Downton Abbey Mixes It Up


I am no stranger to lusting after a kitchen utility, most recently and especially, a KitchenAid stand mixer. My desire for this mother of all mixers was kept in check because financing such an extreme upgrade just wasn’t possible. Surgery on my right hand changed that.

With a weakened wrist and damaged dumb joint curtailing all baking production, my husband, for whom a home without cookies is somebody else’s house, bought me a helpmate:

ka buttercup_ (Medium)

It’s weird to be in love with an appliance, but head over heels am I for “Daffodil,” my very own KA artisan. Had I understood how life changing this mixer can be to even a modest cook, I’d have ruined my hand years ago.

For last Sunday’s premiere of the new season of Downton Abbey, Daffy turned out a scrumptious crust that served as the base for a salmon quiche, which we ate while watching the show. The crust was delectable, so delicious it merited mewing, and we’re dog people.

As I was scraping minuets of crust to the fork’s tines so as not to leave a crumb on the plate, Daisy of Downton was unboxing an electrical hand mixer.  Her excitement for a convenience that would make her life as a kitchen apprentice easier and more enjoyable was adorably portrayed, although not shared by her mentor, who would be just fine, thank-you-very-much, with her trusty rotary hand beater.

Having labored with the old way of mixing a batter or whipping cream, Daisy was intrigued by the electric gadgetry. Reading the instruction manual, she immediately applied the new technology to the evening’s dessert – a whipped confection that was ready in minutes, not hours.

Raised with every conceivable household convenience, modern women watching the show would have a hard time imagining the effect electrical kitchen utilities had on women of earlier times. Having just experienced a personal domestic hallelujah, I totally felt Daisy’s spirits lift at the wonder of a single invention.

Curious as to what other kitchen inventions were changing the landscape of the 1920s’ cook, I looked through my cache of old magazines.

From early editions of Woman’s World and Modern Priscilla, we were giddy for

kitchen utilities 1920s

a metal slanted grater, waffle iron cleaner, date pitter, combination measuring and sifting cup, extending casserole holder, jar opener, can opener, crank food grater, rolling pin cover and a drip coffee maker.

kitchen utilities 11920s 2

And what a surprise to turn the pages of an early 1920s issue of American Cookery and find an advertisement for the mixer that so enthralled Daisy:

Elec Mixer 1920s ad

And to turn the page again, to the mixer that ninety years later, so enthralled me!

mixer_KA 1920s ad

The price of the KitchenAid isn’t revealed in the ad, but it figures it was in line with an electric vacuum cleaner costing $39.00, which in today’s dollars is $415.00.

A four hundred dollar investment in a kitchen utility is significant by any standard, but Daisy and I both know the cost of our domestic happiness is priceless.

Big Bird and the ‘hood @ 40

One of the joys in growing up during the Fifties was watching the children’s programming on television. Every afternoon we would sit inches from the screen and watch one show after the next until Daddy came home for supper and turned the tv off. There was Pinky Lee, Winky Dink, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and the hands down favorite, Howdy Doody. When Buffalo Bob asked Hey, kids, what time is it? We’d scream back, It’s Howdy Doody time!, syncing our voices with those of the Peanut Gallery, the live audience of kids seated on a bleacher in the studio.
In 1953, my younger brother Paul was one of those kids. This was huge. When my mother called long distance from New York City to say he’d made the cut and would be on the show that very afternoon, we ran screaming out of the house to tell the entire neighborhood, which followed us back home to see Paul in the Peanut Gallery.

My brother has had many accomplishments in his life, but meeting Buffalo Bob and Clarabelle in person, AND having his picture taken with Howdy Doody is right up there.

Television then was such a big deal. The set itself was a piece of furniture, housed in a wooden console that was the focal decor of a living room. It commanded this honor because television was new to everyone – adults and kids – and there was no competition for our attention.
By 1980, the generation raised on television no longer considered it so special. I was of that ilk, until we moved to a mountain community and set up residence in a log cabin too deep in the peak’s shadow to receive anything but one network and a PBS signal
Pregnant and desperate for the now-called Boob Tube to babysit our toddler while I rested, I actually cried when the local programming announced the 10 a.m. Sesame Street would repeat in the afternoon. Sesame Street captivated little boy number one, and eventually his brother. I became a life-long member of PBS.
Raising a family outside the fast lane and with limited distractions was not unlike my childhood. Howdy Doody became Sesame Street. And incredibly, my boys walked in my brother Paul’s shoes.
In February of 1985, Bob (!) of Sesame Street brought his musical version of the television show to nearby Pueblo, and Noah and Gideon were cast as bakers in the Sesame Street neighborhood. And it was huge.
While the beloved television shows of my youth are available as vintage DVD, Sesame Street is celebrating its fortieth anniversary. In competition with Nintendo Wii for children’s attention, that the ‘hood is still in production is a huge accomplishment.
It’s probable that Sesame Street figures more prominently in my psyche than my sons’. But if there’s justice in parenting, they will one day become life long members of PBS because the Bird let their wives nap.