KARIN CURLEY (this article was first published in August 2012)
Each week, we rummage through the dark corners of our kitchen drawers to bring you an enigmatic item. We ask you to guess what it is in our weekly From the From the Back of the Drawer puzzle. To enter this week’s puzzle, visit this page. To read more descriptions of past items, visit this page. And, don’t forget to donate your odd items to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
This week we found a Foley Food Chopper!
Many of us would be less inclined to make fresh salsa (or anything that requires finely chopped ingredients) if we didn’t have our handy food processor. Dicing dozens of tomatoes and onions by hand? Time consuming. Well, Melvin Higgs of Pomona, California, might have been a fresh salsa lover; in 1935 he filed a patent for a hand-operated, three-blade, spring-loaded chopping device, and the patent was awarded in April of 1938. He claimed his design was made so “that it will cut vegetables or fruits in strips, squares, or in fine pieces; that it will not clog or pick up the cut pieces, and can be used in a chopping bowl or on a flat board.” He installed what he called “food stripping blocks” on the center blade so that food would not get caught up in the blades and hinder chopping.
This time-saving food chopper was manufactured by Foley Manufacturing Company, which was based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and founded by Walter Ringer Sr. in 1926. The first thing it produced was a food mill that became popular during the Depression, and is still in production today. The Foley three-blade chopper was another early Foley product; but, as far as we can tell, it is no longer in production. It is certainly not forgotten though; conversations abound online about the food chopper – where to buy it, why it is not currently in production, etc. Vintage choppers are available for sale on ebay and specialty kitchen stores, and can at times be found in second hand stores and flea markets around the country. Our chopper, which is undated, worked pretty well considering it has probably seen its fare share of chopping blocks in its day. With sharpened blades and a tightened handle, we could have a delicious salsa in no time flat. And we would rather clean the compact hand tool than a multi-part food processor any day!
Our Rating: Save it.
Design: Clever, the “food stripping blocks” for the most part work as designed; they remove the pieces from the blade (which is a problem when cutting with a knife). Our pieces only stuck once in our test run. It does take some getting used to: the first few seconds of use feel a little spastic, but once you understand the right amount of force to use, you are a chopping demon!
Originality: Considering how long it’s been around and how it is still in demand. We give a thumbs up to its inventor Melvin Higgs
Practicality: It needs a little work to combat the wear and tear (sharpened blades, handle attachment tightened) but we think this thing is more practical than pulling out and plugging in your food processor when you just need to chop a lot of things. It is also easier to clean.