Tuesday, November 24, 2015

'Tis the Season...to Cook

"What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" I remember asking my mother.

"Oh, we're just going to sit down to our usual meal of salt and cholesterol," she laughed. "Food is love, you know."

Occasionally I find a record of people's love of holiday cooking at an estate sale. One person saved the Fall and Winter 1956 housewares catalog from the May Co. in Southern California.

Inside were ads for any number of mid-century cooking tools to help the homemaker create the perfect meals during the holidays and beyond...from can openers to utensils to a can of Coffee Stain Remover. 

The catalog also showed Revere Ware pots and pans, which were a sine qua non in many 1950s households. Indeed, people still seek them out today, with their stainless steel tops and copper bottoms. (I admit to having a rather large collection of Revere Ware myself, which I use every day. It worked for my grandmother, and it still works for me.)

I believe it was the same estate sale, where I found an old Sunbeam Mixmaster handbook.

Automatic mixers have been around since the early 1900s, when engineer Herbert Johnson developed a commercial mixer that facilitated the making of bread. After World War I, a model for the home was developed and given the brand name KitchenAid. Electric mixers were pretty expensive in those days; my 1933 copy of Better Homes and Gardens magazine encourages cooks to make the investment because the mixer made cooking so much easier. The cover photo on the magazine features an electric mixer with a gorgeous Jadeite mixing bowl.

The mixer-on-a-stand has seen a revival in recent years; I have a small one that fits nicely into a cupboard when it's not in use. The mixer detaches from the stand and the bowl for independent use. 

This formidable old Mixmaster was a versatile tool. You could buy attachments for it, that allowed it to serve as a meat grinder and food chopper. It also had an attachment that churned butter.

Over time, electric mixer attachments were developed to do everything from opening cans to polishing silver. 

The handbook also provided recipes for cakes, frosting, cookies and more.

Inside the handbook for the Mixmaster were ads for other products that would make the mid-century meal easier to prepare. 

A toaster that lowered the bread automatically, and more: "Toast raises itself silently, without popping or banging." And it "automatically adjusts itself for every kind of bread."

(But how would you know if the toast was done, if the toaster didn't make its signature noise?)

The ad for the Coffeemaster emphasized its metal construction -- "no glass bowls to break...all gem-like chrome plate."

Considering how many vintage electric mixers, coffee makers and toasters I see at estate sales, it seems to me that these sturdy soldiers of the kitchen really were the proverbial "gift that keeps on giving."


The website Jitterbuzz is one of several that give the history of the electric mixer, illustrated:


Here's a website with the history of Revere Ware:


And the story of the May Company:


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