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The Base of Cooking Local

Wisconsin-Made Kitchenware

Story by Erika Janik
Photography by Joe Laedtke

In 1939, the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company of Manitowoc tempted new brides with a 22-piece set of its finest cookware: “The grandest gift of all—(or the grandest equipment for your own kitchen)—is this new set of MIRRO—the Finest Aluminum.” Another ad promised women that they had “a right to feel self-satisfied when you know that a midnight raid on your kitchen will reveal, not disreputable old relics of pots and pans, but ware that’s Mirro-fine.” Beyond utility, cookware had become a status symbol.

We may not think much about the pots and pans in our cupboards, but the archaeological record is literally littered with kitchenware. It is these vessels and the changes in them archaeologists often use to mark the passage of time and changes in cultures. The same could be said of our own cookware.

“Cookware used to be handmade,” says Sara Dahmen, owner of Port Washington-based Housekeeper Crockery. “It was made to last a lifetime, maybe several lifetimes. That isn’t true anymore.”

Today, it’s easy to find a skillet made halfway around the world for less than $20. But in the 19th century, cookware was just as … Read More

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