I Think Pepper Was Smaller in the Olden Days

salt & pepper1
There are a few things I haven’t made public about myself on this blog.  Things that, although impressive, are also the sort of thing you don’t want to go bragging about because people will think you’re obnoxious with all your braggy bragging.  So I really debated about whether or not to reveal this next fact about myself or not.  After discussing it with my pastor and the weird guy in town who wears jingle bells on his shoes, … I decided I would.

My name is Karen and I ate all of my peas last night.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can continue on with the post.  I have a bit of a thing for antique or … well … just old, salt and pepper shakers.  Mostly of the silver variety, but any old salt and pepper shaker will do.  The problem with them, is I buy them and then promptly stick them in the “old salt and pepper shaker drawer” (which is directly below the “old napkin drawer”).  Because although antique (old) salt and pepper shakers are beautiful … they never really seem to work.

Not to brag again, but I did a bit of detective work and I discovered that the reason they don’t seem to work very well is because the holes are too small for pepper to come out.  Which lead me to believe that pepper must have been smaller in the olden days.  I really could become a very successful pea eating detective if I chose to.

So, into the drawer the beautiful salt and pepper shakers go.  Every once in a while I’ll think to myself … Eh … they can’t be as bad as I’m remember them.  And I drag them out of their drawer for the night, only to discover that yes indeed, they are that bad.

During one night with a particularly stubborn pepper shaker, I shook my arm right out of the socket.   Mind you it was a rather large batch of french fries … but still.  That’s pretty extreme.

Then one day it hit me.  Right in the head.  Like a cartoon coconut.  I could just make the  holes bigger.   All of them!

And I did.

And you can too.
salt & pepper2

Just unscrew the top of your pepper (or salt) shaker …


salt & pepper3

Hold it down, and drill away.  Find a drill bit that fits the hole perfectly and then drill the shaker with one size up from that.


salt & pepper6

Yup.  That’s right.  Just drill right through the original hole to make it bigger.


salt & pepper5

As you can see, the reason you have to remove the top of the shaker is because of the metal bits that the drill grinds out.  If you didn’t remove the top, those silver bits would end up in your salt or pepper and you’d eat them. It could kill you.  At the very least it might turn you crazy and you’d end up wearing jingle bells on your shoes.


salt & pepper7

Maybe the reason they didn’t do this in the olden days is because they didn’t have cordless drills.

Just so you know, the shaker on the right (with the cleaner holes) is the one I drilled out.  The one on the left has the original holes.

Or they didn’t need to because their pepper was smaller.


You could also use a very small finishing nail to do the same thing, (just hammer a nail that’s slightly bigger than the original hole into the hole) but the drill will do a neater, cleaner job.  For those of you worried about wrecking priceless antiques, these are not priceless antiques.  These are old salt and pepper shakers.

I’m a firm believer in using whatever you have.  I do not own any “good dishes”, “good linens” or “good towels”.  I use everything I have.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  So unless your S & P has Tiffany stamped on the underside, don’t worry about drilling them.

When you’re finished drilling your holes, remember to tap out the silver.  Just bang the lid on your work surface.  Then take a paper towel or clean cloth and wipe the inside.  Then to be triple safe, just run a toothpick through the holes to make sure they’re all clear of metal shavings and wipe the top again.

Finally, fry up a massive batch of french fries and give ’em a test run.  Side serving of peas optional.


  1. Amanda says:

    Well, Back in the day….. They used White pepper. Its more like powder. Makes you sneeze up a storm so have them old napkins handy! :)

  2. Caarin says:

    Fresh hot fries and peas sounds delicious…especially with salt and pepper..mmmm

  3. Jcrn says:

    Oops, do not click on the word Kmart above. It takes you to a shopping site. But the link for the video works fine.

  4. Jcrn says:

    Totally unrelated but since we’re entering the holiday season has anyone seen this controversial Kmart ad? Apparently, too racy for US television: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/pantless-men-play-jingle-bells-with-their-junk-in-controversial-new-kmart-christmas-ad/story-e6frfmyi-1226764128291

  5. Jcrn says:

    I prefer using a pepper grinder even when guests are dining with us but I appreciate your problem. My mother always went with older shakers because they looked so nice,. Also, has anyone compared many of the older dinner plates? While not always the case, many were smaller than today’s plates ( including the ones I inherited from mom). Fine by me because it helps control portion size and I can use that control. But I wonder if it means people used to eat less ? Especially the ladies who were supposed to have “ladylike” appetites…even if they didn’t?,

  6. Deborah Rokos says:

    I have a collection of pepper grinders that don’t work!! I have ones with plastic grinders, and one’s with metal grinders, big ones, little ones, wood ones, and plastic…the only kind I don’t have, is one that works!! Any suggestions?

