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May 20, 2009 05:01 PM

Any rustic "caveman tech" gadgets in your kitchen?

Just wondering what kind of kitchen gadgets are actually used by CH'ers that are as far removed from the industrial age as possible.

The most primitive items in my kitchen probably are:

* a heavy hand-operated (and hand-carved) Chinese millstone (not sure of the stone used, though)

* thin sticks of bamboo bundled together and simply tied into a whisk-like configuration; I use mine it to brush clean my Daikon grater under the faucet. I've also seen it used to clean the innards off the bone of some fish.

* a molcajete carved out of volcanic stone (a Mexican mortar and pestle)

* a surikogi - a rustic pestle whittled out of a thick branch of Japanese prickly ash (sansho) to use for my suribachi, a type of Japanese mortar)

* a chasen - a handcarved bamboo whisk used to prepare matcha (the tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony)

Not included in this list are various items that while simple uses more modern means of fabrication. Any items along similar lines in your kitchen that you'd care to share?

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  1. I actually have a rock that I use to crack or crush nuts.

    It caught my eye, as I was walking, and wondering what in the world a perfectly round potato was doing on the ground at the beach, and resided in my kitchen for a bit, before becoming a utensil.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Popkin

      I've used a wine bottle as a rolling pin before.

      I hate my pestle and mortar.

    2. Molcajete, which I'd like to trade in on a big scoopy nonporous rock and a smaller rock, or a Thai mortar and pestle of marble or clay.

      And I trimmed a banana leaf out of the backyard for a dumpling-steaming undergirding the other night. It looked pretty primordial when I was out there in the dark with the flashlight.

      And fire. I use fire. Quite a lot, actually.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Cinnamon

        Nice! Very "Gilligan's Isle", that banana leaf!

        Wow, that Thai M&P looks great! Would be nice to have one so big!

        1. re: cgfan

          Depends on how keen you are on hernias.

          1. re: Paulustrious

            It may in fact be lighter than the stone grinder I already have in my kitchen!


      2. Along with the "...molcajete carved out of volcanic stone" I have the funny little round brooms that are sold with them for cleaning. - looks like dried root material.

        A wine bottle to kill fish (with a single quick bash)

        The chopsticks I carved out of bamboo one night in remote East Timor because I was tired of eating by hand

        "Me fists, got one on th' end of each o me arms" - the Jamie Oliver meat flattener

        A hand made huge and very heavy relatively shallow (30" x 18" x 5" deep) hard-wood molcajete and pestle from Pucallpa, Peru, used to make an Amazon mash up. The woman in the restaurant happily took a new one I bought to trade from the market in exchange (same thing but not knicked by years of knives and impregnated with cooking oils. Very heavy. If I leave it out in the hot sun, I can still get a bunch of palm oil leaching out of the wood. I've never used it, but it is beautiful!

        6 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Wow Sam, do you have a photo of your hardwood molcajete/pestle?

          Have to admit I've got a thing for collecting M&P's. There's something very primal about them...

          Must have been influenced by seeing so many "potholes" (depressions in the rock used to grind grain) left by the Native Americans all throughout the California desert.

          1. re: cgfan

            I grew up with the indentations in the granite beside streams that were used to (and came about from) grind acorns in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California. I'm charging batteries to take a photo to send. Maybe email me if you really have a collection - I'd certainly enjoy having it in the hands of someone who really appreciated it.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Sounds like it already has a good home, Sam! Sounds beautiful, though. From the sound of it your molcajete could spark another thread on the subject of huge kitchen utensils.

              BTW what's an Amazon mash-up?

              1. re: cgfan

                Sort of a mofongo: fried up plantains or yuca (cassava) mashed up in the pilon with stock, maybe lard, and sometimes mixed with some meat.

              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Any reason the pilons are so big? Is it for some sociological reason, like large families or communal cooking practices, etc. And by being so huge, I'm imagining that they might typically be used outdoors - no?

                1. re: cgfan

                  "Pilones". Used indoors. Lots of starch and grease! Big work.

          2. I crack heavy lobster shells with a 6 inch cast iron frying pan. Put lobster in plastic bag and go out to concrete driveway.

            1. I use an ancient chopstick to test hot oil for readiness

              I have empty wine bottles to flatten 'stuff' in lieu of using my meat mallet

              I use this bendy straw and toothbrush approach to cleaning off my microplane (does that count??!) the bendy straw scrapes the zest off for me, the toothbrush is for the actual soapy cleaning of the thing.

              I have this awesome old, broken, wooden spoon that I use as a goopy-food pusher into the disposal.

              Some of my dish towels are from the 80's.

              Instead of using pot holders to yank the oven rack out to flip stuff or check done-ness, I have a wooden hook (also a ruler on one side) that I can use to pull out the oven rack and push it back in. It is faster for me and easier than dealing with pot holders, pot holders never shield me from intense oven heat. I have the silicone ones and they make my hands feel like lobster claws. hate 'em.

              (Didn't mean to turn this into a rant!)