Letter to H.R.H. Herb Chopper, I

Herb chopper ‘Hachinette’, Peugeot, France, end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century.

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Dear Madam,

In view of your venerable age, I hope you will allow me to address you with all the respect due to a robust and efficient old lady, always valiant...

I shall not deny that I experienced a brief moment of hesitation: how could I address you without offending you? In French, the word ‘bowl’ is masculine, as are the words ‘crucible’ and ‘chopper’. At first glance, and without knowing exactly what use your designers had intended for you, I thought it would be pretty safe to address you as Mister Herb Chopper. Or Mister Wooden Bowl with Crescent Chopper. That feels like one of those nested names that the wealthy bourgeois, from Molière to Flaubert, loved draping themselves in like well-tailored clothes made from durable materials intended to establish that they had reached the top of the social ladder in their province. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac de la Tabliette-Cherrat... formerly Mr Martin, enriched miller or established brewer. But no, I was wrong, I must apologize. A friend from Berry who specialises in traditional objects and tools of rural France (totally unrelated at first glance, I agree. Although...) has finally revealed your name to me and, consequently, your industrial origins. ‘Hachinette’. Ms Hachinette. Authentic, strong, popular. Solidly established on utilitarian roots. An old trademark, developed more than a hundred years ago in the offices of what was yet to become the marketing department of one of France’s industrial flagships: Peugeot. You heard right, the car manufacturer. But also the maker of coffee grinders, pepper mills... and, the hachinette. Much to the joy of homemakers throughout the 20th century. A trade name that has become, over time, a household name, that’s how popular you were, Madam. Hybrid you may be, but brilliant nonetheless and somewhere between a mortar and a mill or chopper. The diminutive -ette in your name is reminiscent of the reduced size of your crescent blade. Which gives you a slightly impulsive side. One could almost forget that the sharpness of your steel is quite capable of more than a small nick to a negligent finger. One’s fingers could, indeed, easily find the same fate as a bunch of chives. This gives you a slightly fierce and rustic side that is utterly charming. A kind of Queen Victoria of French kitchens: a little old lady, unassuming, strong, stocky, tenacious... and with the dyspeptic mood of a bulldog if treated with disrespect.

Allow me, therefore, Madam and very dear Highness Hachinette, to pay you my respects. With respectful tenderness... and a sudden craving for an omelette with lovingly chopped herbs and fresh onions!