    • Karen says:

      LOL. The one I have that works quite well is a Peugeot. You adjust the grind using a silver knob type thingee at the bottom of the grinder. ~ karen!

  7. Amber says:

    Sea salt with fresh ground pepper popcorn. You’re welcome.

    • Karen says:

      I thank you. But popcorn isn’t allowed. And I don’t like popcorn anyway. I WANT CHIPS. REAL CHIPS. CORN CHIPS, SALT AND VINEGAR CHIPS, PRINGLE CHIPS, TORTILLA CHIPS. CHIP-CHIPS!!! But as I said. Thank you for your support. Now I’m going to gnaw on my cat’s ear. ~ karen

    • Karen says:

      LOL!!!! I thought you were commenting on the Paleo meal plan post! I’m a dufus. Back to the cat ear. ~ karen

  8. Karen Best says:

    I have the same silver plated salt and pepper shakers. Inherited from my grandmother (the mother of all collectors – even had jars of cotton balls from pill bottles). I use them as decorations rather than for function.

  9. AnnW says:

    Speaking of pepper on fries, are you ever going to explain what poutine is? And what kind of gravy you use? I feel like I need to get back to my 18th or 19th century roots to try this. Ann

  10. AnnW says:

    Old pepper was really powdery. It is only in the last thirty or forty years that we started cracking our own peppercorns. Did you know that you shouldn’t leave salt in a sterling salt shaker? It corrodes it. I do have a lovely set of Tiffany silver salt and pepper shakers that I received as a wedding present 35 (how did that happen?) years ago. You can always find blackish sterling shakers with dents that no one wants. I had a little bag of them. I think I’ll practice on them. Why does;t someone invent an elegant salt and pepper grinder? I would hate to revert to those salt dishes. Seems twee whatever that is. Why don’t you put all your recipes on Pinterest?

  11. Bob Segraves-Collis says:

    Yes there was smaller pepper back then! It was us, we did it to ourselves1 We decided that gourmet pepper – the kind you grind your self was cool, trendy, and just had to have it. Well, the MCormicks of the world listened to us and started grind pepper with one less step in the process and viola, bigger pepper! Faster and cheaper for them, never mind it didn’t fit through the holes in the shakers!
    It’s a shame I cracked three china shakers though….

    In my precious old shakers I use white pepper. It fits the holes and brings back memories of the days when we were living in England where black pepper is nearly unheard of.

    PS: I enjoy your style and insights, I am a convert.

  12. greenkathleen says:

    You so crack me up! I’m going to start reading your blog every day So I can learn new amazing things and laugh

  13. Nancy Carr says:

    Found how to sign up for your emails. Great. Now I can read your insights and know someone thinks like me in so many ways and tells it like it is.

  14. Nancy Carr says:

    While I was reading about pepper was probably smaller back then the thought came to me to make the holes in the shakers bigger, and then I see you got the idea. I love your blog and your wonderful spirit. I cannot figure out how to sign up for your blogs. Help!

  15. Renque says:

    I also have an unhealthy collection of salt and pepper shakers, old and new! Although I don’t think I could bring myself to drill holes in ma babies…I do however perversely kinda like it when the holes get blocked and then you have to bang them on the counter a few times.

  16. Amy says:

    Any other tips for ceramic shakers with holes to small? I like the idea of jewelry file, but that will drive me crazy because it will take forever…

    As for rice in the salt, it only works to a certain extent. If you live in a very moist climate like I do (San Diego), you need something more. I snagged a desiccant pack from an empty vitamin jar and shoved it in the salt shaker. Mostly works fine now!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amy – There are small ceramic and porcelain drill bits. I’m not sure what the smallest you could find is. They’re not cheap though if you’re only doing one salt and pepper shaker … they’re about $15 each for the bits. ~ karen

      • Amy says:

        thanks! I’ll have to think about whether it’s worth it at all.
        Also, I realized that my shakers have no removable lids, so if I drill, where will the ceramic bits the drill takes out go? Maybe it’s more worth it to just get new shakers…

  17. Sandy says:

    Pepper on fries is mandatory! that and ketchup. Gayla T, I am not sure how switchig the lids would help. THere are usually two holes in the salt shaker and three holes on the pepper shaker. Seems to me that since the three hole lid is now on the salt shaker even more salt would be dispensed. Karen, I seriously love your writings.

  18. judy says:

    or…put away the drill, hammer and nails. Usually the holes for the salt are larger than the ones for the pepper. wallah! put the salt in the pepper shaker and the pepper in the salt shaker. with your nice ‘antique ones’ it might not confuse others. my family shakes their head in dismay when black flakes shake out of the ‘s’ and salt pours from the ‘p’ on some of mine!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *