a rotary knife cleaner, and a pickle picker, like one of those grabbers you find in the arcade that looks like a toy. reaches down to, but in this case, a cucumber. (again… fork?)
This is not a modern problem. For centuries, people have fallen for a technological marvel that has been collecting dust in the back of their drawers. Emma Kay, food historian and owner of Kitchenalia Museum, specializes in old-fashioned kitchen gadgets.
“I have over three hundred items now. I started collecting about 15 years ago, when someone gifted me a series of 1950s Denby Greenwheat tableware, it just snowballed from there. It’s not only the gadgets I collect, but all kinds of KitchenAid from spoons to spits. As a food historian I am always on the hunt for the next tangible thing that can connect me to the past. ,
Emma tells BBC Food which historic food gadgets should be making a comeback and which are the best left over from the past…
Portable Kitchen Techniques to Impress
Real gourds are always crafted, as demonstrated by the smallest, portable items in Emma’s collection. “My two smallest items include a Victorian silver-plated orange peeler that is 12cm long and a few centimeters wide, like a small pen.
“Then there’s my portable nutmeg grater… which dates back to the early 1800s.” It was placed in a pocket so that nutmeg could be added to drinks and puddings in company. Just imagine what a barista’s face would look like if you took it out of your pocket and showed them your dedication to the freshness of spices. Influential.
Some great ideas are coming back right now, like this brassy precursor to today’s “Velvet” hot chocolate frother. “You fill it with chocolate that has been mixed with cold or hot water, put the lid on, and use a mollinette (or stirrer) to vigorously froth the chocolate. That’s how you made chocolate in the 1700s and 1800s. “
Of course, you’ll be grinding your own chocolate with an “Aztec blender,” or metat. “The metate is a saddle-shaped grinding stone, originally developed by the Mexicans to grind beans, grains, and spices. The British had their own early medieval version … the way metet varies That roast is heated under a small fire/hot coal to melt the cocoa nibs…”
“These appliances were used in the kitchens of the wealthy in England in the 1700s. There are records of one being used at Hampton Court Palace.”
Metas have been used in Mexico for more than 6,000 years to grind corn flour for tortillas as well as chocolate and other foods. You won’t see them collecting dust in the back of the cupboard.
The Good, the Bad, and the Strangely Specific
A beautiful item that just hasn’t caught on, it’s still one of Emma’s favorites, though perhaps not for those with stylish concrete worktops. “I have hand-painted glass rolling pins, made in the mid-19th century at the Nelsey factory in Bristol. Glass rolling pins at this time had two purposes, some highly decorative and often carried by sailors to their wives or girlfriends. were given as gifts.”
“The other standard glass pin was filled with ice to maintain the cold pastry.” Wait, that’s a real genius. We need one.
Emma isn’t convinced with every gadget in her collection. “Personally, I never understood grape shears, just what’s wrong with scissors? And items designed to shred berries? I also have a particular dislike of egg yolk separators. It takes a few seconds,” she thinks.
Emma says, “The Victorian era was all about invention, technological advancement, and the development of mass consumerism, which led to a boom in the slightly trashy gadgets.
“Victorians loved their decorative ice molds and chocolate molds. Hundreds of different varieties were made in the 19th and early 20th centuries in all shapes and sizes. I have a series of these, but the most ineffective is an asparagus ice mold made by renowned French mold makers Letang Fils.” Because who doesn’t want asparagus-shaped ice?
But like many useless gadgets, it doesn’t work particularly well. “Asparagus mold is leaky because of its shape and the pattern cut into it isn’t deep enough to leave a proper impression. You just get a blob of thin ice.”
Not every gadget deserves to be thrown in the historic trash. There were a lot of gadgets that were great at what they did but are no longer needed. “Many old people remember hand-held meat grinders, a major consumer product of the early twentieth century. These were used until the 1950s as the best way to mince meat.”
Those who left
Unlike our kitchen cupboards, there’s always room for something else in Emma’s collection. The Kitchenalia expert is desperate for a special gadget: “Agnes Bertha Marshall’s patented ice cream freezer.”
“Agnes was an amazing culinary genius, with gadgets leading the way. She ran one of the best and largest cookery training schools in the world. She also created her own range of cooking ingredients, which she sold in-store. Within the training school, ran a home staffing agency and wrote inspiring cookery books. Her early ice cream makers are rare and only occasionally come up for auction. If anyone reading this who owns one, I’m able to negotiate would be happy !”
Source: BBC Food