The Pleasure of Kitchen Woodenware

The Pleasure of Kitchen Woodenware
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As I hold the old oblong wooden chopping bowl in my hands, my thoughts drift back to my childhood. Many times I sat in our farmhouse kitchen chopping cabbage and carrots for coleslaw or potatoes and meat for hash.
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.

Not many of those old bowls exist today. They were made to be used so wore out. However, if you have one from childhood, treasure it, more for it's nostalgic value than anything monetary. It probably will be rough with use and full of nicks from the metal chopping tool.

Bowls of Great Variety

The 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 the meal. Large round and oblong ones, often 20 inches across, were used a chopping 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 inside of bowls, cups, and mortars. From this came the name of "turner's ware" for such items.

Restoring Wooden Chopping Bowls

The large chopping bowls, like the one of my childhood, are in great demand nowadays. They can be restored with little work, but are more authentic looking when chopping knife marks and chips are left visible.

To obtain a nice finish, sand the inside and out with fine sandpaper, then rub the outside with oooo steel wool. The outside may be waxed until it has a high shine, while the inside is usually left as is. You might rub salad oil over the inside lightly to keep it from drying out.

Decorative Pieces

Wooden bowls make lovely decorative pieces if you don't want to use the old ones for chopping or serving salads. The oval wooden one we used during my childhood to make cole slaw and chop vegetables for corned beef hash occupies a prominent place in our home.

MOCK SWISS STEAK - A simple recipe a family member makes frequently. Put 2 slices bread in blender and blend until fine crumbs. Add to 1 pound lean ground beef. Stir in 1 minced onion, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon parsley flakes. Mix well.

Make patties of desired size and brown in frying pan. Mix 1 can mushroom soup and 1/2 soup can water. Pour over meat and simmer 1/2 hour. Serve with the mushroom gravy over rice or potatoes.

(c)2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has written "Curios of Yesteryear" for publications since the 1960s. She and her daughter find their trips into the realms of collectibles enjoyable adventures. Mary Emma also writes other columns, books, and travel articles. Her book, "The Magic of Patchwork", takes you into the history of quiltmaking. Visit her web site for more information about her columns and books at


About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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