I look around my home; my bedroom, my den, my kitchen, and I see so many things that I have inherited, either directly, or through generations. I have many beautiful things that belonged to others before me, but my favorites are some of the utilitarian tools in my kitchen. It should come as no surprise that I love kitchen gadgets, though my kitchen isn’t filled with every hip new tool that comes along. I have a four-cup Mr. Coffee maker, not a K-cup brewer, a toaster from Target, but no toaster-oven, and no Vita-mix. I do have some small appliances which I love and use frequently; a Breville juice machine, a Kitchen-Aid mixer, and food processor, and a Brön mandoline. I believe most of these workhorses will last me the rest of my cooking days, and perhaps get passed down to my daughter, should she want them as part of her inheritance.
My first hand-me-down is an old Waring Blendor (yes that is how it’s spelled). My dad resurrected it for me when I moved into my first apartment. He replaced the electric cord, and the toggle switch, probably rendering it far less valuable as an antique, but that was over thirty years ago, and I still use it frequently. I love its retro look, and loved it back in the late 1970s when I got it. I have always kept its chrome polished, and every time I get an itch for a new blender with ten speed options, I am overcome with guilt that I would stray from my ever faithful Blendor.
I have two rolling pins from two different grandmothers. They are the sturdy kind with handles and ball bearings. They are the only ones I have— no long elegant tapered end dowels like Ina Garten uses, I have no idea how old they are, but they made it through my years at the diner, so I think they were built to last! Another old baking tool I cherish is the wobbly roller I use to make pinked edges on pastry and seems pretty delicate so I handle it oh so carefully.
When my mom asked me if I wanted her heavy hammered aluminum Dutch oven I was ecstatic! It is the perfect size for a roast or brisket, and I never use it, or even look at it without thinking of my mom. I have made some amazing meals in it, as well as using it to bake bread. I have heard all the warnings about using aluminum cookware, but it is not something I use daily, or even weekly. It too is sturdy, reliable and treasured.
Beyond these wonderful tools, are the precious books like the three volume set of Gourmet cookbooks from the 1950’s, the 1961 Larousse Gastronomic, and others, from various decades. When we divvied up the contents of my parents’ home I got the French white lion bowls, many linen tablecloths and napkins that I love to iron (really), any number of items like the sandwich maker (top photo) and a wire garlic basket I recall playing with as a child. I do not know what became of the wood mortar and pestle we used to for pepper, but I do remember the time I blew into it and got pepper in my eyes! Some things went to the homes of my siblings where I know they are equally prized.
The kitchen is central to almost every home, even when there isn’t much cooking done there. It is there we spend time together, have arguments, make confessions, and announcements. The things that inhabit our kitchens become part of the landscape that makes the kitchen ours and not generic. We fill them with things we collect, things we use daily, and things we just want to keep nearby and in sight. In my life I lived with my parents in four homes, and I am in my tenth home as an adult, and it is the kitchens that comes to mind when I think of each of those homes— including the last home my parents had, and which though I never lived in, still felt like home. The things I inherited from that home help to keep a bit of it with me, now that my parents and their wonderful home are gone from my life.