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Historic Kitchen Tools

24 November 2021





Those of us in the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, Nov 25th. Are you the one hosting family and friends this year? I have hosted many Thanksgiving Dinners over the years with the largest one being for seventeen people. Today's cooks have it much easier than their ancestors with all the modern conveniences like an oven and stove top, electric roaster, electric beaters, refrigerators, indoor water supply, electric knives, and more. 


I thought it would be fun to look back at some kitchen utensils from long ago and be thankful I have the utensils I have in my kitchen. All images were in the public domain or found on Wikipedia Commons. (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)


Butter Mold


Today, I can go to Amazon or my local Target store and find colorful, silicone butter molds. Easier yet is to find molded butter in your grocery store. That wasn't the case many years ago. Butter makers had to carve their own molds and people could purchase butter from the farmer. Butter molds came in many designs and I imagine the design was specific to a farmer. For more history of butter molds including how to make your own butter, check out the Museum at Michigan State University.


Potato Masher


Imagine mashing five pounds of potatoes with this wooden masher. I bet your arm and hand muscles get a work out. I have my mother's 1950's red handled, potato masher, but I use it on my cookbook shelf as decor. I have personally mashed potatoes with a modern potato masher, but I prefer to use an electric mixer now, especially since I have so much hand arthritis. No matter what method you use to mash potatoes I am sure they are on many of your Thanksgiving menu's.




Food Chopper

Imagine chopping your onions and celery for dressing for Thanksgiving dinner with this handy tool. No, thank you! I will use my knives. Occasionally, I will use a food processor, but I don't like the unevenness of the pieces. I might use something like this for nuts though.


Crumb Scraper

How many of you use a crumb scraper, or bread crumber, at your Thanksgiving dinner table? The one pictured is pretty fancy. Crumb removal became popular during the Victorian era among the artistocratic diners. You can bet they weren't removing their own crumbs, but having servants do it. The purpose was to protect the tablecloth. It makes me wonder were there that many crumbs on the table back then they needed to scrape them up?


Ice cream scoop

Apple Pie a la mode, anyone? Today's ice cream is usually scooped from an ice cream container bought at the grocery store. In years gone by, ice cream was made at home in large wooden bucket like containers and a long handled scooper would be needed. A patent was obtained in 1897 for an ice cream scoop. Extra points if you know who is credited with inventing it. (Answer below)


I  think we can agree that we have it a lot easier than our ancestors did when it comes to kitchen utensils. If you want to know more about historical kitchen tools a good resource is the Feeding America Museum at Michigan State University.  Pictures of 104 items can be viewed. In addition, there is a Feeding America online collection of cookbooks at Michigan State University Feeding America site. 76 American cookbooks, from the late 1700's to the early 1900's have been digitized and placed online for your viewing. The oldest one I found was a 1798 edition of American cookery, or The art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: adapted to this country and all grades of life. By Amelia Simmons. Don't you just love the archaic word, viands? All it means is an item of food.

No matter what kitchen utensil you are using to celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have a day filled with family, love, joy, and stretchy pants!


Answer: The ice cream scoop inventor was Alfred L. Cralle, an African American businessman and inventor.

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