APRONS

A few years ago, a girlfriend and I were in an antique store when I came across a “vintage” bib apron, perhaps 1940s, – and fell in love.
“Could you make something like this for me?” I asked my girlfriend, who sews (I don’t sew. I cook. We can’t all do everything!)

She said she could, and she did–and now I have three of these big aprons, with big roomy pockets and I am seldom without one.
I found myself re-discovering aprons and wondering why, when you watch the chefs on the Food Network – none of them ever wears an apron! (I have ruined many a blouse or dress from cooking sans an apron–but these days you’ll seldom find me without one.

The aprons of my childhood bring to mind the voluminous ones worn by my Grandma Schmidt, who was as round as she was tall. Her dresses reached her ankles and her aprons were equally long and wide with huge pockets. I discovered, a few years ago, how handy aprons with pockets are when you go out to check the tomatoes in the garden and find yourself with handfuls of ripe tomatoes and no basket to put them into. The apron pockets work well. I also fill the pockets with clothespins when I am hanging linens or sheets on the clothesline. (Yes, some of us do still hang things on the line-but that’s another story).

Years ago, people didn’t have wardrobes the size of ours, today–and aprons, which could be easily washed, protected good dresses which might not have all been washable (never mind that everything had to be ironed too–perma-press hadn’t been invented yet) . I think the only times I ever saw Grandma without an apron were when she was going downtown (plus hat, dressy shoes, her handbag, and stockings) or to church. My mother also wore aprons but most of the ones in which she was photographed, were the half-size aprons. I, myself, need a bib apron because the spills and splashes usually land somewhere on my chest.

Aprons have a respectably long history, too – the earliest mention of an apron is in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve discovered they were naked and fashioned aprons from fig leaves. In the middle ages aprons became especially well known, as European craftsmen wore aprons as part of their everyday garments–old paintings of blacksmiths invariably picture them wearing a big old leather apron of some kind. I remember, as a child, the big white (well, originally it was white) aprons worn by the butcher in the butcher stores where my grandma went to buy a chicken or a cut of beef. There are also aprons used by carpenters which have many pockets to hold necessary tools. (hmmm, I think I would like to have one like that).

The apron worn in the kitchen was a fixture for more than a century, until the late 1970s–when it seems to have disappeared from our culinary landscape. Perhaps it has something to do with the perfect housewife image portrayed by the fifties–you know, “Father knows Best” and mother is always pictured wearing an apron with a wooden spatula in one hand, standing over the stove (Shades of Ozzie and Harriet?) Then women became liberated and burned not only their bras but also their aprons.

I always had a few aprons but they had been relegated to a seldom used linen drawer. Now, I have aprons within easy reach on several hangers on doors in the kitchen and I am not in the least embarrassed to be seen wearing one. (Some of them are really quite stylish, I think – and I love the pockets. Along with clothespins and Kleenex, I am usually carrying around my cell phone and digital camera).

For Christmas, my penpal/friend/and computer guru, Wendy, sent me two wonderful very retro looking aprons. And not long ago I discovered a really great website dedicated to aprons. Everything old is new again! I love it. And, for those who like to know these things, the aprons you see on the header to my blog are my own aprons, photographed and posted on the blog by Wendy.

I am still mystified, however – how do all those people on the Food Network manage to cook entire meals (without wearing an apron) and without getting any of it on themselves?

–Sandra Lee Smith

Advertisements

2 responses to “APRONS

  1. Hi there just popping in to say hi and i too am just starting out collecting old recipe books and also peoples family old recipes, hand written. I just love them and will write a book using them one day. Where are you situated? I am in New Zealand? Karen

    • Hi, Karen; WordPress notified me that you signed up to be a subscriber–thank you! You are my first New Zealand subscriber. I am in Southern California; I have two Australian penpals (one since 1965) who are on the west coast, south of Perth…Busselton for one, and Pinjarra for the other. Good for you to start collecting old recipe books & I love old handwritten family recipes. About ten years ago I began searching for recipe boxes that contained someone else’s written recipes (*My Australian penpals have said that recipe boxes are unknown in Australia. Have you ever seen any of these in New Zealand?) I’ll have to go through my photos that have been posted to see if any of my recipe boxes are on there. I HAVE written about this collection several times and called them The Kitchen Diaries. They have been very popular in the USA for probably 70 or 80 years. The oldest ones in my collection are made of wood; later on, companies began making them of metal. And not very long ago, I read in a Canadian newspaper about a man who specializes in collecting all sorts of handwritten recipes–I think it’s on my blog somewhere. I hope you will dig around and read what I have been posting for almost 2 years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s