Saturday, February 12, 2022

Old Kitchen Things



LUCY BURDETTE: Hallie beat me to the punch discussing “stickie” stuff in our homes a few weeks back, but I felt sure there would be more to explore—in the kitchen, of course.

 When I was first married, I brought a set of Paul Revere pots and pans to the family. These were the ones with copper bottoms that had to be polished. They were beautiful, and they’d belonged to my mother, so they might have been 40 years old with tons of sentimental value. After a while, we noticed that one of them had a pin-hole leak in the bottom. Honestly, it wasn’t usable, but I found it impossible to throw out. 

“Do you think it’s going to heal if you baby it long enough?” John asked one day. So I threw it away.


Then, for the last who knows how many years, I’ve reached for this sifter when I needed to sift flour, sugar, and other pantry staples. I stopped using it about a year ago because it always delivered a fine sanding of rust to the ingredients. But it had been given to me by a friend who was moving to a new life forty years ago and I figured it had probably belonged to her mother. Again, sentimental value.


Finally I decided it was okay to buy a new one. I texted my friend a photo to break the news and ask if she wanted it back. “Oh,” she said, “that belonged to my ex mother in law.” So I pitched it. 


RHYS BOWEN: we have enough antique stuff in the kitchen to film Downton Abbey, Lucy. John’s mother’s meat mincer, demi-Luna, several jello molds one in the shape of a rabbit, copper molds for aspic ( who does aspic any more?)


The first two are used all the time. We also had a brilliant rotary grater from his mother that would not only grate cheese but nuts and spices. Alas it finally broke!




HALLIE EPHRON:  I think I have more antiques than non-antiques in my kitchen. An ancient rotary grater that’s just slightly (ahem) rusted. It does a great job on chunks of hard parmesan. And my mother-in-law’s candy thermometer which I can’t imagine that she ever actually used. My mother’s wooden salad bowl and hand chopper. And a green porcelain Hamilton Beach milkshake machine (and 2 stainless steel cups) – one just like it is going for $600 on the Internet, which is probably what it would cost to ship it. 

 


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: So many old things, hand-me-downs and family antiques, including, improbably, the last nine plates (out of twenty) of Syracuse China my Grandma Fleming gave me when I moved to Washington, DC for grad school.


Two I use almost daily: the skillet is one of several given to me by my maternal grandmother, Mary McEachron Greuling. There's no makers mark on it, but my Grandpa Greuling was a skilled foundryman, so it might have been of his making. The knife was HER grandmother's, and if you look closely, you can see where the German steel has worn away in a curved indent from generations of women using and sharpening it. It's the best knife in the world, and I'll pass it on to whichever daughter or daughter-in-law is most likely to use it. 


I hate to sound like an old geezer, but it just seems old kitchenware was made to last in a way modern pieces aren't.


 

How about you, Reds? Do you have antiques in your kitchen? And aren't you dying for a tour of Rhys's and Hallie's?

90 comments:

  1. Old things fill my kitchen, and I have to say that, for the most part, the new stuff never lives up to the old things. I’ve got flour sifters . . . a milkshake machine . . . cast iron skillets . . . an odd knife or two . . . dishes . . .
    My favorite? A couple of cutting utensils, one to make French fries, the other to make carrot sticks . . . .

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    1. What do the cutting utensils look like Joan?

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    2. Your list reminds me of what I'd love to find: a green bean slicer thingie that slices green beans. Also a grapefruit spoon - the handle broke off mine. I imagine they still make them and I could buy, but I'm committed to finding.

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    3. The French fries cutter is a metal rectangle around an open space with cutting wires strung across the open space . . . you can see a picture at https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/wV4AAOSw2MxfHKBo/s-l640.jpg ]

      The carrot stick cutter is similar, only smaller and the open space is round with two wires forming a cross . . .

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    4. Hallie, I can send you a grapefruit spoon, if you want one! I have extra, and I'm the only one that uses them.

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  2. I love old kitchen tools. My Nany gave me a lot of vintage cake plates and stands as well as her chinois, rotary grater that finally wore out, the ice cream scoop she used in her first job and her mother’s egg beater which has its own little glass bowl and is at least 100 years old. GranGran passed things down also. Her mother’s rolling pin, a sifter very like Lucy’s, Fire King casserole dishes, a CocaCola bottle opener from the 20s and the cookie bowl. It’s a big pink stoneware bowl that my mom mixed cookie dough in when I was little. My first memories of helping her bake include that bowl.

