Any rustic "caveman tech" gadgets in your kitchen?
- cgfan May 20, 2009 05:01 PM
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
I crack heavy lobster shells with a 6 inch cast iron frying pan. Put lobster in plastic bag and go out to concrete driveway.
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!)
How do you like working with the Thai m&p, and also the pilon de madera? The Thai m&p may be next on my buy list but larger wood Thai ones are also in the running. I would think the bashing ability would be better with the granite type but maybe not ... say for making curry paste.
Wooden spoons from '82, still going strong!
Hmm... I have a few items from my grandparents:
The classic tapered rolling pin, probably maple. It's just enough out of round to look like a tree branch.
Everything else has iron in it, so it's really not pre-industrial per the OP. But, how many folks have wooden handled iron larding needles? Or carbon steel knives with no maker's marks on 'em (ebony and beech scales on full tangs): a cook's, a butcher's scimitar, a boning and a fillet. Long & sharp!
Does a 19th century copper pan count?
I don't pound a lot of nails day-to-day, but during stone crab season (which ended 8 days ago-boo hoo), I use a standard 22 ounce head carpenter's claw hammer on my jumbos and colossals. As for banana leaves for baking fish pebil style, I can snag more wild leaves on a 10 mile bicycle ride than I could possibly carry. And they are year-round. Florida has certain virtues.
I also have a round stone I crush garlic with. And I have an old fashioned meat mallet that was my grandmother's. I use it sometimes. Also from my grandmother's kitchen is an old piece of tempered glass with a black knob. You are supposed to use it to keep bacon flattened in the skillet when frying. It has to be 50 years old. Came from Miles Kimble..
Just wanted to add some more to our growing collection that I just recalled after reading Scargod's post:
* Konro/Shichirin - a traditional Japanese grill carved out of lightweight stone
* Binchotan - (though it's a consumable) traditional Japanese charcoal
* a flute-like implement carved out of bamboo to blow air onto a charcoal fire when using the Konro
* a hand-held traditional Japanese fan made of paper and bamboo that I also use when firing-up the Konro
(BTW if one is interested in kitchen, wood-working and household rustic-tech and is in the L.A. area I'd highly recommend a visit to Anzen Hardware in the middle of L.A.'s Little Tokyo on 1st Street. They tend to carry a lot of these kinds of items in addition to a broad selection of Japanese knives which has caught the attention of many of L.A.'s chefs.)
They appear to be rocks with a concaved surface (but not always basalt?) or flat rocks and higher at one end so the meal runs off. Molcajetes are typically round with legs so I would guess that if the don't follow this shape then they are a matate.
Years ago from Ghana I brought back an "ayeuva," a very rustic and traditional mortar & pestle used in that country to grind spices, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and boiled leaves, among other foods. (It's also used for serving fufu and soup).
The mortar, finished in black, is about 8 to 10 inches in diameter--and shallow. Grooves encircle the inside of the mortar to help the grinding process. The pestle is hour glass-shaped and carved from a single piece of wood. It's 3" long and has a base and head about 2" wide. You fit the top of it in your palm, close your hand around it and use wrist action to grind.
It is so much fun to use and very efficient. Most recently, I've used it to grind black peppercorns when my pepper mill gave out on me.
It's my sentimental and very functional "caveman tech" treasure.