This is an oven cloth as opposed to an oven glove, oven mitts or any other iteration of oven protection I can think of this morning (before I have had any coffee).
This is the second one I have had in about 30 years and is certainly the only one I have had since living here in this house for 22 years. It gets washed a lot and gets better with wear. I use it every day, multiple times. When it gets a hole in it, it gets stitched up again. Now for the why…
My first Mother-in-Law, for I have had two and was beyond blessed with both, was the first person I had ever seen use one of these cloths. I think they may have been in more common use back in the 1970s and hers came from the John Lewis Department Store, as did this one. Of course, John Lewis don’t sell them any more. These and a lot more of the other ubiquitous, useful, well-made but perhaps quite boring stuff that is needed to run a home. Don’t get me started…
The best reason for using them is the fact that they are so much more flexible than an oven glove. I have always found other types of oven protection so thick and stiff that I could not feel what I was trying to hold on to and I found that to be dangerous. You need to know where the edges are when something you are handling is blister-making hot.
So, why are they not as common any more? My theory is that they are not pretty. No design to match up with other matching fabric tea towels and such like. The matching apron. The matching tea cosy. The matching kitchen seat covers. The matching boiled egg covers. The matching bread maker cover. The matching cat food bowl covers. You KNOW you have seen it all advertised somewhere and my guess is that some people must just love that sort of thing. Please, no offence meant if that person is you. I am also guessing that when a lot of people get given this sort of stuff, they say, “Why, THANK YOU!…insert name of grandchild here…SO pretty…and it will go with my collection!”, and then it all gets folded away into the back of the cupboard to come out again when the gift-giver comes to visit for tea. Perhaps. I don’t know. I am pretty much allergic to any sort of matching anything these days.
There is also a more serious issue of quality. The thickness of the one I have and the ones my Ma-in-Law had, were far beyond what I have been able to source of late. They do need to be almost boil washed when new to shrink the fabric up to a thicker spec. So why don’t they do that before they sell it to you so that the 24 inch long cloth stays 24 inches long instead of becoming something much less useful than that? Add that question to the list of similar questions that should be common sense for manufacturing companies worldwide, but just isn’t.
When I couldn’t get this sort anymore, I bought two, unbound and much thinner, versions to have for when this one is in the wash. I did boil them but I also had to fold them in half, lengthwise, and stitch all around the edges of the cloth using one of my sewing machines (a bit of foreshadowing there. Soon, soon…) to make them safe enough to use. Pretty pathetic, really. Such a shame as so many keen cooks today will never know the quiet pleasure of using a cloth just like mine in their daily kitchen food preparation.
EDIT: Okay. I have found something that is really pretty good. The cloths I have found are not as thick as the one I had already but, in some ways, that is better. It is much easier to feel the shape of what you are trying to hold on to through my new cloths. They say wash at 40 degrees but I did my first wash on 60 degrees. They did shrink but they are designed to do so. I am very happy with them. Go here:
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I love your mild rant! You are absolutely right. Everyday when cooking I look round for a small towel which I fold over and use instead of the oven gloves which lie dormant. Just as you say, the modern oven gloves are dangerous as you can’t feel your grip. Useless! Please forward your blog onto John Lewis etc. We need to start a petition!
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Aha! I might have found a replacement for my old one! Watch this space! x