Hope am not putting my head on the chopping block by travestying the old saying. **
In the old days, every home used a round wooden chopping “board” that was made from a cross-cut section of a good-size log. Thickness varied from about 1” to 3”, depending on the diameter of the board.
On these boards, we cut everything in the kitchen, from vegetables to meat. One could deliver heavy blows with a chopper or cleaver, to cut through thick animal bones that were laid on the them – no problem.
These “old school” style chopping blocks (as I call them) are still much favoured by professional butchers in markets, as they are tough and hardy.
But for home use, they are getting scarce – replaced mostly by those made from plastics, or from pieces of wood, laminated together.
** “a chip off the old block”
It must have been like 10 years ago (as of 2018) when a Korean-made product “Happycall” made its debut onto the local kitchenware scene. Widely touted as the wonder non-stick pan, it promised to keep all flavours in, and cook everything to perfection.
I quickly tried out every Flip and Flop – from antiquity to modernity – to make it happen. Sadly, nothing worked out. (The fish that I was trying to fry turned out half-cooked and looked more like an aircrash victim). Or that I was a culinary catastrophe.
My old faithful old Wok-horse was still the best. Disappointed, I decided to go for Amicable Separation after the Un-Happy Call.
It took one yank from a small screw driver to unhinge everything – and then, voila, I had two non-stick pans, and all parties were a lot happier afterwards.
Or one could call it the best thing for cutting hard-boiled eggs into slices. I remember we had one of these simple kitchen aids at home…a long time ago.
It was a simple, yet effective tool. The thin, highly-strung steel wires cut through an egg neatly, without messing up, yielding slices with uniform thickness – a result that could not be achieved using a knife.
But somehow, we lost it and more interestingly, never missed it or found an another occasion to use it. Why is that so? I wish I know.
My guess is that these days, food is plentiful, appetites have bloated and people live to eat. No one would be happy with mere slices – thus, only a whole egg or maybe even two, would satisfy gastronomic expectations. Thus, the slicer was gradually assigned museum status.
While tidying up my store room, I uncovered this 2-decade old kitchen appliance that we have not used for a long long time. It has become a monumental testimony of my wife’s happy hours in many episodes of culinary Broiler-vs-Broiler drama in the kitchen.
The machine is a table-top broiler, which we used to broil chicken (aka ‘broilers’) for dinner. It is a pretty amazing piece of machine, though quite simple in concept.
Those were the days. However, now, as age catches up with us, we find it too tedious to do the broiling, and troublesome to clear up the oily aftermath. Moreover, as the Empty Nest syndrome sets in, the incentive to get embroiled with cooking diminishes rapidly.
If we want roast chicken, simple — just head to the supermarket, grab one from over the counter and start biting.
Before the early 1970s, making a cake was somewhat of a hit-and-miss affair, having to deal with the unpredictable mood swings of a highly-battered dough taken to task in a charcoal-fired makeshift oven.
All that changed, when we bought a circular flat contraption called an “Ovenette”. After the dough was put in, and the cover closed, and the switch was flicked on, all that we had to do was to wait, see and smell.
The cover had a circular window on top through which we could see our rising expectations.
Though there was no temperature control for user manipulation, the results were usually very pleasing and palatable. At last we could have our cake and eat it as well.
These days, we have upgraded to built-in ovens in the kitchen, thanks to a wifey with very cakey tendencies.
During my college days, I discovered that many of my fellow students had a vital tool in their survival kits – namely a portable Immersion Heater.
Day and night, the rat race never ceased. A hard evening’s study, pouring over the day’s lecture notes, and flipping through numerous reference texts exerted a huge drain on energy resources. The tummy often needed a top-up to prevent flame-out as midnight oil was burned.
Ah hah! The trusty immersion heater came in handy. A koleh was filled with water, and the heater dipped in. Within minutes, there was boiling water, to make instant mee, boil an egg or brew a cuppa to get much needed oomph going.
I have not seen nor used one for at least 3 decades now. Not sure what happened!
Folks of my age would remember the ubiquitous wooden “Meat Safes” where we kept our foodstuff, and also pots, pans, bowls and dishes. While these stood on solid ground they had the proverbial “feet of clay” as ants could easily climb up and somehow help themselves to the food.
So to counter this “ant-surgency” threat, the four legs were usually shod with Moat Bowls made of real clay (glazed and fired). The moats were filled halfway with water. These formed effective barriers which the pesky 6-legged fellas found it hard to bridge or breach.
These clay moat bowls are a rarity now, being replaced by molded plastic ones in the later years. The moat concept however lives on — those who have pets at home know what I mean.
Her name is Stone, Whet Stone. I just realized that abrasive gal at the corner of the kitchen sink has been with us for the past 32 years, having followed us in our migration from Penang to Singapore.
A faithful companion I would say, having not only stuck by us through Thick and Thin,but also gone from Thick to Thin over the past 3 decades. Well she is more curvy now for sure.
I wonder how the modern folks sharpen their knives these days ? I know of several contraptions that came and went, but as for me, I am still stone-age.
I might have to get a replacement soon before the old faithful breaks into two; perhaps should send her by Poslaju to Easter Island as her final resting place.
We thought so — it just made our humble roti smell and taste like progress. Introducing the classic wire-mesh toaster…
Each slice of bread was lovingly clasped between the two halves of the toaster (each half made from ‘chicken wire’ mesh with a frame), and one had to skillfully control the charcoal embers below, the distance from the heat source as well as the length of time. Any distraction or slip of hand could turn one’s breakfast into idiomatic toasted catastrophe.
The last time I saw one of these ‘gadgets’ was perhaps 40 years ago. Am not sure if others have seen or used one in recent times.
Of course with the advent of modern electric toasters, all it takes is to push a button and a lever, and sit tight and wait. No hit-and-miss!
The old faithful Kerosene Stove of course. Earthy, as the fuel she used was called ‘Minyak Tanah’ which meant Earth Oil (“thor ew” in Hokkien) and Fiery, as she could burn and sizzle anything and anyone that got on top of her (literally)
It was in the mid 1960s when we made the Quantum Leap from firewood/charcoal to kerosene as cooking fuel — no more smokey fumes in a soot-coated kitchen.
The most widely used brand of stove was “Butterfly”. As a matter of fact, I never saw any other brand.
With proper maintenance, the stove produced delightful blue flames that provided many happy hours of culinary excitement in the kitchen. With the advent of LPG in the early 70s as the new cooking fuel, the old flames had to recede into the remote corners of memory.