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Memorable Mashing

There is a cupboard I keep where little-used kitchen tools lay to rest. Mallets and scrapers, zesters and sifters, grapefruit spoons and garlic presses, cake trimmers and egg timers, plus a lot of high-design pretties that failed to function well. Once, after a week of decluttering, I relegated something un-relegatable there: My vintage 1930’s potato masher.


I didn’t realize quite how much I used it (!) But I cook for my nonagenarian Dad and mashed potatoes are requisite, pulling whatever veg and protein I make into a comfort he really enjoys.

Yes, I have a nice potato ricer which makes creamy mash, but it’s kind of fiddley. And Mom’s “waffle stomper” masher from the ‘60s looks cool on the counter but is sort of “meh” on the mashing. So, my just hands kept reaching for the quick and easy tried and true. I had to restore its pride-of-place: The red-painted wooden handle so easy to grip; the zig-zaggy wire mashing foot sturdy and uncomplicated, the thoughts of my grandma mashing potatoes when I was a kid right there with me. She’d press and smash, lift and fluff, turn the pot, add butter, cream and a scatter of salt then turn and scoop out to a big bowl. So good.

And testimony to the vintage tools’ perfect functionality? Today’s best mashers are still made with the same design. I could buy one of those if this one ever wears out, but I like the ‘30s aesthetic and, since anthropomorphism is my thing, I imagine red-handled masher guy is proud to be back in my best-kitchen-tools canister.

So, if you get the chance, scrabble around in the back of your grandma’s pantry, or poke around at your local antiques and collectible shop and bring one of these home—they’re easy to find (though you may have to fight off a few collectors—I mean, this one guy in Spokane has collected more than 600 of them!) And they cost about the same ($8 to $15) as you’d spend on a new one. Happy mashing!

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