Retro Bakeware

By Karen Parr-Moody

Is it wrong to design a kitchen around a vintage aluminum cake pan shaped like a fish? I'm thinking not. So let your taste buds trip through time with inspiration from GasLamp's great vintage baking accessories.

While it's fun to use new baking tins and gadgets to bake old-fashioned treats, such as whoopie pies and meringues, there's much to be said for vintage baking supplies. They create a visual feast in a kitchen. Plus, vintage bakeware -- from crinkly-edged pastry cutters to bundt pans -- adds such character to one's kitchen.

According to the Center for History and New Media, a 1945 poll revealed that the fictitious Betty Crocker was second in fame only to Eleanor Roosevelt among U.S. women. The baking items in the photo, right, will take any chef back to that day when women whipped up something good from such brands as Gold Medal, Pillsbury and Jell-O. In the center is an old-fashioned milk bottle from an old-fashioned dairy, the small, family-owned Straus Creamery that is 60 miles north of San Francisco ($6.95; Booth B-125). Patriarch Bill Straus began farming in 1941 with just 23 cows; by 1994 the farm had become the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi River.

Also in the photo are vintage napkins, a pretty pink mixing bowl, and old-fashioned wooden rolling pins (napkins, $12.50; bowl, $17.50; pins, $12.50; all at Booth B-109). Imagine how many biscuits those pins have rolled in their day!

In the photo, left, are some fun containers that would lend considerable charm and color to a kitchen. Quaker Oats -- with which many a Southern lady has made a peach crisp -- created this box that is emblazoned with a replica of the company's 1896 label. The can for Bremner Wafers -- which has been a classic cracker for entertaining since 1865 -- has a a few patches of rust to add to its charm (Quaker box, $10; cracker tin, $26; both at Booth B-2102).

During the 19th century, cooking was hard work, complete with heavy cast-iron skillets and wood-burning stoves to feed. But in the 20th century, such stoves gave way to coal to gas versions, just as iceboxes gave way to electric refrigerators. Some of the household drudgery melted away. Coinciding with these advancements was the invention of cookware made of an innovative metal called aluminum,  as seen in the charming fish baking pan in the photo, right ($12.50; Booth B-118). The fish pan is from Mirro, a company that has been making wonderful cookware since 1903. Not only were the Mirro aluminum pans resistance to rusting. The light weight, versus that of cast iron, was an advantage.

Copper has been used in cooking utensils nearly since the dawn of human history. It is esteemed for its heat conductivity, plus it simply looks beautiful. In the photo, left, are many examples of the metal used in rare pans (prices range from $89 to $149; Booth B-225).

The homespun cross-stitch sample in the photo, below right, with its pithy "Taste Makes Waist" maxim, handily sums up what may happen to the chef who loves baking a bit too much ($24; Booth B-2102). But how could one resist? It's easy to get wooed by the smells of a little something-something baking in a kitchen. And what a treat it is to find bakeware that provides such a comforting sense of past.

And these items still turn out terrific baked goods. The only problem one might find is that a a bigger kitchen could be in order to accommodate it all.


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