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  3. I have my mother’s 1976 Kitchen Aid mixer...I still use it every time I bake. Also have her 1960’s era Pyrex and Corning baking dishes. Pie pans, loaf pans, square and oblong baking dishes...it wasn’t until after my husband brought a metal lasagna pan to the family that I’d ever baked in anything but glass. He also brought cast iron and we have several ancient Dutch ovens, & skillets of several sizes...we don’t own a skillet that isn’t cast iron. I love your great-great grandmother’s knife...what stories it could tell....

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    1. I have the glass Pyrex too! And yes, Julia's knife is priceless. It's got to work itself into a book. Hmmm, the wheels are turning...

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    2. The "expert" say cst iron dutch ovens and skillets are THE BEST. And I have an enormous (15"?) cast iron skillet but it's too heavy for me to safely handle, especially when it's full of dinner.

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  4. When I had the house, I had 1940's green parers and choppers and sifters etc. hung about the kitchen walls and my grandmother's green Fiestaware above the cabinets. I have no wall space in the apartment kitchen but I did have space above the cabinets for some of the Fiestaware-- until the RemodelFromHell in 2020, when they moved upwards and reconfigured the cabinets, because this is an apartment building for seniors, so of course make things more difficult to reach. Did you shrink some? Do you have osteoporosis? Let's make you climb up to reach your cabinets. If you fall and break a bone and maybe die, we can churn the apartments more quickly and make more money. (Let's hear it for Chicago slumlords!)

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    1. Ellen, either that wasn't thought through, or thought through diabolically!

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    2. Sounds like the plot for your mystery novel starts in the kitchen, Ellen,

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    3. I have a friend who thinks the space above the cabinets is for ceramic chickens.

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    4. My eco-broker had the builder enclose the cabinets so there is no dust-catching space above them. <3
      There are some shelves so high that I've told nieces they are welcome to anything on those shelves as I will clearly never be using them.

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  5. I have a few in my kitchen. An Osterizer aka Oster blender from the 1960's. I haven't ever used it but it looks so cool I can't get rid of it. I do remember Mom throwing ice cubes in it and blending drinks. I've got some 100+year old family things: a potato masher, a small crockery pot for retrieving butter from a nearby farm, a knife sharpener with a wooden handle, a wicked looking ice pick. And lots of cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens from various sources.

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    1. Of course my mind goes right to the ice pick...

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    2. Lucy, was today's topic chosen to get some new ideas for murder mysteries? You certainly are zoning in all all the potential weapons,bwah-ha-hah!!

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    3. Well in truth, I am just coming across the body in food critic #13! Between the dog walking stories and the kitchen tools, I should be all set...

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  6. I have my mother's sifter and her biscuit cutter. A (rusted) Knott's Berry Farm pie pan I can't bear to part with. Her Mirro cookie press. I wish I had her curved chopping blade and wooden bowl, and her heavy meat grinder, but I don't.

    Hallie, do you make milkshakes frequently?

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    1. A rusted tool isn't much use, but it's hard to throw them away, isn't it?

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    2. I make milkshakes... never. I have one of those bullet blenders which makes great smoothies. Easy peasy, Single serving. The milkshake maker is a work of art.

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  7. I also have my mom's flour sifter, biscuit cutter and rolling pin. I still use the last 2 but I now sift flour using a sieve. The large cooking pot on my stove is a Paul Revere with the copper bottom. And like M SMITH, I have some of my mom's 1960s Pyrex square and oblong baking dishes.

    And remember when I talked about making (the communal) mizutaki meal?
    I have my mom's mizutaki cooker and the 4 small ponzu bowls.

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    1. Agreed. The electric mizutaki cooker is over 50 years old but works like a charm. I have never seen one in Canada or online.

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  8. That flour sifter looks familiar. I think that we still have something similar in the kitchen. We still have a working crockpot from my childhood. We used to have a roasting pan that had been passed on through generations. Unfortunately, it became toxic? or there was some reason we had to throw it away. I remember the beautiful Blue delft ? dessert plates from my childhood. I remember my Mom saying it was from her grandparents. When I looked at them recently, I noticed the months were spelled in the French language. It is so fascinating to see what we still have that has been passed through generations.

