CLEANING BRUSHES for use in the kitchen divide into two categories: One type is used for cleaning food; the other for working on pots and pans. Root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beets and turnips usually come to our markets with a crust of earth. Also, there has been an increased use of sprays, pesticides and waxes on our fruits and vegetables, which should be washed off.
Some of the finest brushes produced anywhere in the world are manufactured under the Lola brand in West Germany. They are found throughout the United States in supermarkets, housewares stores and cooking equipment shops. uEach brush consists of an unfinished wooden, checker-like disc 2 1/2 inches in diameter. A metal band surrounds the disc and becomes the core for a well-shaped wooden handle. The metal forms a hanging hook at the back end.The brush heads are set at an angle from the handle and have a long life, unless you subject them to a dishwasher. There is virtually no wooden kitchen tool that can withstand the temperature, moisture and pressure of the modern dishwasher.
There are two Lola brushes that should be considered for the kitchen. The first is made with natural bristles and is ideal for fruits and vegetables. The second consists of an outer ring of natural bristles and an inner grouping of brass needles. It was designed for use on pots and pans but should be limited to materials that are not easily scratched such as anodized aluminum and cast iron. The brush is 9 1/2 inches in over-all length and retails for about $1.75.
A most primitive form of pot brush called a Visp is still available in some cooking eqiupment shops. It is made in Sweden and looks like a miniature broom, not unlike those favored by the Wicked Witch of the West. It has a round stubby handle of light-colored, unfinished natural wood and a wooden brush of very coarse fibers which have been glued together and then bound with a series of wire metal bands. The entire tool measures 8 3/4 inches in length and sells for about $3.50.
The ultimate pot scrubbing brush is a professional model that I purchased almost five years ago and is still working well. The bristles are made of palmyra, a natural, brown-colored fiber which is often used in the manufacturing of doormats. Consider the use that those doormats are put to and you will have a good idea of the durability of this brush. Shaped somewhat like an ordinary hairbrush, it is 10 1/2 inches in length and has a bristle-head 6 inches wide. A hole in the handle allows you to hang it in the open air, which is the best storage environment for natural bristles. When there is a 10-quart stockpot to be scrubbed or a roasting pan with a large surface to clean, this is the utensil and at $6, it's an excellent value.
Strnagely, though, my favorite style of kitchen cleaning brush is the classic baby-bottle brush. It consists of a long plastic-coated wire with a wooden handle at one end and a paintbrush-like set of white nylon bristles at the other. A wire cylinder of additional bristles spins around a portion of the wire. The key feature of this model is the fantastic flexibility of the plastic-coated wire. The slightest pressure will send the brush around tight corners and into hard-to-reach crevices of nursing bottles, food processor tubes, wine decanters, even cheese graters. It measures 17 1/4 inches long and has a hanging hook at the end of the wooden handle. The retail price is only $2.
One evening some 10 years ago, I was cooking at the home of a fine French chef. As we started to prepare a chicken dish, I began by washing the bird under cold running water. The chef asked me what I was doing and I explained that it was the custom in my family and to the best of my knowledge, in many American homes, to wash the poultry before cooking. He then asked if it was our practice to wash our hamburgers too, pointing out that in his expereicne, hamburger meat had a greater tendency to produce bacteria and that anything that could withstand 400 degrees of temperature for one hour would most likely be unaffected by cold water.
I have never felt quite the same about washing food.