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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why buy vintage kitchen implements?

So, have you guessed that I love vintage shopping? I would much rather hit the vintage district, than the mall, any day. So much interesting stuff.

While on vacation this summer, my kids and I went in to every vintage and antique shop in town. We played the game "what do you think this is for?" several times. I would find something that really wasn't in use in modern times and pose the question. Oh, the answers were hilarious at times. And all three kids agreed that that game was one of the highlights of our trip.

My son found a stack of old Popular Mechanics magazines. I'm kicking myself for not buying a couple of issues. These magazines had ingenious ideas. One had directions for laying wires under the rug to turn your entire house into a TV antenna. Okay, so that one is a bit dated with digital now. But you get the idea, people thinking outside the box to solve problems.

My favorites are always the dishware and kitchen items. I really wanted a butter churn that I saw. But practically speaking, that would be the biggest dust-collector in my kitchen, as I have neither a cow, nor goat, nor yak to milk here. (I hear yak butter is quite good!) What I did find, that just had to come home with me, is an old hand-crank, applesauce mill. My guess is it's 1960s. Not ancient, but made when quality was a manufacturer's CEO's primary concern.

When I got it home, I did a little online research about applesauce mills sold today. Here are some reviews I found about a current model sold in stores:

"Poorly built, not like your grandma's Foley"

"got one of these because it's what my mother and grandmother used to make applesauce. Boy was I disappointed! It didn't make it through one day of applesauce! My mom then gave me her ancient one, and what a difference! I'm able to grind a batch of applesauce in half the time! They don't make them like they used to."

"We bought this to replace an older Foley Food Mill that has seen better days. Unfortunately, this is nothing like the older product it replaced - although it looks the same. The product is very poorly made. Don't get me wrong. It looks great - just doesn't work."

"Does not compare to the old original Foley's of my grandmother and mothers time!!"

"Foley might have made a great mill at one time but the ones they make now are junk."

This is sad, don't you think? A company once known for it's exceptional quality in kitchenware has been reduced to producing junk.

Why buy vintage kitchen implements?

In the shop, I was able to hold it, work it, press, push, try to bend, and all but press apples, to test to see if it was durable. It had withstood a couple of decades of use already. My guess is it will withstand another decade or two (maybe more). 

This older model had another improvement, over the newer version that I found at Amazon. It has a covered handle. The newer model has a looped, wire handle. A few reviewers of the product stated that this handle was uncomfortable to work with for long periods of time. Well, when making applesauce, that is what I'd likely be doing, working with it for long periods of time. The old, covered-handle model will be more comfortable than the loop handle, I'm predicting. 

Some reviewers also stated that the legs came off the mill on day one. When this happens once, we all agree that it was bad luck. But when several reviewers have the same experience, it makes you think twice about how well or poorly something is crafted. The legs on my vintage mill appear to be welded on very well. Welded-on parts are something I play with to check to see if they're secure, when vintage shopping. I also manipulate any moving parts, to insure it still runs smoothly.

The least expensive applesauce mill I found online was about $29 plus shipping/handling. I got my vintage mill for $14 plus tax. Half the price. 

And, as I bought this while on vacation, this was my souvenir. It will remind me of the fun I had with my family, playing the "what do you think this is for" game, in the many antique and vintage shops we visited.

I like to picture in my mind, the people working together to make a batch of applesauce for canning. A 1960s, happy, jovial family enjoying a Saturday afternoon of work. My own kids and I will make many batches of applesauce with this mill. And perhaps, another mother, someday, will acquire this mill, and imagine my family, gathered in the kitchen, cooking apples, running them through the mill and filling the jars -- and our family today, will be the vintage family of tomorrow. It's a thought that makes me smile.


  1. It's funny to me that you found your food mill in a vintage shop. I have one on my shelf that I bought years ago. I have made applesauce with it with my kids and the neighborhood kids. My house was the place to be during those times. It also works great for tomato sauce-no need to peel the tomatoes.