    Wish I could share photos here of my kitchen inheritances.

    Happy Saturday,
    Diana

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  9. My mother still uses a sifter like that. I can hear it squeaking!! Somehow I ended up with my great aunt Lillian's 1940s-era glass measuring cup. I love it. I also have her mint green metal colander, long ago gone to rust and now used to hold sponges, scouring pads, bottle brushes, etc. underneath the kitchen sink. Old kitchen stuff is the best.

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    1. I have a 2 cup glass measuring cup and the notations have all been worn off. I finally broke down and bought a new one last week:)

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    2. Oh, yes, my pyrex measuring cup. NO red lines anymore. I I knew where they were.

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  10. I have a complete set of Revere Ware that were gifts from my grandmother for my hope chest. Anyone else remember those? I also cook with cast iron. I buy old kitchenware from yard sales and flea markets. My wedding corning ware is from 1969, also antique along with me.

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  11. So I notice lots of us hanging onto cast iron cookware. What I got RID of was all the aluminum pans. Wasn't there something scary chemical that happened when you cook something acidic (tomatoes) in aluminum?

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    1. Hallie, someone told me there is a connection to aluminum and alzheimers. I have never cooked in aluminum and decided right then that I wouldn't, even if it is an old wives tale.

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    2. We got rid of aluminum years ago when we read awful things. Now it’s all stainless steel and cast iron for steaks etc

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    3. Yes, there's nothing better than cast iron. I's incredible. And I never liked how he utensils sounded on the aluminum. Or the feel of those pans.

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  12. I have my mother's cake tester -- silver, from the mid 1800s, I think. I must ask her how she came to have it. Also from Mum, I have a couple of white casserole dishes with glass lids that can go from oven to table. They're not antique, I just always think of Mum and her kitchen when I use them. Everyday kitchen tools make for the very best memories...

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    1. Amanda, What’s a cake tester ?

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    2. Danielle: It's a long skinny skewer, designed especially for sliding into a cake to see if it is done. It takes the place of a toothpick!

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    3. Oh, thank you
      I’ve always used toothpick. I didn’t know there was something made especially for this.

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  13. Lucy, the new sifters don't work as well, don't you think? I still have my first CrockPot, too, Diana--it must be 35 years old, and has one of the original brown crocks. The lid got broken, but I found a great replacement for it.

    We have Steve's beloved waffle maker, an ancient clunker that must be at least 60 years old. It was old when we got married 40 years ago. He had to replace the cord in the late '80s. We tried a new one briefly, but it was nowhere near as good.

    Steve and his dad traveled to the Northwest Territories several times before I met them, and someone brought back a Native-made ulu, which we still have. It's like a mezzaluna, but with a hand-carved handle. Steve still likes to use it, but I like the modern one better. So handy for chopping herbs. It lives with the Escoffier knife that is starting to look a lot like Julia's.

    After helping to dispatch the estates and households of three relatives, I've pared down considerably, although I did help myself to a couple useful tools. My mother-in-law had some flat spatulas for icing cakes that I have used and used. And my son-in-law's mother had the same silverware we had, so I added that to mine. We never need to use plastic utensils--Jan had service for 18, and I had enough for 12.

    If there's a metal recycling center in your town they may pay you for the scrap from old appliances. We were astonished at how much a load of junk paid, especially the old cords and cables--there are valuable materials in them.

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    1. I forgot about Mommy's cake frosting spatula. Nothing else does the trick.

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    2. KAREN: That ulu sounds like a unique chopping tool. I have a rarely used mezzaluna in my kitchen drawer.

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  14. All the things that were in my mother's kitchen, went right into my step mother's kitchen when she and my dad married and combined households. The fact that I have any pots or utensils from my childhood is amazing but I do. I set up my first apartment in 1971 and some things that look like Hallie's chopper and bowl and Lucy's sifter may have just been my own purchases at a time when those things were still for sale. I had the best potato peeler that finally fell apart a couple years ago. There is no replacement for it that is half as easy and accurate. My new one is clumsy and much harder to use. I am pretty sure that I have a grapefruit knife and melon baller that were my mother's.

