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What could be better than a history quiz?


Naftal
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......a culinary history quiz,of course:

 

Which of these three kitchen utensils was invented first?

    the wire whisk

    the mezzaluna

    the box grater

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Ah yes, a mild diversion!

 

I can't see it being the box grater (no doubt somebody was using a rough stone or bit of bark to scrape food with way back, but not a box as such).  A toss-up for the other two, if we ignore 'wire' and accept you can use a bunch of sticks or sprig of fresh herbs as a 'whisk'.  The mezzaluna?  Basically a curved knife, developed presumably because somebody saw their Granny chopping herbs with a straight knife, observed the action and though 'Aha!'.

 

I'm going with the whisk.

Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
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I'm going with mezzaluna, I have a vague memory of learning the origin of the whisk and do not want to cheat and look it up, but suspect it isn't all that old. I know that mano + metate, mortar + pestle combinations date back to the stone age, and forged knives to the bronze age. So, mezzaluna is my guess.

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The mezzaluna - there are examples of flint hand knives with an arced edge in numerous museums. 

The "ULU" a more compact chopping, cutting and scraping tool is another example.

The early metal-working civilizations made both one-hand and two-handed choppers - again with that curved edge. 

Copper, bronze, and iron examples have been documented.

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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A clarification- My question is not: Which had its earliest prototype? Rather: Which first existed in its current form? I apologize for any confusion the sophomoric wording of the original question may have caused.

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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According to the 2015 edition of Harris' Farmer's Almanac:

      

 

 

       mezzaluna 1880

        wire whisk 1765

       box grater 1540's

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I still agree with Andie because I believe the Ulu was the original 'mezzaluna' - and still resembles it today in terms of blade design, purpose, etc.- though obviously the name is different and yes, a mezzaluna has 2 handles, not one. Many historians believe the ulu was probably invented as early as 2500 BC.

That said though .. this could be a fun thread. Thanks.

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I collect mezalunas so have a fair amount of printed information on them.  When I began collecting, back in the '80s, as with many of my collections, I did a fair amount of research.

 

The "Farmer's Almanac" does not always contain data that is entirely correct. 

Several issues have erroneously identified numerous "biggest", "tallest" etc., etc., etc., animals and things in various categories.  Also there have been a number of quotations attributed to certain people, both living and dead - one notable one was supposedly by Mark Twain during his life and he personally attempted to have it corrected but it remained in subsequent issues for five years. 

 

I believe the quoted source for "mezaluna" refers to a particular patent that was approved by the U.S. patent office (under the 1836 patent act).

 

However the mezzaluna, as such, was supposedly "invented" in Italy in 1708 -

Here is the link to the specifics of the Italian invention.

If you google Silvio Pacitti you will find quite a few links to other sites - and the "pizza cutter" claim is really not true, he developed his particular instrument to chop herbs and probably just refined the tool from an earlier one.

 

I don't collect box graters so have no specific info on them. 

 

Whisks - I do have a large number of whisks of different shapes and types but not antiques. 

 

However:  According to food historian G. Jones, "The first written mention of whisks came in The Frugal Housewife, a book published in London in 1765."  

It stands to reason that if something is mentioned in a cookbook, it must have been in use prior to that. 

 

Thanks for posting the question.  At my age, anything that makes me think and stimulates my memory is appreciated. 

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Andie-I am glad you like  this. BTW what can you tell me about the history of the double-bladed mezzaluna? Does it really exist? My almanac says it does, but I want the facts. :smile: Thanks

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I have two mezalunas with double blades.  The one in this photo - at the top, inherited from my grandmother - was made before 1919 which was when she received it before marrying my grandfather. 

The other one, which has two handles which are almost identical to the one on top on the left - it is made of high-carbon steel and rusts easily and has the "blue" cast like the top one has been leant to an exhibit at a historical house in Huntington Beach that was built in 1898.  I think it is from about 1900. 

 

The oldest one in this photo is the middle one at the bottom which came from an auction at a Shaker community in Kentucky (Pleasant Hill) and was listed as having been made by the community blacksmith in 1879.  (which is one reason why I question the Almanac date)

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 11.26.46 AM.png

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Andie- You are amazing!!!!!! Thank you for all this info :smile:  :smile: :smile:  

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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If you Google  antique Shaker herb chopper you will get a bunch of entires - including this link with many images of  what are actually mezzalunas, just not called that.

 

Images of antique Shaker herb choppers

 

Note that there are examples of the herb choppers from the early 1800s - the Pleasant Hill community was founded in 1805.  The Shakers invented numerous kitchen implements, including the crank-type apple peeler/corer.   They often did not patent their designs, they freely gave them to anyone who was interested.   The things they did retain were the recipes for their herbal medicines - some of which were very important during the Civil war.

I have several books about the Shakers - not because of their religious beliefs but because of their herbal lore and their kitchen and household inventions. 

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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My almanac is wrong again!!!! It claims the apple peeler/corer goes back to 1864

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I'm not sure when the earliest apple peeler was invented.  I have one from 1899.   I was born and raised on my grandpa's farm and one of the major crops was sorghum.  The sorgum "press" was Shaker built - in 1900, though most of the cast iron cog wheels and the chopping "screw" were cast at the iron foundry in Clarksville, TN.

There was also a Shaker-built corn huller (for dried corn) that was hand-cranked and my cousins and I loved to play with it. 

By the time I was a child there was a powered huller that was used by other farmers who brought their dried corn to my grandpa's grist mill.

They paid 5 cents to run a bushel of corn through the power huller but could use the hand-cranked one for free.

 

We had big crosscut saws that were made by the Shakers and there was a lot of utilitarian furniture in the kitchens and work rooms that had been purchased by my family when the Shakers were still active.  (long before I was born)

I'm sure there were other items that came from the Shakers but I don't really recall the things that did not hold much interest for me. (Wood working tools, etc.)

One of my aunts made "cane" or reed backs and seats for chairs, for decorative screens, etc., and she had a hand-cranked reed or stem splitter that had been made by the Shakers and I think she bought that at one of the auctions. 

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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