Opinion

Editor's Column: An archeological dig in the kitchen drawer

You know you’re getting older when going through a kitchen drawer becomes an archeological dig.

This particular excursion was sparked by a jammed drawer, which required opening it part way, snaking a hand inside, and pulling out the problem item. The cause of the jam turned out to be a can opener that had previously been given little thought. After all, it was just a manual can opener, slightly rusty with grips covered by red plastic that was cracking.

But, since it was the cause of the drawer jam, the can opener required a bit of inspection. Swing-A-Way was the brand, and the amazing thing about is that it was made in the USA. It must date back to the early 1970s, perhaps even the late ‘60s, when our kids think dinosaurs still roamed the planet. It was, perhaps, the last can opener ever manufactured in the USA. Next to it in the drawer was a modern can opener, much newer looking and much lighter, made in China. Hefting one in each hand, it was evident that the USA model was heavier, made with better metal, and likely to outlive the Chinese model which, even though it looked better, won’t be in the drawer 30 years from now. Most likely it will be moldering away in some landfill.

The antique Swing-A-Way prompted more drawer-diving to see what else was manufactured in the USA. Most stuff was from China, but a barbecue fork proved to be a rare find: An Androck Chrome Plate model, made in the USA. While the wood handle was worn, the long, metal fork was as shiny as it was when it exited the manufacturing plant, which no longer exists, or perhaps it was moved to China.

The other discovery of note was a two-sided cheese grater also made in the USA, with “Patent Pending” inscribed. The name of the manufacturer was omitted, sad to say. There was a bit of rust around the edges, but this is expected after 30 or more years of grating moist cheese. Overall it was in good shape, ready for another 30 years of grating. Lately it has been used less frequently due to a four-sided cheese grater recently received as a gift. It can grate four different ways, and the cheese falls inside, which is more convenient: Pull up the grater and there’s a pile of cheese. It doesn’t say where it was made, only that it’s a Martha Stewart model. Martha should admit that she doesn’t actually make cheese graters in her spare time and sends away to China for them, but apparently there’s no law requiring truth in manufacturing. Or perhaps there is but Martha is willing to risk more jail time to have it her way.

This archeological dig through a kitchen draw produced a prideful feeling that we still own a few things made in America, reminding us of the time when the USA was the world’s manufacturing giant. What happened to all those Americans who used to get paid fair salaries for making can openers, barbecue forks and cheese graters? They’ve gone the way of the dinosaurs, wiped out not by an asteroid, but by their own representatives in Washington, D.C.

Community Events, April 2014

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