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Kitsch Contraptions and Kitchen Wizardry – A look at kitchen gadgets from the 60’s and 70’s

The 1960’s and 1970’s saw food transforming from a feast for the stomach into a feast for the eyes and with this came a host of unusual recipes and accompanying kitchen implements. The perfect companion for the modern housewife was a hoard of labour saving devices and gadgets that would help to make home entertaining easy and family meals impressive. Today’s kitchen must-haves   seem to be silicon cake moulds and squeegee bottles that enable sauces to be dotted and drizzled on the serving plate, but I think that my 1970’s Auto Coffee Maker is far more exciting than any rubbery cake mould. Although I’m not sure that today’s health and safety would approve of a device that boils water up in the car, at the time of manufacture it was described as the ‘’perfect travelling companion for sportsmen,  campers, boat enthusiasts, vacationers, salesmen, truck drivers and car pools’’ . Mine is still in perfect working order and is still regularly used when I go on day trips. I find it is a perfect companion for someone who objects to paying a small fortune for a cup of over brewed coffee at motorway service stations.

A stream of ‘must have’ time saving and corner cutting kitchen devices appeared in the 1960’s and 1970’s and whilst most of them now lie redundant in the back of the cupboard, gathering dust there are some retro gizmos and gadgets that deserve to be dusted off and restored. As I cleaned out my kitchen cupboards in an attempt to locate my hand held whisk I came across an array of forgotten treasure in the form of old culinary contraptions. From electric carving knives to liquidisers and a variety of devices in between, it seems that my kitchen cupboard has been acting as a museum for out of favour appliances from yesteryear.

No self-respecting 1970’s kitchen would be without the Solidex Glass (Pyrex) Milk Saver. This nifty device was designed to be placed in the bottom the milk pan and gave a vibrating sound to alert the busy cook to the boiled liquid and prevent over-boiling. A clever little invention that was indispensable to the modern cook who didn’t have time to be watching over her milk pan. This device may have lost popularity but it works and for people like me that don’t enjoy cleaning up the mess of over-boiled milk and prefer to be drinking their cocoa instead I highly recommend getting hold of one.

I no longer own a Hostess Trolley and recently when catering for dinner guests who were running late I came to regret parting with it.  Not only was the Hostess Trolley capable of keeping dinners warm, but allowed the hostess to escape from the kitchen to enjoy the party. Hosts in the sixties and seventies used dinner parties as a chance to show off not only their culinary prowess, but their cutting edge kitchen appliances in much the same way as hosts today use the width of their television screen. Before oversized white plates became all the rage crinkle cut vegetables produced with automatic vegetable cutters such as the Susi Matic 60 were considered the height of sophistication. Whilst canapés that required fiddly preparation told of the host’s refinement, they also gave a good insight into the range of new kitchen gadgets within their clutches; with cooks cheat devices such as the Short Cuts Canapé Maker taking the strain out of keeping up with culinary fashions. I found one of these in my cupboard and I couldn’t resist making cheese and pineapple canapés displayed on a melon.

With 70’s advertising slogans including ‘life begins after eight’, chocolates such as After Eight Mints were upheld as the ultimate after dinner treat and the upmost in sophistication, but these wafer thin mints could only be done justice with the presence of the brushed steel coffee percolator. If you fancied finishing off the meal with biscuits rather than chocolate then hostess could wow her guests with her culinary genius by presenting beautifully shaped, hand baked biscuits aided by the use of a biscuit press.

When it came to grating then the Mouli-grater was a heaven sent device, from nuts and cheese to carrots and chocolate this nifty little device had been with cooks for generations, but in the 1970’s it had a make-over and was launched in fashionable orange plastic. I had forgotten what light work of grating this made and this is one device that will be seeing a long term revival in my home.

When the retro domestic goddess was not in a dinner party whirl then everyday meals could be prepared with the aid of  kitchen equipment essentials such as the pressure cooker, hand-held electric whisk, SodaStream, chip pan and spice rack.   The new easy to clean plastic, table mounted mincers worked wonderfully with the burger maker gadgets and French fried potato cutters that turned home-made food into fast food. In the winter I wouldn’t like to be without my slow cooker, but my pressure cooker required a good dusting off when I found it lurking in the back of the pantry. I must admit that the very early pressure cookers are things that still frighten me, but the 70s, pressure cookers took a key step forward with the development of additional safety features. An interlocking cover, that prevented the cooker from being opened unless pressure was safely reduced, and the addition of secondary overpressure devices did a lot to ease my fear and resistance to pressure cooking and I may dig out my pressure cooking recipe book as it was a healthy way of producing food, fast.

Even the preparation of a jacket potato saw the invention of a labour saving  device in the form of Spike Murphy – the wonder potato baker that promised that it would deliver perfectly baked potatoes faster , indeed this kitchen doodad claimed ‘the rapidity and efficiency of this appliance will surprise and delight you! It eliminates half-baked results …..Invaluable in the home’. This is one device that may not see a revival in my kitchen, however, a perfectly cooked potato wouldn’t be complete without a salad that has been duly spun in a retro salad spinner and that device is still very much in demand in my home especially during warm weather.

My kitchen cupboard clear out provided a nice bit of cooking nostalgia for me and all I can say is ‘’May these ingenious labour saving devises be dusted off and revived for their ingenuity, style and fun!’’



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