Monday, January 19, 2009

Old Kitchen Woodenware Stirs Memories

As I was sorting through some memorabilia, I came across an oblong wooden bowl, about 18 inches in length and 12 inches in width. As I held it in my hands, this wooden chopping bowl evoked many childhood memories. Scarred from chopping many foods, this bowl had been involved for preparing numerous meals.

My thoughts drifted back to cooking in the farmhouse kitchen with its wood fired stove. Many times, I chopped cabbage, carrots and onions for coleslaw or potatoes and meat for hash, in that bowl.

We couldn’t run to the store for ready-chopped cabbage or cans of hash. Everything was handmade and often mixed in the oblong wooden bowl or a smaller round one Mother had.

Bowls of Great Variety

The wooden bowls of early America were of great variety, ranging from small salt dishes to round and oval bowls for preparing and even serving the main dish at mealtime. Large round and oblong ones, often 20 inches in length were used as chopping and mixing bowls.

Not many of these old bowls exist today. Those that do are considered antiques and collectible. They were made for daily use, so wore out.

However, if you have one from childhood, treasure it, more for its nostalgic value than anything monetary. It probably will have nicks and scratches from the metal chopping tool, but that gives it “character,” as someone once told me of old woodenware and furniture.

The Early Wooden Bowls

The pioneers shaped the earliest bowls with simple tools, such as chisel, knife and plane. Later, especially in the 18th century, as colonial tradesmen began to make woodenware, they used lathes for turning the insides of bowls, cups, and mortars. From this came the name of “turner’s ware” for such items.

Another early name for wooden items was “treenware.” This supposedly came from “tree,” from which they were made. The men who made the wooden items for a living, whether kitchen utensils, boxes, stools, etc. by lathe and hand, were called “coopers.”

HASH BROWN CASSEROLE might be considered a variation of hash, but without the meat. However, you could add chopped corned beef if you had any.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat. Stir in 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese until melted. In bowl, mix together 1 pint sour cream, ½ cup chopped onion, ¼ tsp. pepper. Add to cheese mixture. Lightly stir in 30 oz. frozen hash brown potatoes.

Spread this mixture into a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes, until potatoes are heated through and top is bubbly.

©2008 Mary Emma Allen


Cyndi L said...

I used to collect old wooden kitchen tools, back before they became in vogue and expensive. My favorite is my huge maple rolling pin :-)

Eileen Bergen said...

Yum! The casserole sounds delish (and easy).

My mother had a round wooden bowl that had the signs of use you describe. I think (hope) my younger sister has it.

Mary Emma Allen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cyndi. I have a few items, in addition to my mom's oblong bowl. Your maple rolling pin sounds great. My problem is find a place to store my collections in our multigenerational home.

Mary Emma Allen said...

Thanks for stopping by my Country Kitchen, Eileen. My daughter and I like to find recipes for easy dishes. She, her hubby, daughter and I like casseroles. My hubby and grandson like their food cooked separately!

Mary Emma Allen said...

Eileen, it would be nice if your sister still had the old wooden bowl. These items are more than bowls and dishes. They come complete with so many memories...which we must write down.