The Retro Kitchen Tool My Mom Will Never Get Rid Of

collage of family juicer, pizza night, homemade ice cream
Credit: Photos: Shutterstock, The Kitchn, Shifrah Combiths; Design: Apartment Therapy Credit: Photos: Shutterstock, The Kitchn, Shifrah Combiths; Design: Apartment Therapy

When I think of my childhood, nostalgia often sends me straight to my grandparents’ yellow Formica kitchen in San Francisco, which I recall in technicolor bursts of memory. The hanging basket of trailing ivy that held a tiny styrofoam and feather bird; the TV playing the familiar sounds of Wheel of Fortune; the square cookie tin with yellow roses on it; the sparkles you could see in the orange-red tabletops if you looked at them just right in the sunlight that slanted through the mini blinds. The plink and fizz of the effervescent orange drink my great-grandmother drank every night out of a juice glass. And I remember how I felt in that room: Thoroughly at home, burrowed in utter love and safety.

Kitchens hold so many memories — like my own family’s traditions, such as our homemade pizza nights, our annual blueberry ice cream-making, and our pasta-making that started during pandemic days. But the richest kitchen memories are those that bind multiple generations together. And when there’s a kitchen item that holds these memories and keeps on making new ones? That’s a family treasure.

One of our family’s kitchen gems is my great-grandmother’s manual juicer. It’s just as heavy-duty as you’d expect of a vintage cooking tool. My mother, who was very close to her grandmother, kept the juicer and I remember it vaguely from my childhood. The unit is completely manual, consisting of a pointed dome where you place half a lemon (or orange or grapefruit), and a lever that lowers a “hat” to squeeze the juice into a glass waiting below.

Kids playing with manual juicer
Credit: Shifrah Combiths Credit: Shifrah Combiths

The juicer began a new life about six or seven years ago when we were visiting my mom in San Francisco. My son, who was about four at the time, made some orange juice with my mom and a new tradition was born. The next time the juicer came out to play was when my family was visiting my sister’s family. Of course my mom joined us — and she brought the juicer! It’s heavy and cumbersome and took up a huge part of her suitcase, but it meant so much to her to bring it for her grandson to enjoy.

Not only was he so excited to see the juicer again, but he was also proud to show his little cousins how to use it. They were all thrilled and our hearts swelled as we watched the arms of our family history open to embrace its youngest members. 

I’m not sure if my mom will bring the citrus squeezer to Tennessee this summer when we’ll all gather at our place, but I hope so. This simple, inexpensive, passed-down kitchen tool evokes so many cherished family memories and continues to make new ones. To this day, my son’s face lights up when I ask him if he remembers the juicer. I hope that years from now, it still brings him right back to my sister’s kitchen under his grandmother’s smiling eyes, into that warm and tender place of togetherness and belonging. 

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The Retro Kitchen Tool My Mom Will Never Get Rid Of