    I have all of my mother's good china and crystal and many other lovely pieces that were hers. My dad and step mother made sure that I got those things.

    I have one of her Revereware pots, and I bought my own set of Revereware when I started out. I still use it. Revereware will repair lids and probably would have fixed your broken pot for you Lucy. Most people today want to cook in modern cookware but I am used to the weight and love how easy they are to clean..

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    1. JUDY: Darn, I wish I knew that Revereware would repair lids and pots. I use the pot but got rid of lid when it became damaged. And sadly, I did not get our Royal Doulton china. My dad threw out all the kitchenware when he downsized to his retirement apartment in 2015.

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    2. Boy, Grace, that stings. It is shocking what men will throw away that a woman would certainly offer to a daughter or son. A friend recently lost his mom. His dad wanted to move in with him so my friend converted a few rooms to an in-law apartment for his dad. When he went to move him, his dad had already tossed out all the picture albums and family videos. Gone. WTF!?

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    3. JUDY: I hear you about what happened to your friend. My dad was a keen photographer. I found hundreds of loose photos (that I had never seen) from the 1950s when I cleared out his retirement apartment last October. BUT, he threw out all my childhood family albums and videos. WAAAH!

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    4. Gee whiz, Grace. That is so sad.

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    5. Wow Grace, that's a tough pill. When we downsized my parent's place, the only thing my Dad wanted to keep was a box of mismatched bits and pieces of china from his Mother-in-law (!) and a couple of ancient bottles of mincemeat that my mother had made, stored and forgotten decades before. Everything else, he was happy to lose.

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    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    7. DEAUN: Yeah, I had a complicated relationship with my dad. Who knew what his reasoning was?
      On the other hand, my dad had enough space to keep 40+ years of quarterly bank statements (threw those out) and kept none of his past income tax returns (GRRR). It would have useful to have at least one past return since I have to send in his 2021 income tax return in April.

      P.S. Sending this again via my laptop this time. Autocorrect on my phone messed up your name!

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    8. Grace, you can find replacement lids for your Revereware online. Lots of options.

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    9. KAREN: Thanks for the tip! I will start searching online.

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    10. Grace, assuming you are the executor/personal representative/trustee, you can get copies of what was filed FROM the IRS.

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  15. There are two cast iron skillets and Dutch oven in my kitchen that were in Mom's house, though they could have been my grandmother's. The rolling pin was grandmother's, I just took out her house when I cleared out so my father could move in after her death. I wish I had taken a couple of her knives. The blades were curved like in one in Julia's picture. The star shaped Jello molds were used by grandmother every Christmas. I have mom's flour shaker. The lid is dented and caked with flour, but I love it. I, too, have Pyrex pieces that I remember using as a kid. My favorite piece is the Pyrex pot with a removeable handle. Then there is the one remaining serving spoon from the stainless-steel flatware of my childhood that I guard fiercely. It's the only spoon I trust for accurate measurements when making my version of mom's versions of Grandma Jeanette's potato salad.

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    1. Love the idea of the special old spoon that has one purpose!

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  16. I have all of the above, including my mother's Mirro cookie press. And--wait for it--a complete set of jello jiggler molds for Halloween and Christmas!

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  17. And, I forgot, when I closed up my parent's house when they moved to Florida, my dad gave me several of his knives. He was a butcher and the knives and the steel are really nice. My step mother gave me her brisket pot. It's enormous and perfect for brisket for a family seder! It probably weighs 10 pounds before you put anything in it!

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  18. I have very few things that predate me (1970 baby) in my kitchen with the exception of my grandmother's 10" cast iron skillet, which gets used at least monthly and seasoned at least once a year, good years, twice. And like Hallie mentioned - if it were a 15" one, it would be too big for me to use or to handle, and I'd never use it. I'm grateful it's a manageable size to keep as a working tool.

    For a while i was making space in my cabinets for an enormous (8 cup?) glass measuring cup/handled bowl thingy that my husband had brought into the marriage. I assumed I was honoring a grandmother of his or something until one day I asked him about it and he told me he thought it was mine?? OUT it went - I don't bake with that volume and my cabinets are too small to keep space for that giant!

