Of Tin-Openers, Potato-Peelers And Weird Exotic Finds

Kitchen drawers fascinate me. No, not the neat and tidy ones of OCD owners, but those that are used as repositories by absent-minded people who aren’t quite sure what this is, or where it really belongs, but the kitchen drawer is handy. Over the years and decades, if nobody interferes with its evolution, a wonderful gallimaufry accumulates in a relatively small space. Gadgets, gizmos and widgets reside untouched and unused as their owners forget their original purpose, or the appliance to which they belonged dies and is thrown away. You can find cutters for turning potatoes or carrots into intricate chains, bought at long-forgotten domestic exhibitions,  or seals for vacuum cleaners that were disposed of back in 1995. Matchboxes with unidentified contents – seeds or gooey black stuff – mingle with parts of something that broke and was going to be repaired.

One of my granddaughters was puzzled a few years ago that she couldn’t find a potato-peeler in Great-Granny’s kitchen. She was looking in the wrong drawer. That is another aspect of kitchen drawers that fascinates me: the logic by which instruments and utensils are allocated to specific places. It may seem blatantly obvious to you that a potato-peeler should go in with the kitchen knives, but to my mother it belonged with the tin-opener.

Also, gadgets develop and change in appearance as they evolve over the years. Once my granddaughter had located the seven and a half potato-peelers in among the tin-openers, there was only one that she recognised as the object of her search (the orange one in this photo).


Evolution of the potato-peeler – note the blade tied onto a clothes-peg! Wartime make-do and mend!

She also failed to identify two of the tin-openers as such, and was totally perplexed by the perforated metal discs attached to metal spikes with a ring handle. I have fond memories of using these as a child, when I was allowed to help with small tasks in preparing meals. Do you know what they were for? Does anyone still use them for that purpose? (If you are also perplexed, read on – I will explain.)

In a friend’s kitchen drawer, I came across this strange implement:

orange-peelerShe demonstrated how practical it is, and claimed that even though hers must be well over thirty years old, you can still get them.  She produced the second – newer one – as proof. We googled the item, and she was right, you can still buy them online for under £10 each.

Still wondering about these gadgets? Well, this picture might help with my friend’s treasure.


It has a sharp lip in the middle of the blade that cuts a long narrow slice out of the equator of an orange. You can then insert the looped metal end between the peel and the flesh, and finally scrape off any pith with the edge of the blade.

As for the perforated discs, in my childhood we used them to beat egg whites into a stiff snow. The advantage over a normal balloon whisk was that, in the days when eggs were rationed, you could put a single egg white into a glass beaker and beat it quite easily by pumping the handle up and down. I have a modern gadget for frothing milk for my latte macchiato that works on the same principle. And the reward for the hard work was the fun of holding the beaker of stiff egg-white upside down at the end, to prove that the job was done!



5 thoughts on “Of Tin-Openers, Potato-Peelers And Weird Exotic Finds

  1. OMG! This is the most perfect post! You introduced me to a new word AND a new gadget! I’ve never seen the word galimaufry before. I LOVE it! And I want that citrus peeler, depither thing! I have seen strange looking kitchen implements that gave me pause in antique stores. And my mother-in-law presented me with the coolest gift from her kitchen. It was an Ebelskiver, used to make little round pancakes. I had to look it up and find a recipe to use it. It was so cool. And categorizing gadgets in drawers, that is as nefarious as identifying and naming every shade on the color wheel!

  2. Haha, lovely! I didn’t know galimaufry, either…
    And I always wondered what the discs-on-a-stick things were, not sure I ever actually asked or got an answer, tho’!! I bought the potato peeler on the left because I couldn’t find the others, and if I had, would have tried the 2nd on the left, though in the end it depends which one cuts best – I know the newest one is pretty hopeless 😮
    That orange peeler is genius, never seen one of those… I can remember being baffled by a pineapple cutter when I first saw one. Oh the gadgets that have come and gone in various households lol 😉
    Aren’t other people’s kitchens amazing?! My MIL’s is another one to analyze with that many multiples of everything and probably some weird gizmos, too :O

  3. I come, among other things, from a long line of seaman, and there belief is that everything should be in its logical place and always put back in it so, even in the dark you could find almost anything with ease. Everything had its place, and there was only one place for everything. IN this world the potato peeler would have been easy to locate.

    The other objects, though fascinating, had no room in our house so, until your interesting post, I had never heard of the,. Just shows you are never too old to learn. Hope you have a lovely weekend

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