Friday, November 18, 2016

Granny's Tools

This past week we've been working on a selection of photographs for a showing: The Mechanics of Composition: a study of machinery. I suggested the theme, having in mind the working word "composition" and my friends threw me a spanner. They focused on the machines, which is hard work because it pushes one to use creativity and acrobatics to make a decent photograph.
   A tool is any item that is used to do a job of work. There are four basic simple machines: a wheel, gears, levers, and an inclined plane from which all other machines evolved as human beings advanced through eons of civilization. They range in complexity from a needle to huge earth moving bulldozers and beyond.
   Physics defines "work" as moving an object through space, which means a baseball bat moves a ball or a fishing rod casts bait to the fish. Both are examples of levers, which demand skill from the user to place the object where it will be of the highest value.
   I was giving Nash fits climbing around on construction machinery to manage a different angle or perspective for my photographs and was banished to the kitchen. A place filled with tools if you strip them down to their basic components; after all a woman invented the windshield wiper.
   I found I had an assortment of tools that belonged to my grandmothers stuck in a copper pot. Those tools would have seen heavy use in the coming weeks as preparations for the holidays shifted into high gear. See, tools sneak into our language with our being aware of their existence.
   An ice pick has many other uses besides chipping ice for making ice cream or sweet tea. At one time ice was delivered in blocks and you still hear people refer to the refrigerator as an icebox.
   A butter paddle (flat board with groves) used by granny for working the congealed fat from the churn into table ready ball of delicious spread. A rolling pin, an ingenious use of the wheel, that produced never fail biscuits and pie crusts.
   A wire whisk for whipping whole eggs to high stiff peaks for meringues and angel food cake batters.
   A fork and spoon made of iron to withstand heavy use. Have you ever seen a wooden spoon on a flea market table that had been used so much one side was flat where the wood had worn away?
   A dipper for ladling hot foods into a bowl for the table or filling canning jars for winter feasts.

   A potato masher - can you imagine the time it would take to produce the bowl of creamy perfection which granny always managed to do?
   A mallet for pounding tough meats, grains, seeds, roots, nuts, and even herbs like rosemary, which tends to be rather prickly when dried.
   A jar lifter for getting canning jars out of boiling water. I tried using this once to see how it worked and had a mess to clean up off the floor. My jar was a half-pint of jam. How they managed quarts and half-gallons with that thing I have no idea.
   The list of granny's tools goes on and on with scrapers, spatulas, rotary beaters, and knives.
   Since I get photos of grand and great-grand children from former students on Facebook maybe this article should have been titled Great-Great Granny's Tools.


  1. And those kitchen tools last and last for generations. I have similar items from both grandmothers as well as my mother. I like to call them 'usable antiques.'

    1. Yes, John so do I. This reply is late as we took a writing retreat and I'm just now getting caught up on all that went on while we were cut off from the electronic world.