    When you imagine the cozy time the family had before you using the mill, maybe that's right or maybe it was work. When I was growing up, my father would collect apples in the fall. Then every day when we came home from school, we would have to do a canner's load of applesauce that evening. This seemed to go on for weeks, but I don't really know how long. I think it was however long my father could find someone that would let him collect their dropped apples (read lots of bad places in the apples that we had to cut out).

    I have lots more stories like this. We really did can/freeze all of our food. It was good food, but I think that's why I am not that interested in doing much canning or freezing today. There's no novelty for me. I just think of work.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I can see how all that work while growing up would put you off wanting to can now. My father felt the same way about having a garden. When he was a child, he and his older sister had to do all the vegetable gardening work, planting, weeding, harvesting -- all the work. He never wanted to have a vegetable garden as an adult.

      For me, it is a cozy thing. When my husband and I were first married, he was unemployed for a substantial amount of time. We moved to a new city, found a place to live with fruit trees in the yard, and we were just so thankful to God, that all this fruit had been provided for us. That first summer in that duplex was the best summer those fruit trees ever saw (in 6 years of living there). I was busy almost every day from early July to early October, processing fruit in some way or other. But we had plenty to eat and were just so grateful. I did see it as work, at the time. But somehow, I saw it as work that I was thankful to have.

      Now it's more a nostalgic thing. It feels different now, because it is a choice for me. This is how I'm choosing to live my life at this stage. And I probably won't be needing to can 40 quarts of applesauce this fall, to get us through the winter.

      Thanks for your story. It's always good to hear someone else's perspective.

  2. I think the great thing about vintage (that still works) is that you know it has stood the test of time. Once upon a time women bought things for the house that were designed to last a life time....most things aren't made that way anymore.

    We always made applesauce, but never had a food mill. My grandmama would patiently press the apples through the holes on a colander. I have great memories of putting away food :-)

    1. Hi Shara,
      Don't you wish things were made to last forever, still? Can you imagine how much less junk would go to the landfill? How much less time we'd spend repairing things (or waiting around for a repairman to come to our house)? Sure, it might cost more upfront than things do now. But we'd know that when we spent our money, it would be money well-spent.

      In past years, for applesauce, I've peeled and cored all the apples before cooking, then mashed in the pot. This will hopefully be an improvement for me.

      Thanks for your input!

  3. I too love my Foley Food Mill. I just made applesause yesterday. I purchased mine in the 70's. It doesn't have a plastic handle like yours but it is a solid metal piece not a loop. One thing I've learned is when shopping for vitage kitchen tools make sure all the small parts are there. I've been looking for a pressure cooker. I've seen many but they all lacked the regulating weight. That is until last week when I found one for $4. at Deseret Industries. the only drawback is it is alumninium, not stainless.

    1. Hi frugal spinster,
      You make a good point about checking for everything there, when buying used items. For me, I try to imagine myself actually using the item. Not only do I play around with it, but I think through how it's going to work. This gives me an idea of whether or not I actually think I'll use the item, as well as helps me check for it's function.

      Where's the DI in the area? I lived in Salt Lake City for a while, and that was the last place I saw a DI.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Lili, Are you familiar with Laura's Last Ditch-Vintage Kitchenwares & Small Appliances? Here is her website, but she also has an Etsy shop and a Facebook page. I think you will really like it. :) :)


    2. I will check that out. Thanks, Belinda!

  5. I'm with you, I don't want anything new, they are junk. I have my grandmothers blender. Then entire thing is made of glass and steel, (yes even the base). I'm not looking forward to the day that breaks.

    I also have an old enamelware table with a drawer that I use as my desk and where the little ones can make a mess as everything wipes off easily. I've bought tables and desks over the years, but they all get wobbly or fall apart, this and the blender are almost as old as I am, or older and they are still as good as when first bought.

    1. Hi Lois,
      I have a picture in my mind of what your blender might look like. My mom and dad's was an Osterizer. It had a round steel base, all metal. It had a toggle switch. two speeds, on and off. And it was still working when my mom passed away in the 80s. I don't know who wound up with it. But that and a 1957 toaster were still going strong in the mid to late 80s. Things were made to last then.

      Thanks for your comments!


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