The Masher’s Last Stand
By Ann Chiappetta
I learned to cook prior to food preparation machines and commercial blenders
We used whisks, hand-crank mixers and potato mashers. I stood on the Romper Room emblazoned stool beside Mom until my little arms tired. I whipped cream, eggs, and sifted flour. I was practicing to be a Suzie Homemaker, don’t you know.
After my parents divorced and we moved into an apartment, the budding skills became necessity. At nine I learned to scramble eggs, boil water for macaroni, and help make
meatloaf and meatballs. The spoon with the little holes and the potato masher made the move with us.
I estimate the utensils are over fifty years old, the spoon is solid stainless riveted to hardwood handle grips. The masher is also riveted and sturdy, not even a bit of rust.
Dad’s carpenter’s measuring stick given to him by his father
was the final tool
Laid in a reverent place among elderly scrapers, hammers and planers.
Bobby, said a friend, your making mistakes, get rid of that thing.
The measuring tape wasn’t as fun to play with
And pinched my tender fingers more than once
Dad would release the stop and we listened to it retract as if by magic and
He would chuckle and say something about
The wonders of modern technology
Then whip out the stubby pencil from behind an ear, mark the wood
clip it back to his waist and return to work with the hand saw.
I pretended the curled papery shavings from planing the wood
that fell like
Dogwood petals onto the shop floor were
Secret messages from fairies or a mouse
I put them to my nose and inhaled the fragrances
Cedar or pine was the best
Pop gardened and gave me the first taste of fresh mint
Strawberries warmed and sweetened by the sun
Pickled cucumbers in jars so big a child’s hands could not
carry or open them
My little fingers squeezed
Lupini beans from their casings as directed
By the little Italian lady visiting
and my lips tingled from
a bit of afternoon antipasto
and my confidence was tempered
by losing a few hands of Casino
I tried buying lupini beans and couldn’t find them
Though I remember the card game rules and pulpy fragrant
Refinements Of the shop
And how attached I am to a few outdated implements
The telltale products of my youth.
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