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Aprons and pinafores

"Cooking is 80 percent confidence, a skill best acquired starting from when the apron strings wrap around you twice." Barbara Kingsolver

I think I have mentioned that both my granddaughters have birthdays this month. An apron was mentioned as a possible gift, and so I looked online but could not find anything at all interesting looking. Imagine my delight then when I saw these very cute ones on a Wednesday special at Aldi. So I rushed there - well actually I didn't rush. I am not a morning rusher - but by around 10.30 or so there were none left. I am totally frustrated, because they were perfect. Both their mother and I had thought of aprons because of our new COVID exercise of a cooking lesson a week. Not that they, or I wear aprons. I bet that they wear them when they have a cookery class - sorry - food tech - class at school.

I had tried looking online, but even on 'crafty' sites like Etsy there was nothing that caught my eye. It seems that today the most exciting apron you can find is something with stripes - usually navy blue and white, or that has a supposedly funny quote on it. Like those for men cooking a barbecue - e.g "That ain't burnt, that's flavour!' Believe me there are many, many more as bad and even worse than that.

Which got me to thinking about aprons and history. My gut feeling was that they used to be much more fancy, but no, not always it seems, And, of course, aprons (and pinafores) are much more widely used than in the kitchen.

For a start they often have a ceremonial use - probably goes back to human sacrifice - well sacrifice anyway when there must have been a lot of blood. Well actually of course I have no idea why an apron would be a ceremonial thing, but it is indeed common in ancient cultures, like the Minoan snake goddess shown here, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, various South American cultures, and on and on it goes. Today of course, the Masons are the most well-known users of a ceremonial kind of apron, but I think there are various religions that involve the use of aprons in particular ceremonies..

But the apron and the particular style of the apron could also denote what kind of trade you performed. Different colours, different styles for different trades:

"English barbers wore checkered aprons. Stonemasons wore white aprons to protect their clothing from the white dust created by their tools on the stone. Cobblers wore black to protect garments from the black wax used on shoes. Butchers wore blue stripes. Butlers wore green aprons. Blue was commonly worn by weavers, spinners, and gardeners." Dolores Monet - Bellatory

As to the cooks and food handlers of history this seems to be reasonably consistent. The Romans, seeing as how the cooks would have been slaves, don't seem to have bothered at all with any protection, whereas cooks and food handlers in later times did indeed seem to at least have an apron covering the lower parts of their bodies and sometimes much more - indeed almost a garment in itself.

And these days an apron could also designate who you work for. So an apron can be a sort of uniform too.

But really I am thinking today about aprons and food. And I thought then of pinafores - or pinnies as we sometimes referred to them when I was young. To me a pinny or pinafore was a small apron that began at the waist and that you tied around your waist. There was no bib bit. But actually now that I think about it, an apron was also just something you tied around your waist to cover your skirt. Which is odd really isn't it, because if you are cooking, most of the damage is going to happen to the clothing on the top part of the body. Maybe the waist down version was just somewhere you could wipe your hands.

Anyway, when I looked at the pinafore, I of course came across the pinafore dress, a style of dress that began as an easier to wash covering that was pinned to one's actual dress, morphed into an actual dress that was put on over the dress underneath, like the one shown here, to an actual style of dress which, I suppose is akin to a sundress and that can either be worn over something or on its own..

Pinafores could be really plain, like this one, or could also be prettied up with patterned material and frills and other such fripperies, as shown in these vintage dress patterns - I'm guessing 50s. The picture on the left is from the 20s and shows a sort of transitional stage between a protective bit of clothing and an actual dress. I suppose those gymslips that we used to wear to school as our uniform were sort of pinafore dresses.

Perhaps my favourite apron though is the French waiter's thing - the apron that looks like a tablecloth tied around the waist. So elegant somehow. And yes indeed you could actually use a tablecloth and perhaps originally that was what an apron was, because the word derives from the French, 'naperon' which means a small tablecloth.

So what kind of apron do you favour? A frilly item like the one above - and perhaps a little bit like the ones I missed out at from Aldi, or something plain, simple, and maybe elegant too like the waiter's apron here. Or maybe just a jacket - modern day chefs, often seem to just wear a white jacket rather than the full outfit. Like in my favourite picture from my home page of the two bakers having a break outside the boulangerie. No - not an apron at all. A uniform though. The pale blue trousers too.

Yes - a bit of a ramble this one. I should wear my aprons more though, then my clothes wouldn't get so messy.


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