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Coffee with Warren: Great-grandma’s food grinder

Long before food processors graced kitchen counters, home cooks screwed a handy food grinder onto the edge of their table to mince meat and vegetables.
Warren Harbeck May 5
Mary Anna Harbeck uses her great-grandma's grinder to prepare a tasty meal.

Like the robins in last week’s column, so Mother’s Day comes along, too, to remind us of the beauty of life in spring. In fact, my wife, Mary Anna, is sharing with us this week a special Mother’s Day story that has left a good taste in my mouth.

But first, here are a few of the responses I received to last week’s column:

Jenny Bocock sees robins as harbingers of hope in our troubled times. “With all the terrible news in the world, the robins are very cheering,” she writes.

Kathleen Adamson especially appreciates their joyful presence, as well as their parenting skills. She writes: “Many thanks for the robins, one of my favourite birds. I love their burbly call, their pretty white tails and eye patches, and amazingly, their architecturally designed nests, warm in cold weather and cool as it heats up. But especially, I love their diligence as parents sharing the load. And it is a load feeding clamouring babies.”

Robin Slater brings robins and Mother’s Day together in a special way in her response: “My mother always alerted me by phone when she ‘saw my first robin.’ It was like my spirit was with her and we would both smile. I haven’t heard that since she passed, but this tribute put a smile on my face, remembering her springtime enthusiasm.”

Which takes us to Mary Anna’s contribution to this column:

Long before food processors graced kitchen counters, home cooks screwed a handy food grinder onto the edge of their table to mince meat and vegetables.

The other day, deciding we needed a change from Easter dinner’s leftover turkey, I wondered what to do with some pieces of pork loin in the freezer. WWGD? What Would Grandma Do? – or Great-grandma, or even Mom, for that matter. Then, I recalled that my mother used to grind up leftover meat, potatoes, onion, and perhaps carrots and other veggies to make a hash for dinner.

I reached into the back of the cupboard and pulled out the Universal Grinder that I had inherited from my maternal great-grandma Pingrey. She and my great-grandfather were still alive when I was a teenager, and my mom, sister and I used to visit them. In their late 80s by then, they were always sitting in their chairs in their living room in an upstairs apartment. I don’t recall her ever serving me hash, or any other meals, but I’m sure that over the years she used the grinder for that purpose and many others.

The grinder was bequeathed to me. I'm sure I don't use it as often as great-grandma Pingrey did, but it always pleases me when I do, as I always remember how she was interested in us and asked about our lives.

I added salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and evaporated milk to the mixture and sprinkled Panko mixed with butter over all. After a half-hour in the oven, we enjoyed our hash for supper that night.

AND DID IT EVER TASTE GOOD! Happy Mother’s Day, dear readers.