Egg Beaters, Young and Old

Thursday brings a new dinglehopper for our collection, and since today starts with “E” we’re talking about egg beaters.

The first patent for a hand-crank egg beater was apparently issued in 1856 (the PTO search engine doesn’t go back that on keywords, so I have to take the Internet’s word for it) and the first electric mixer patent was issued to Rufus Eastman in November 1885.

The most recent patent on an egg beater was issued in 2008.

In between lies over 150 years of whipping, frothing, and general mayhem.

I remember my grandmother beating eggs with a hand mixer, and how big I felt when she let me stand on a kitchen stool and use the mixer myself. (Note: my mother had a Kitchen Aid and a Cuisinart. Mama Peggy just used the hand mixer because she liked to.) I preferred its silent whoosh to the roar of the stand mixer and even the whirr of the electric hand-held beaters my grandmother used for cakes.  (I own that hand mixer now. Both of them actually. And yes, I use them.)

Those experiences and others like them led to a lifelong appreciation for cooking and kitchen gadgets. While thinking about this week’s “E”-ssignment, however, it occurred to em that I know next to nothing about egg beaters except for how to use them, and I doubt many of you know that much more.  I did some research and learned the following:

– Before mechanical egg beaters, people apparently used a “bow-style” drill mixer which utilized a string and stick technology reminiscent of the way people used to try and start fires.

– The device most of us know as a “whisk” is called an “egg beater” in some parts of the country.

– The manual egg beater my grandmother used is often called a “rotary” or “drill” egg beater or hand mixer. They were originally made from cast iron.

– In the early 1920s someone invented a water-driven mixer that hooked up to the kitchen sink and used water power to turn the beaters. The water went into a box on the back of the mixer and exited through a tube at the bottom of the box, so it never touched the food.

– Historian Don Thornton wrote a book about eggbeater history titled The Eggbeater Chronicles. (proving that there really is a book about everything, if you’re willing to look for it.) It looks interesting. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

– The blog Travel With Pen and Palate has a fantastic article about egg beaters, complete with photographs of several antique models. Definitely worth a look.

– A Google search for “1856 egg beater” returns over 36,000 results.  I found that disturbing until I learned that “pocket lint” returns over 9 million. The lesson we learn from this is “do not flip rocks on the Internet unless you’re ready to see what crawls out from under them.”

What kind of mixer do you use? Hop into the comments and share.

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