From rinsing fresh lettuce leaves to straining your pasta, a sturdy colander is a kitchen essential, and a rather elegant one at that. I have two 1940s British aluminium ones from an antiques market – one huge, one medium – and, like so many things from this era, they were built to last. Despite decades of daily use, the riveted handles are as strong as ever and I know that they’ll last me for life.
When they’re not in use, they look beautiful hung from a peg rail on the kitchen wall, part-practical, part-decoration. With a slightly mottled patina and a few dents, they’re definitely good-looking enough to be used as fruit bowls. Some eager ‘up-cyclers’ even turn old colanders into pendant lights and they’re perfect for this, thanks to their pretty perforations which scatter a thousand specks of disco-ball star-light on to your walls and ceiling.
Two colanders are probably sufficient for domestic straining, but I’m never restrained by such wisdom and merrily bought a third last year at a French flea market for the princely sum of 1 Euro. With a wooden handle, it’s more like a saucepan shape-wise, but is so comfortable to hold that it’s become my go-to favourite.
‘But what about e-coli?’ asked a concerned, wide-eyed friend recently, when I produced a vintage colander and an even-more-vintage wooden spoon with a flourish. Hah! If only she had seen some of the grimy, filthy, greasy bits of kitchenalia I’ve picked up over the years, that would be the least of her worries…! (Besides, a splash of boiling water, a good scrub and we’re safe to proceed, surely?)
New colanders just don’t hit the spot. They’re all shiny steel, ugly silicone coloured handles and cheap enamel that chips.
Stick to old aluminium I say. And if you drop it and dent it, so much the better. It’s ‘wabi-sabi’, innit.