Nostalgia and the "old-fashioned look" are only part of the reason for a swing back to kitchen and household items that look more like Grandma's day than now.
The reasons that made them household staples decades ago are just as so, what with the save-energy, back-to-basics movement.
For example, the grater, a four-sided metal device with a handle at the top. Each of the four sides has a different design of slots or pierced holes for grating cheese, cabbage, carrots or whatever, fine or coarse. Time-consuming, perhaps, but efficient. Nothing new about it.
At a recent housewares show, the old-fashioned grater was being touted as "the $1.99 food processor," as one firm showed it as part of a full line of manually operated kitchen helpers: tin cups, flour-sifters with wire nails, over-the-fire or on-the-stove popcorn poppers -- no electricity -- metal collanders and such like.
Spokesmen said that with the high cost of everything, including power, homemakers are ready to investigate low-cost, long-lasting, efficient gadgets that worked for their ancestors and should work for them.
Old-time stoneware and pottery are being made to appeal to a similar market as some old-line firms take advantage of the natural insulating value of heavy crockery by making ice buckets of it and decorating them with old-time scenes and motifs. A salesman notes that the 128-ounce crocks also are good for storing snacks or cookies, keeping things hot or cold.
With the rise in petroleum prices, vinyl-clad containers now are selling in the $20 to $30 range; crockery is nearly 40 percent below that.
In fact, there are those who believe that crockery is one of the materials of choice for modern homes: Much of it is lead- and cadmium-free, appropriate for use in regular and microwave ovens, and safe in both dishwasher and freezer.
Some products are reproductions or recreations, such as a blue-and-white spatterware glaze line that dates to the 1790s; as late as the 1890s, more than 50 American potteries were producing versions of it. One new version has 21 pieces, from bean pot to four-piece canister set.
Then there is terra cotta, one of the oldest of man-made materials, now finding a new use in items designed for evaporative cooling. One California company is making a wine-cooler of unglazed terra cotta with a bit of incised decoration. The cooler is porous, like a flower pot, and when dipped in water will retain some of the water in its pores. Evaporation of this moisture has a cooling effect, and will keep wine cool for hours when the bottle is placed inside the tall, thin cylinder.
The newest item to use this principle is a butter-keeper, consisting of a square, glazed dish for the butter and an unglazed top.