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Jan 29, 2012 06:11 AM

Remembering Old Odd Appliances and Cookware

From your youth, what odd applainces or cookware do you remember?

I'll start: My mother always used to say my dad couldn't boil an egg he was such a poor cook. But he did like gadgets and the fact he couldn't cook never stoped him from bringing something home. He owned a grocery store, so his finger was on the pulse of the latest cooking gadget. One day he brought home a "hot dog in a minute", a rectangular plastic box with two rows of metal spikes opposing each other, spaced just slightly closer together than the length of a hot dog. Ends up this thing is like an electric chair for hot dogs. It does cook them in 60 seconds and with absolutely no taste. I think my dad used it once, mother maybe twice and then it sat on a shelf for years.

Your turn.

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  1. My mother recieved a "Toast-O-Lator" as a gift in 1948. It's now on youtube here:
    At least that one looks exactly like ours! My mother used it for years, then she gave it to me a decade or two after I got married. I think I used it twice, both times for old time's sake. They're adorable to watch in action if you don't have anything else to do and only want one piece of toast. Yes, they will make mulltiple slices consecutively, as long as someone sits there feeding the bread in and catching it when it comes out so it doesn't go rolling and fall on the floor. I will say that it made a firm believer of me in the four slice automatic pop-up toaster, even if I'm only cooking for one!

    And then I had a Veg-O-Matic in the late sixties. Worked GREAT on TV, but the first time I tried to slice a tomato on it the way the guy did in the commercial, it squished and shot tomato all over the kitchen! Including the ceiling.

    And then there was the "Microwave Steak Fryer" my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas, circa 1977? It was a 9" square pyroceram dish embedded with metal particles to get excited and heat the dish by microwave. The instructions said to place it in the microave and heat it for something like five or ten (or twenty?) minutes, then take it OUT of the microwave and add well buttered steaks. It forgot to add, "and stand back and watch the smoke and grease pollute your whole house! She paid big bucks for it I used it once. The steaks were awful!

    1. My grandmother cooked on a wood stove. It also acted as the water heater and supplemental house heater. I remember chicken and dumplings in a big pot on the stovetop.

      5 Replies
      1. re: GH1618

        Hi, GH1618:

        My Monarch is going in in February, but the reservoir/pressure tank hookup will wait a bit Got that chicken & dumpling recipe of Granny's?


        1. re: kaleokahu

          My mother might know it. I'll see. It wasn't written down. It was just something that pioneer women knew how to do.

          Pressure tank? Ours fed hot water to a tank on the second floor through convection. The only pressure was the pressure in the public water system.

          1. re: GH1618

            Hi, GHC1618:

            That would be much appreciated if you can find it... But I'll fake it if I have to. I do have a Monarch cookbook from 1910...

            Re: pressure tank... That's what Monarch called them originally, they typically sat right behind the stove, and I think they had to pass muster as boilers. What I don't know is whether there was any more pressure than the municipal water pressure *plus* what the convection would add. And I know I have to learn a lot more before I hook one up to the HWH OR the radiator system in my 1907 house!


            1. re: kaleokahu

              It turns out that while my mother also made chicken and dumplings (funny I only remember my grandmother's), she just figured it out herself. It's just chicken stew. Throw an old hen in a big pot of water with whatever vegetables you have handy. By the time I knew my grandmother, she was making her dumplings with Bisquick®. You can look it up on the Betty Crocker site. My mother says the dumplings cook 10 minutes with the lid off then 10 minutes with the lid on (they go in at the end). This was down home cooking, not haute cuisine — Betty Crocker would be pretty close to what she did.

              1. re: GH1618

                Drop dumplings are basically biscuit dough. There is a description of the process of making these, and perhaps a recipe, in Joy of Cooking. I think I read it in the '70s edition.

                You should lid your pot after dropping them into the broth.

      2. My mom gave me two odd small electrics that I can think of, that were not very useful. When I was doing a lot stir fries, she gave me an electric wok that simply did not get hot enough to stir fry. It was a total waste.

        About 12 or 13 years ago, she gave me a QVC electric pot, shaped like a soup pot. It took a long time to heat the liquid, and then it cycled so much that the liquid either boiled too much or not enough. Terrible design. I tried it once, then never again.

        And on her counter for decades was a yellow electric can opener. I hate those things. They take up space, and the look awful unless you constantly clean them. And this one didn't work all that great.

        1. I remember that hot dog cooker. We had one. A friend of my dad's had a fabulous Czech sausage company and their hot dogs didn't fit very well in it. No big loss.

          1. I remember my mother's electric stove. It had two ovens, one much narrower than the other. There were 4 cooking hobs, but the back left one was recessed - there was a special pot that fit deep inside. It was meant for long, slow cooking of soups and stews. Ours quit working fairly early, the rest of the stove worked for many, many years after that.
            What I really remember about my mother's cooking was how much she enjoyed using prepared mixes for anything and everything. She grew up cooking everything from scratch and using a wood stove, but modern times meant no more drudgery for her! Instant this, instant that, just heat, stir and done! There isn't a mix invented that wasn't served at our home, from instant mashed potatoes to Jello 1, 2, 3. Hamburger Helper, Shake and Bake, cake mix, pudding mix, gravy mix all of it were modern conveniences she would not do without, no matter how awful they tasted.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Lotsofscots

              Thanks, that made for a very good laugh. Having worked in my dad's grocery, starting at about 13 stocking shelves, I remember all that stuff. Almost forgot about most of it though.

              1. re: Lotsofscots

                My grandmother had a General Electric stove like that with the recessed pot. I never figured out what it was for until I saw an old advertisement a few months ago.

                1. re: SanityRemoved

                  Hi, SR:

                  I *still* have one of these, a 1953 GE "Airliner". The recessed pot arrangement is called a thermowell. The electric element can either fit flush on the stovetop or be lowered to the bottom of the well. I obtained a replacement pot and lid for mine on eBay for $5. Other than the fact that the hobs are not infinitely adjustable (discrete stops between Low and High) , the thermowell works well and is great for deep frying and crockpot-type cooking. I think the fancier models may have had a timer for that element.