Warm Mocha Tart


The Best Old Things

April 5th, 2011 by Cocolat

I have mixers and processors, ice cream machines, an infrared thermometer, digital scale and my share of electric or electronic gadgets in my kitchen. But some of my best, most often used tools are old and simple. Good looking too. And filled with memories. A few date from l972, acquired in Paris, at La Samaritaine, or a street market or corner quincaillerie (hardware store). If I need a cup or two of grated carrots or beets, I'd rather reach for one of my tin (not even stainless steel) Mouli graters than bother with the food processor. One has a rotary barrel, the other slightly larger, Mouli Julienne, has three disks with different size holes. They remind me of finely shredded veggies dressed in vinaigrette, the ubiquitous salades de crudites we ate in modest French restaurants and cafes long ago.

Rolling pins? I have my great grandmother's tapered maple pin, with which my mother made her Thanksgiving apple pie, before she decided it was more convenient to make apple crisps instead of apple pies. I have a small slender pin made of dark wood, that's only 12 inches long and just an inch in diameter. More like a fat dowel than what we consider a rolling pin, this pin is used to roll out crackers or flat bread in I-forget-which country, and was given to me by a friend from Indiana. It is surprisingly versatile. Actually it's the sports car of rolling pins: I find it remarkably easy to manoeuvre and it turns on a dime. I also have a beautiful, and hefty, hand-turned ash and walnut pin crafted recently by another friend. I use whichever suits the task and my mood.

The slotted spoon is employed several times each week to lift perfect poached eggs from their hot (not-even-simmering) bath. I love my micro plane and vastly prefer the original design, without a handle to distract from the essential beauty of a perfect functional tool. I use the grooved mortar and pestle often to make, among other things, a ground coriander, fennel, and pepper corn crust for seared tuna (From Paul Johnson's book, Fish Forever).

The mystery tool that resembles a miniature jaws of life is one of my very best old things. In lieu of an oven mitt, it's used to grab a hot cake pan or dish from the oven, or at least slide it into view, without gouging the contents with the gigantic thumb of my oven mitt. Tell me that never happens to you… I bought this grabby thing at at the Bazaar de l'Hotel De Ville, (known as BHV, pronounced "bay ahsh vay" of course) for less than 5 francs when France had francs and francs were only 5 to the dollar! I'm afraid it will break some day and I have no idea what it is called or whether one can even still buy them in France (are you listening David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan?) I loved photographing these beloved and useful old tools and remembering when and where I got them. Not that I would object (at all!) to having a Pacojet








  • Posted in food memory, mouli grater, pacojet, rolling pins, technique, tools
  • 12 Responses to “The Best Old Things”

    1. April 05, 2011 at 2:16 am, Renee, Your Sweet Tooth Therapist said:

      Oh how I wish I had not tossed out mom’s old things. I’ve learned to appreciate them now, and even moreso after reading this. That “pan grabber” thingy – my mother in law actually gave me a pair of chartreuse green ones that she ordered on QVC last year. I guess they’ve gotten an update. Thanks for sharing such great memories.


    2. April 05, 2011 at 2:26 am, MusicCityMissy said:

      I’m with you Alice. My grandmother’s old harvest gold Sunbeam electric skillet fries the best chicken. The Lee corn cutter my other grandmother used to make her awesome creamed corn. The cutter my grandfather made some 60 or more years ago to make chips that we call curly chips at fairs & festivals now. The vintage hand crank ice crusher. The Mouli grater. The Salad Master grater/shredder.

      I could go on and on. But they are still great tools and I now find myself picking up old ones when we travel – my ‘coffee cup’ collection.


    3. April 05, 2011 at 2:57 pm, Finamoon said:

      I have found that the simplest things in my kitchen are some of my favorites to use too. I have a set of cast iron skillets that I use over and over. I also love my Borner V-Slicer and my hand crank apple peeler/slicer.

      I too love old things. Although not only for my kitchen. I have found myself drooling over my Mother-In-Laws antique Singer sewing machine collection which includes a beautiful old Red Eye Singer with treadle cabinet and my sister-in-laws old school desk with scrolling cast iron legs. I love searching for vintage goodies on my travels.


    4. April 06, 2011 at 12:28 am, Anonymous said:

      I bought an antique sifter from and estate sale 25 years ago and still use it. I also have have a 40 year old potato peeler I adore. It is so bent and fits my hand just right.


    5. April 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm, Torviewtoronto said:

      lovley post familiar things


    6. April 18, 2011 at 5:17 pm, Anonymous said:

      My favorite thing that’s old is the tool that chops nuts. It’s a jar, with a screw on top that almost grinds the nuts without turning them into nut butter*(not that there’s anything wrong with nut butter)


    7. May 02, 2011 at 5:44 am, Elizabeth said:

      Alice, I am a big fan of channellocks tongue & groove pliers. Two decades ago my father gave me a pair when I went off to college, I have never been without them. I use them for pulling canning jars and ramekins out of water, for sliding and lifting cake pans as you demonstrate, and countless other kitchen tasks. They don’t have those nice flat pads for gripping as your specialty tool does, though. The only widely used equivalent I know is the pot grabber that comes with camp cookware sets, but those are usually quite small. You inspired me to do some research on this family of tools-thank you!


    8. May 15, 2011 at 3:27 am, LunaCafe said:

      Lovely post, Alice. We determined yesterday that the oldest piece of kitchen equipment we have is a large stainless steel bowl (which I use for mixing anything and everything) that husband, MauiJim, remembers from childhood. He says it was at least 20 years old when his mother bought it second hand at a school cafeteria sale. It will never wear out. I wish I could say that about my Cuisinart food processor. I’m on number 3. Best…Susan


    9. June 09, 2011 at 3:31 am, Suzanne said:

      That’s a nifty kitchen tool! I need one of those!


    10. June 24, 2011 at 8:32 am, priya said:

      Hi, really very nice post…..
      very impatient of the kitchen equipment….
      really help to me….

      Used Kitchen Equipment


    11. July 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm, Upholstery Cleaning said:

      I like your post! I have stuff like this at home and absolutely adore them!


    12. April 30, 2012 at 10:28 am, Window Cleaners Cobham said:

      Some of these I have seen in my grandmother's house and I always like playing with them.
      Window Cleaning Cobham


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