    As a Professional Organizer, I love it when I work with clients in their kitchens and we come across the artifacts and antiques, and they tell me "Oh, I don't USE this, I just want to keep it". I encourage them to (a) get it OUT of their working spaces (the drawers that have to hold your at-work tools) and (b) if it's so meaningful, find a way to display it with honor, and let looking at it bring your joy.

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  19. You people are breaking my heart! 2 house fires and it hadn't occurred to me until just this minute about all of the kitchen "heirlooms" I lost. What did survive the second fire was a drawer full of Tupperware lids. They were in a bottom drawer and the firemen must have been able to contain the fire away from that part of the house. They were in perfect condition but still useless to me. Maybe I should have saved them to pass down to future generations.

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    1. Oh Judi, that is heartbreaking. But I don't think you should have kept the Tupperware lids LOL

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    2. You might be able to duplicate some of the losses at Goodwill.

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    3. Whenever I go to a yard sale I am bound to see something that I used to own and I think to myself I had that, and I want to buy it until I tell myself I've done without it for this long I think I can continue to live without it.

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  20. My family had a summer compound that had started out as a single 1870's farmhouse and grew to 4 houses over the decades. We did not have rummage sales; we took old stuff "to the lake." Then most of us went to college or grad school at Madison, an hour and a half away, and stocked our apartments from the Lake. Until my downsize move in 2017, I had, and used constantly, all kinds if stuff from the Forties and Fifties, stuff from my grandparents and great grandparents and of course my parents. Alas, things were lost in that move (a friend once told me "Three moves are worth a fire." That one surely was.) Not intentionally lost but lost nevertheless, were my parents' Parker fountain pens (engraved with their names) and the best photo of Owen and me together (there were very few of these-- we were both camera shy).

    You come to terms with such losses (and the teflon pot I once melted on the electric stove I wasn't used to.) They continue to exist, like the people you have lost, in your mind's eye.

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  21. It is Julia's knife that I long to hold and admire.

    The nicest memory in my kitchen is my mother's cast aluminum Nambe ware dutch oven. She used it for braising and stews. It is all scratched up and no longer shiny and for some reason, I am hesitant to use it so it stays on the display shelf.

    There are pastry scrapers in an old tin box that could be used if needed but mostly I keep them because I like them. Then there is my grandmother's crystal that I am keeping for those days when everything else is broken but I'm too old to buy anything new.

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  22. I have a special green bowl that was my mother's that I have used for salad for the 50+ years of my married life. Also, an enamel colander that dates from the beginning of my marriage and is pitted and a bit rusty. My family has purchased 4 new ones for me but I consistently pull out the dark blue one. Can't throw it out.

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  23. I also have my grandmother's silver and my mom's wedding china, which I love. But another everyday-use item is the silver sugar spoon my grandmother brought us from Holland. The tip has a tiny windmill that still spins! I cherish it as much as the dolls she brought me from countries as disparate as Japan, India, and Spain.

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    1. Oh Edith, I have some tiny spoons like that. I am certain one of them has a spinning windmill. But I doubt my people were ever in Holland???

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  24. Oh, of course. Just recently I was eying my grandmother's (via my mother) meat grinder, stored in an equally vintage wooden cheese box, well aware it hasn't touched meat (or the bread used to push out the last of the meat) in, probably, 55 years. But can I ditch it? Sigh. It lives on a basement shelf, by the way.

    Plus almost everything else mentioned above. :^) Some of them I don't know how I'd manage without them.

    Especially at my partner's cottage (built 1936ish) filled with many many old things that just keep on being used summer after summer. Some things had migrated from the city to the country, so are even older. A few are hazards, like the ornate lead muffin tin, which simply hangs out of reach as a decoration.

    We also have the top shelves of the kitchen spice wall filled with vintage tins & boxes, some even retaining their vintage contents. (Maybe that's a topic for another day?)

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  25. Oh, this is so fascinating to see...nope, I don;t have anything like that...not kitchen-y. I do have three incredible sets of china from various grandmothers--Havilland and Limoges and others. SO gorgeous. But well talk about that another day. I wish I had my mother's lamb cake mold and cookie press--but I'm sure my sister has them. (She's a chef, so that makes sense.)

