Food friday - your grandmother's food processor

My grandmother bought my mother this wooden bowl and a chopping knife, known in Yiddish as a hock-messer, soon after my parents got married. Yes, she also got them a dairy set as well. these wooden bowls and chopping knives were a big part of food prep when I was growing up.
meatloaf and meat balls were mixed in this bowl. Chopped liver was made in this bowl as well. Sundays we often made chicken salad for lunch made out of chicken left over from Shabbat chopped with vegetables and mayo. That too, was made in this bowl.
When I was in college my parents got their first food processor and the chopping bowls were not used as much. Several years ago, my father asked if i would like the bowls and the hock-messers. I was happy to have them. I like the sheer physicality of chopping up a big bowl of stuff into teeny pieces.
While the wooden bowls have stood up well to the years of use, the hock-messers had not. The bladed which were bolted into their handles, wobbled. The blades wouldn't sharpen. chopping was hard work.
Across the street from my apartment is an independent hardware store run by a group of Moroccan men. I asked them if they sold chopping knives. They showed me a cleaver. I didn't want a cleaver, I wanted a hock-messer. I told them that I wanted the same sort of a knife their grandmother used when she made babaganouj. Then their eyes lit up and they promised me that they would order me babaganouj knives.
A few weeks later they called me to tell me that my knife was in. They told me that as soon as they put the hock- messers up on the wall they sold like hot-cakes. I bought three, one for meat, one for dairy and one for Passover. I labeled it with nail polish.
Today, it was used to make kale.
Chop 1 onion in wooden bowl.
Saute in large heavy bottomed pan in olive oil. When onions are wilted and turning brown add a large glug of booze. I had a nearly completed bottle of scotch and used some of that.
Chop 1 box mushrooms and 2 stalks celery in wooden bowl
Add to pot when chopped. add salt and pepper to taste
Wash greens and chop in bowl
Add to pot
Cook until done on high heat
Shabbat Shalom!


  1. What a beautiful bowl! I wish I could convince my family to eat greens. I love them! Although, I must admit that in typical Shiksa fashion, it requires a goodly chunk of bacon. {blush} If I may ask, what sort of chopping would you do for a dairy based dish?

  2. No reason to blush if the bacon is part of your culinary heritage. You aren't obligated to keep kosher, and can eat bacon as much as you please.I would guess that the smokey/salty tase is terrific with the greens/

    I grew up making tuna salad in the chopping bowl making the salad with lots of chopped celery and Spanish onions and fresh parsley.

    We also used to make fish patties in the bowl...similar to meat balls but made with fish. I suppose that the classic thing to make in a chopping bowl is gefilte fish.

    My mother had once made gefilte fish from scratch. my sisters cried. They liked the stuff from the jar better.

    I have made gefilte fish a couple of times during Passover. It's better than jarred but not on my list on favorite foods.

    The bowl and chopper are also great fro making taboule from scratch. You chop the tomatoes, cucumbers , parsley and mint in the bowl while the bulger wheat soaks in hot water. By the time you are done chopping, the wheat is is done. Then all that is left to do is add the lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

    Cindy Ann - thanks for pointing out the problem with the previous comments.

  3. I've never had gefilte fish from scratch, but I am fond of the jarred stuff.

    I can see that the bowl and chopper would be very handy for tuna salad and the like. I guess most cultures have a chopping knife/bowl similar to the hock-messer. A traditional Mezzaluna comes to mind, although I think the double handle might be more cumbersome than the single handed version. I found this set and it's lovely, very similar blade to yours, but expensive.

  4. I have seen fancy two handled herb chopping mezzalunas in stores but it has been hard to find a basic sturdy chopping knife. P{eversely, or maybe not that peversely i didn't want a fancy knife just a sturdy working class sort of a knife to go with the wooden bowl..which is not one of those beautiful maple hand carved bowls but a rough working bowl that was made for hard work.

  5. What wonderful tools! It sounds like a wonderful dinner for you and your family. I may have to try my hand at that kale recipe too, I LOVE kale!

  6. Hi Sarah,
    the knife reminded me of the Inuit "ulu"knives my sis in Kodiak showed me.
    I looked it up. the ones I saw look quite like the one in the bottom photo here.

    I find it interesting that traditional knives from such varied parts of the world are shaped so the shopkeepers' grandmother's knives for babaganouj.

    and why, may I ask, are we putting up with straight knives if this type was developed and worked with for centuries?

    My mother had something with multiple blades shaped somewhat like this for cutting the butter into the flour for pastry, sure worked better than the 2 dinner knives I use or rubbing in the butter with your fingers the Brits use. (well, their method works, but I can't cope with the messy fingers and the thought of someone with unsanitary hands doing this.)
    Sandy in the UK
    so here is the curious, hopefully not to be too insensitive question. If there are different knives for different uses, how do you sanitise or sanctify the bowl for a different thing? or do you only use the bowl for one thing?

  7. Sandy-

    Straight knives are great if you want a particular shape for food.You can't do carrot sticks so well with a hock-messer.hock -messers are great for foods that needs to be chopped into a paste.

    As for the different knives for the different foods... we have a completer set of everything we need for food prep and eating for meat meals and for dairy meals. So this particular bowl is marked "meat" ( in Hebrew) on the outiside. I marked the hockmesser as well. Most of my other stuff is different looking enough not to get mixed up. The wooden bowls and hockmessers are identical so need to be marked.

    Seems complicated if you haven't done it your whole life. It isn't that hard if you are used to it. Kosher homes need more kitchen storage though.

    Hope this answers your question...if not..keep asking.

  8. Hi, I only just remembered to come back and see the answer. I knew about the meat and dairy thing. I guess I missed that the bowl was just used for meat, but now I have reread the post, I see that is the case. Good idea for marking the bowl.

    What I would love a bowl like this for is bread making! or at least one this size. the one I used for years broke.

    you are right about the straight knives. we do need them. I just wondered why the curved ones are not very accessible in western culture.

    I love reading about these sorts of things...the way other cultures and communities cook and their food combinations. I do like cooking, but strangly enough, my husband doesn't eat much. coming from a farm and a family of 8, where the men really piled up the plates it took me a long time not to have tremendous amounts of leftovers.
    but anyway, it gives me more time to sew!
    Thanks for the answers,
    Sandy in the UK


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