Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How I roll, Pin

Most people, at some time in their lives, own a rolling pin. Whether you cook or not, you seem to have one in your drawer. Likely made of wood, with little handles on the end, your pin languishes in that drawer until you drag it out to make a pie at Thanksgiving or sugar cookies in December. That's a lot of prime drawer real estate taken up by something not used that often. So should you ditch the pin? Nope. These babies have history and style. Put that pin to greater use.

Word around the web is that the Etruscans (those folks that were around pre-Rome in the future Italy) invented the pin. There are artifacts that show cooks proudly brandishing their pins.

Time moved on and with it, pins changed. Marble, clay, wood, glass, and porcelain were all options. Glass and porcelain had the advantage of being hollow so cold water could keep the pin cool while working with pastry. Heck, I'm going to find a porcelain one to try out on pie dough.

The trusty old wooden pin with the handles, the one your grandma probably used and you probably have in your own drawer, came about in the 19th century. The evolution of the pin hasn't changed much since then but new ideas are coming around. Chrome and silicone coatings are things that are making a showing in the world of pins.

Ok, so now you know the 2 minute history of rolling pins. And so what, you may be thinking. Well, there is no necessity for pins in this modern world - unless you count really good tasting things as a necessity. You can buy ready-made pie crusts at the store, you can buy frozen cookie dough and pre-rolled slabs of sugar cookie dough too. So, technically, no one has to have a pin to make their bread, to make their pastry, to live. But the same can be said for every appliance in your kitchen. Just because food exists in some ready-made, pre-packaged, pre-measured, pre-digested form doesn't mean it is any good or any good for you. The old pin, hopefully worn from some use, is your ticket to some tasty food and a hand held reminder of centuries of cooks.

Ok, so some of you aren't buying that argument. Well, if all else fails, you can also collect them. There are some gorgeous examples out there that make some lovely decorative objects. Painted porcelain, cherry wood, decorative handles. Much as with aprons, pins can be collected rather than used. Personally, I say collect and use them. Become the preeminent pie maker in your family. Wow the PTA with your astonishingly thin cookies. Pound those cutlets to within an inch of their meaty lives. Obliterate those crackers for that cheesecake crust. Get that pin out of the drawer and into your hands. You'll never go pre-fab again.

For advice on picking out a great pin (and yes, the kind of pin makes a difference) here is a place to start. For the expanded history of rolling pins, check out


Anonymous said...

And suddenly the reason why there is a marble rolling pin in my gramma's freezer makes total sense!
pft, and here I thought she was just eccentric.

Lorraine said...

A) I have been MIA for a while and I lova lova love the new piccie and 2) I have a French rolling pin (at least that's what I've been told)...the kind with no actual handles, just tapered ends. I lova lova lova it, too, and it is also dandy for smashing paillards of chicken or whathaveyou.