I mean an eggbeater. I’m guessing you don’t have one.
I don’t have one. When I was growing up, my mother had one. My Lovely Wife and I used to have one. Now we have all those other labor-saving devices, but no eggbeater.
I asked Carla Hall, the TV chef, if she had an eggbeater. She does not. In fact, she was surprised to learn that they’re still being made. (Online, most are described as “vintage” or “classic.”)
“I have not seen one in a long time,” Carla wrote in an email.
She said an old-fashioned eggbeater is bulky, with a size and shape that makes it difficult to store. What replaced it for her was the immersion blender.
But when she was growing up, there was one in her house, used for eggs and things like pancake batter.
“I liked to hear it against the glass bowl — the sound of it,” Carla wrote. “I sometimes would use it in my chocolate milk — to make it frothy. There is such a strong sensory memory with this tool. I can feel it in my hand.”
Brian Noyes, owner and baker in chief of Northern Virginia’s Red Truck Rural Bakery, remembers using an eggbeater with his grandmother. He was captivated by it.
“That eggbeater thing is not closed up at all,” he said. “I remember watching those gears drive it around. I thought it was so cool. The mechanism spoke to a little kid.”
Here were the principles of the great Archimedes, called forth on the Formica countertop.
“I still have one of my grandmother’s white enamel mixing bowls,” Brian said. “It has these huge gouges in the bottom. That’s probably from those eggbeaters. A little hand whisk probably wouldn’t do that.”
Brian figures that his employees have probably never seen an eggbeater.
“They put everything in a mixer, then turn it on,” he said.
Perhaps it’s time to convince hipsters that manual eggbeaters are cool. Stranger things have made comebacks — vinyl records, film cameras, the goatee.
The National Museum of American History has more than 70 eggbeaters in its collection, said Steve Velasquez, curator in the division of cultural and community life. Many of them were donated by Mary Eloise Green, a professor in food and nutrition at Ohio State University who lived to be 102.
The earliest patents for the modern eggbeater were granted in the 1850s, Steve said. As with mousetraps, inventors tweaked and improved the eggbeater over the decades. Among the Edisons of the albumen was Edwin Baltzley, whose 1885 eggbeater brought in enough money to buy 500 acres alongside the Potomac and, with his twin brother, Edward, to found the Glen Echo Chautauqua.
Steve from the Smithsonian says the museum collects items related to technology and items associated with daily life. The eggbeater checks both boxes.
In 2001, Julia Child donated her entire Cambridge, Mass., kitchen to the museum.
“There were no eggbeaters in the kitchen when we collected it,” Steve said. “But she does have 14 whisks — from almost 20 inches long to a seven-inch one — and her KitchenAid mixer and its attachments.”
It was probably the infiltration of the industrial stand mixer into home kitchens that helped kill the eggbeater. And the whisk, of course.
Child loved the whisk. In “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” she recommended that every kitchen have several. Whisks are wonderful, she wrote, “for beating eggs, sauces, canned soups and for general mixing. They are easier than the rotary egg beater, because you use one hand only.”
Steve from the Smithsonian said that about 10 years ago his wife bought a classic rotary eggbeater.
“She thought it would be fun for the kids,” he said. “I think we used it twice. It’s sitting somewhere in the basement.”
So we beat on — but without an old-fashioned eggbeater.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.