Oxo: It All Began With an Apple Tart

I always thought that if Mort Walker, creator of the Beetle Bailey cartoon strip, had had an Oxo potato peeler, Private Bailey’s spud duty wouldn’t have been onerous in the least. If you have an Oxo potato peeler, you know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, where have you been and what are you waiting for?

Samuel Farber, founder of Oxo Utensils, died last week. He revolutionized the cooking world with his kitchen utensils, starting it all with a lowly potato peeler. As the story goes, he and his wife Betsey were vacationing in the South of France. Betsey, whose hands were mildly arthritic,  was having trouble using the peeler supplied in their rental home.  “I can do better,” thought Sam, then in his mid 60’s.  And he did.

I loved my Oxo peeler from the very first potato.  Making Chanukah latkes was forever after a breeze; with Oxo in hand I could peel 90 latkes worth of spuds in a manner of minutes. See what I mean about Beetle Bailey? Then came the can opener, light years better than the ubiquitous metal version; an ice cream scoop;  the easiest-to-clean-ever garlic press; and most recently a nifty little pastry brush, also a snap to clean. Oxo rocks.

But what I learned from reading Mr. Farber’s obituary, in addition to a familial connection to Farberware, was that Samuel Farber was also the founder of Copco—maker of brightly enameled cookware. Years ago, when we still lived in New York, my husband surprised me one slushy winter evening with a bright red Copco tea kettle.  It was the perfect pick-me-up during a long cold stretch of weather. Even after a house guest burnt the bottom in a moment of oops!-forgot-the-kettle-was-boiling, even after I dropped the kettle’s top breaking its wooden knob, I held on to that fire-engine red symbol of my husband’s serendipitous gift, using it as a planter for a few years.

Today I use, you guessed it, an Oxo teakettle. Instead of an earsplitting shrieking whistle, a throaty hum alerts me that it’s time for tea. Another wonderful improvement from a man who not only filled a niche but kitchen drawers by the millions with utensils thoughtfully designed and a pleasure to use.

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9 thoughts on “Oxo: It All Began With an Apple Tart

  1. Bobbie Lewis

    When I saw the headline, I thought this must be the guy who invented Farberware. Any connection there? If not, Oxo is enough to celebrate. I love Oxo utensils, not only the peeler. The Oxo can opener is great too — almost as easy to use as an electric opener. They usually cost more than the cheapest items on the shelf, but the difference is usually worth it!

  2. Debra Post author

    His uncle Simon was the force behind Farberware, founding the cookware company on the Lower East Side in 1900 (as per the NYT obit). I love my can opener, too. My mom always spurned electric ones with the quip, “So when the electricity goes out, how will you make tuna sandwiches?”
    Happy peeling. And opening…..

  3. Kay Osborn

    Thanks for the helpful information, Debra. I am not familiar with Oxo, but definitely will look into it. I have had the same inexpensive peeler for years, but it is beginning to wear out, so I definitely need a new one. I like your new website format!! Kay

  4. Bensonhurst Gary

    It seems maybe you can be the one to help me get a handle on a problem that I’ve never come to grips with. How this particular brand name pronounced? Is it o-zoe, ock-so, or hug-kiss-hug?

  5. Kate Convissor

    OXO rocks, indeed!

    I struggled with cheap peelers and openers for years until I discovered Oxo. Amazing what a better mousetrap can do. Never considered that others might have had the same eureka moment.

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