Favorite Tools #1

I have more kitchen stuff than any normal person has a need for. I tell myself that the vast horde of pots, pans, obscure devices, and hundreds of cookie cutters are necessary because of my food styling work, but the truth is I have a bit of a collecting problem. So when I read Jane Lear’s post on her favorite pot it got me to thinking about what cooking equipment I can’t live without.

The first item on my most-loved-tool list would have to be My Mother’s Potato Masher.

"my mother's potato masher"

My Mother's Potato Masher

That’s its official name, named for my friend Jessica’s mother Virginia. My Mother’s Potato Masher is one of those simple yet effective tools that does one job really, really well. The potato masher that mine was fashioned after had been passed down from mother to daughter until roughly thirty years ago when the handle broke. Not an unexpected occurrence given it’s age but frustrating nonetheless.  A woodworking son-in-law fashioned a new birch handle, but there was a bigger complication than the mere cracking of wood. You see Mrs. Nicoll has two daughters. I have no idea how the passing along of the potato masher worked in generations past – perhaps there was only one daughter at a time or the masher always went to the eldest or maybe one daughter would get the family silver while the other got the potato masher, but whatever the case it was clear that Mrs. Nicoll’s lone potato masher could not possibly be bequeathed to both her daughters.

Luckily for the Nicoll sisters and me this particular potato masher had been patented, and around the time of the broken handle the patent was about to expire. So Mrs. Nicoll and her husband renewed the patent, had a die cast to produce the high carbon steel masher head, ordered lots of birch handles, and went into business manufacturing potato mashers.

Sadly the potato masher business has been sold, but you can still find one occasionally on eBay. Which is what I’ll have to do since I didn’t hoard a bunch while the Nicolls were still in business. That or my two kids can will have to do rock, paper, scissors for it out once I’m dead. In the mean time I will continue to use it to make the best mashed potatoes ever.


Filed under Favorite Tools

14 responses to “Favorite Tools #1

  1. anna purves

    I can’t believe it- this is MY potato masher. I had no idea this was a Nicoll invention. It is the very best. I also use it for making egg salad and pounding up cooking beans to give a thickener to soup.

  2. Just think of the tag sale you can have some years down the road!

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  5. Sue K

    I have an interesting tale to this. My parents used to house-sit for the Nicoll’s (in Meredith, NH) in the 1980’s. After one stay, Virginia called my mom and asked if she knew where her potato masher was, as she could not find it. She told my Mom how special it was and my mom suggested she reproduce it and try to market it; hence became the saga of “My Mother’s Potato Masher”. Virginia gave one to my Mom, and I still have it. Sue K from NH

    • Hi Sue. Thanks for your stopping by my blog. I know I would be lost without my potato masher, so I can imagine how Virginia felt when she thought she’d lost hers. Glad your Mother encouraged her to reproduce them.

  6. Marilyn

    I’m 83 and inherited my mothers potato masher 8 years ago. I remember her using it when I was a little bitty girl. Hers has the 1930’s green handle and it stays ready to use in my kitchen drawer.

    • I love that you have your mothers potato masher! I admit I am also very partial to the green kitchenware from the 1930s. Thanks for stopping by the blog Marilyn.

  7. Ann

    who has the patent for the potato masher now and can you still purchase them

  8. Beth K

    I have one. I bought it twenty years ago, at least. I love the banana bread recipe that came with it, even though I rarely bake. Somehow, I have always been able to put my hands on it, but this evening I searched, to no avail. Any chance you have it?

    • Hi Beth. I do have the recipe for Grandmother’s Banana Bread which came with MMPM. Here it is:

      Grandmother’s Banana Bread
      2-3 Bananas (1 cup mashed)
      2 eggs, beaten
      1/2 cup honey
      1/3 cup salad oil
      1 3/4 cups flour
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      1/4 teaspoon baking soda
      1/2 teaspoon salt

      Mix together wet ingredients. In a separate bowl mix together dry ingredients. Slowly combine the wet and dry. Bake at 350F in a buttered loaf pan for about 50 minutes (test with toothpick). Remove from pan and cool on rack.


  9. Where can I find one of these mashers? I have one and my son loves it and would like to have one of his own as he remembers mashing potatoes as a child with me. Thanks!! Bill

    • Hi Bill! Alas I don’t know any company which is currently manufacturing and/or selling these nifty gadgets. Your best bet would be to check on sites such as eBay or Etsy for people re-selling theirs. Though honestly who would resell such a great tool?

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