Whatever happened to Grandma's apron?

By BARB LUMLEY Published:

Aprons have been cooks' companions for hundreds of years.

Indeed, aprons were used for a variety of tasks. Some researchers point to Biblical references about aprons. They cite a passage in which Adam and Eve sewed together fig leaves to make aprons to cover themselves. We traditionally think of aprons being used for cooking but they are also used in many other occupations. For many years cooks and Grandmas didn't get busy with their work until they had put on their aprons. The principal use of the apron was to protect the dress underneath because she had only a few. It was easier to wash aprons than dresses as they used less material. Aprons came in so many patterns and colors. Some had been made from sacks that had held feed for the livestock, some from dresses that had partially worn out, or from fabric from the local store. They usually had pockets that were used to hold many things, handkerchiefs, clothes pins, a can opener, and a couple eggs from the chicken house, and more.

Aprons had many uses. They could be used quickly to dry hands or children's tears, or even to clean out dirty ears. They served as potholders for removing hot pans from the stove or oven. Those big, old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over a wood stove. Sometimes they were used to carry in wood or chips for that stove. When unexpected company came it was surprising how much furniture they could dust. When the weather was cold Grandma wrapped her apron around her arms. Shy children hid in them.

When I was a youngster, one of our favorite neighbors was Iva Slates. She and her husband, Jay, and their girls farmed, raising sheep, chickens and milking Guernsey and Ayrshire cows. Iva was a tiny lady, only about 4-foot, 11-inches, but always busy as a bee. Often when we stopped by on a spring morning, she would be bent over in the middle of her huge garden, filling her apron with fresh peas, green beans, or some other vegetable. She would then scurry to the house to get the noon meal started. And if she wasn't in her garden, you might find her in their big chicken house filling her apron with eggs. One of the things she was best known for was her delicious angel food cake. Unless it was a special occasion, you seldom saw her without her apron!

In my Grandma's house there was a special hook that held her aprons. No matter what she went to the kitchen to do, the first thing she did was put on her apron. You always knew when that apron went on something good was going to happen. It might be fried chicken and homemade noodles, or her delicious oatmeal cookies. Whatever it was, it was always the best!

I remember one year at Christmas time when our local store had a display of aprons in the window. They were the kind that tied around your waist, no bib, but they did have a pocket. They came in red, blue, and green checks to match the tablecloths that were so popular at that time. There was just one problem -- they were made of plastic. Needless to say, they didn't last! It will be a long time before someone invents something that can replace Grandma's apron that served so many purposes!

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.