Mystery Object

Summer 2013-Spring 2014: Egg Beater

Egg Beater. Wedgwood, about 1800. Lead-glazed earthenware, creamware. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; The Buten Wedgwood Collection, gift through the Wedgwood Society of New York, AFI451.2008a-b.

Egg Beater. Wedgwood, about 1800. Lead-glazed earthenware, creamware. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; The Buten Wedgwood Collection, gift through the Wedgwood Society of New York, AFI451.2008a-b.

Hungry?  In the mood for an omelet? Eighteenth-century cooks used small, circular, covered vessels like these examples–made by Wedgwood of creamware, a kind of low-fired earthenware ceramic–to beat an egg. A series of spikes, or prongs, pointed toward the center line the inner wall. A cook broke an egg into the main vessel, covered it, and shook.

Art in use

Here is an 18th-century recipe for your omelet:

To make an Omelette. Put a quarter of a pound of butter into a frying pan. Break six eggs and beat them a little, strain them through a hair sieve. Put them in when your butter is hot and strew in a little shred parsley and boiled ham scraped fine with nutmeg, pepper and salt…

—From The Experienced English Housekeeper: For the Use and Ease of Ladies, House-Keepers, Cooks, &c.… by Elizabeth Raffald (first published 1769)

Comments from the gallery

Question: “How would you use an object like this in your life?”
  • “To hear faraway sounds.”
  • “To catch fish.”
  • “As a sugar container – spikes help to break up lumps with room in the center for a small sugar spoon.”
  • “To sift through spices that might get stuck together.”
  • “To grind coffee beans.”
  • “As art.”
  • “To hold loose tea leaves.”
  • “To keep kids’ hands out of the cookie jar.”
  • “As a lemon squeezer.”
  • “To protect my Oreos.”
  • “To mix something.”
  • “As a fairy torture device.”
  • “To clean my glass eye!”
  • “To strike fear in the hearts of my enemies.”
  • “As a walnut crusher.”
  • “As a bug catcher.”
  • “As a musical instrument. I’d put beads in it, and shake firmly.”
  • “To hide money in.”
  • “As a trap for pests/rodents.”
  • “Cookie or candy jar if I didn’t want to share.”
  • “To store cotton balls.”
  • “As a home for my pet bug.”
  • “As a cream separator.”
  • “To keep notes and trinkets.”
  • “To julienne vegetables.”
  • “As a jewelry safe.”
  • “To hide precious things that I don’t want anyone to touch.”
  • “To trick my enemies.”
  • “As a Halloween decoration.”
Question: “What are the first three words that come to mind when you look at this object?”
  • “Wow – that’s – cool”
  • “Sand – worm – dentures”
  • “Utility – teeth – old”
  • “Incredible – edible – egg”
  • “Dagger – devour – drum”
  • “I – am – scared”
  • “Grinder – container – unique”
  • “Sharp – dangerous – interesting”
  • “A – musical – instrument”
  • “When – is – dinner”
  • “It – is – beautiful”
  • “Tuna – fish – can”
  • “Sharp – finger – trap”
  • “Awesome – weird – cool”
  • “Sharp – pointy – scary”
  • “Teeth – scary – bad”
  • “Lip – stick – holder”
  • “Old – food – processor”
  • “Tooth – pick – separater”
  • “Drum – milkshakes – blender”
  • “Green – spikes – container”
  • “Grinder – green – spikes”
  • “Fruit – juicer – yum!”
  • “Shaker – grinder -drum”
  • “A – top – hat”
  • “Ouch – shaker – trap”
  • “Sharp – teeth – ouch”
  • “Death – blades – torture”

And one more insightful comment from Abigail, a gallery visitor: “I could see this as somebody’s heart. It is hard to get to, but once you get it, it is amazing!”

 

One Response

  1. Sean Pathasema

    This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

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