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  26. My favourite kitchen treasure is my collection of glass canning jars. I have Blue Ribbon coffee jars from the 40s, Corona and Crown jars from the 30s on up and multiple self sealing jars. I have tried to give many away to my daughters, but they will only take so many!

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  27. I am a heartless monster. I have nothing of sentiment in my kitchen, except for the Hub, who does all the cooking. LOL!

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    1. LOL Jenn, don't throw him out! We've gotten attached to him...

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  28. It's funny the things you remember from growing up. I can still see as clear as day my mother's old butcher knife she used. It had gotten many years of use already when I was old enough to notice it. I wish I'd gotten that knife when my parents possessions were divided up among my siblings and me. I also would have liked to have my mother's heavy food grinder she attached to the end of the table to grind up the cheese for her pimento cheese. I will never taste pimento cheese as good as my mother's. Even my husband agrees with that. I also wish I'd gotten the little iron skillet my father used to poach his eggs in each morning (only cooking he did). I did snag a metal bowl that looks like somebody beat it within an inch of its life. But, I still use it from time to time and think of my mother when I do. I have a relish dish from my mother that I use at holidays, and I have a set of china and lots of little glassware that I don't use.

    I still have two of my Revere-ware pots I bought when first married 45 years ago, one has copper bottom and one doesn't. They're my favorite pots for cooking spaghetti and lots of other stuff. I also have pyrex dishes and a bowl I received as wedding presents and still use.

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  29. I got a set of Revere ware as a wedding present 46 years ago and still use them, though they don't have shiny copper bottoms any longer! When my mother passed away I took a few of her Revere pots in a size I didn't have. My oldest household item however is a set of metal cookie cutters I inherited from my grandmother. I remind my grandson when we make out Christmas sugar cookies that the cutters were his great great grandmother"s!

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    1. That's a great memory about the cookies Chris. I bet he'll remember that in his future life...

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  30. My "sticky" things seem to be mostly china and glassware, but that's another post altogether!

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  31. Yes, to antique kitchen stuff, and to some Havilland Limoges. The Havilland was my grandfather's find. He was a security guard for Westchester County, NY. He had to inspect the houses that were condemned for road construction to roust any squatters before demo. He found three Haviland platters and a covered veg in one of the houses. They are in my home now. I also have my parents potato peeler and grapefruit knife from the early 1940s, their garlic press of the same vintage and a wooden spoon so well used that the sides are worn down to fit the pot. It was my mother's and her mother's before her, and who knows when it was actually new.

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    1. Interesting that those evicted from the condemned homes would have left Haviland platters!

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  32. Most memorable of my mom's are the dishes that she and her sisters brought home from the movies, send the children and for 10 cents receive peace and quiet and bowls and plates. ;-) The item I use most is the cast iron skillet that may have been Grandma's before Mom got it, so good for slow cooking and for cornbread.

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  33. A tour of their kitchens? Yes, please! I don't have heirloom items in my kitchen - my mom downsized on her own - but I do have some from my own very first apartment, when I was still in college, long before I was married. And I've been married a LONG time. We cleaned out some drawers recently and I moved my old, bulky rotary hand mixer to the back of a closet. Of course I needed one in my single girl days! I made pancakes...I whipped cream... I had no room or no money for an electric mixer,and I had never heard of a whisk back then.And I am not throwing it out. It's a piece of my history.

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  34. Outside of a cast iron skillet that was my grandmother’s and a bunch of condiments, the oldest thing in my kitchen is I.

    When we tore it out to the studs a few years ago, we discovered a drain pipe coming up from the basement. It was for the ice box. I was fascinated. Our house is 100 years old. So I guess the kitchen window is older than I too!

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  35. I have most of the things that my mother had. I hate to get rid of things because as I cook and bake more, I've found things that I use now. I had to google some to see the pictures and know that Mom had a whisk and pastry cutter. I have that sifter but mine is in better condition, and I used it to make cookies last month.

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  36. I grew up with a rusty sifter (and crusty sister?). Tip: wipe sifters clean without water. My mother had her mother's pots which had been repaired by a tinker--that meant rivets where holes had been so they rattled on the stove. Those tinkered pots are gone, which is a bit of history that probably deserved to be lost.

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