Frisbees, pizza pans, tortillas—for some reason human beings have a fixation with simple round discs. Perhaps since the invention of the wheel we keep trying to make something as revolutionary. Well, with one such strangely-named disc, we might come close. Deceptively simple, lazy Susans are a helpful addition to any kitchen.
“Lazy Susan” is the name given to a round tray that spins in place. They can live on tables or counters and are helpful for display or for serving food. They can also hide inside cabinets and provide organization for storage. While these are their most common uses, as time progresses, people become increasingly creative with how to use them.
What’s in a Name?
With such a striking name, it is only natural to wonder how the moniker came to be. Unfortunately, the etymology is riddled with confusion, and pinning down a definite history for the name presents a challenge.
Even deciding where the invention came from is a bit of a head-scratcher. Some suggest it is of German origin, while others cite 18th century England. A popular theory is that the device was the brainchild of President Thomas Jefferson himself, but while these are plausible sources for the name, we have to agree with the Smithsonian when they suggest that the simple rotating tray itself was first used in 13th century China.
So why “lazy Susan?” The name certainly doesn’t seem to have roots in Cantonese. Evidence suggests that the unflattering designation has likely roots in the years just before the turn of the 20th century when a household staff was gradually giving way to new and in-vogue labor-saving devices. The umbrella term for these was actually “dumbwaiter,” and since Susan was sort of a catch-all name for the female help, both names seem to be unflattering references to domestic servants.
The Many Uses of a Lazy Susan
A lazy Susan is a usually round tray (often made of wood, glass, or plastic) that can rotate 360 degrees. A non-slip rubber base is a worthy addition that makes sure the disc doesn’t slip around during use. Though they are simple, they can be used in a multitude of ways. Lazy susans offer a level of convenience and accessibility that simply cannot be matched.
Perhaps the original purpose of the invention, serving food doesn’t get any easier than with a lazy Susan. That is also the reason the simple device regained popularity in the 1950s. AmeriChinese restaurants started using them as a staple, and that use filtered into households all across the country.
When you use a lazy Susan to serve food, multiple diners have equal access to food, condiments, and seasoning without awkwardly having to interrupt the conversation to ask their neighbor to pass anything.
The sky’s the limit with what you can store on a lazy Susan. They come in a wide variety of sizes, so find the right one to fit your space and what you plan to store. Some lazy Susans even break the round mold, designed specifically to fit inside oddly-shaped closets and cabinets.
If you want to better utilize the space inside your bathroom mirror cabinet, store cosmetics or medicines on a smaller lazy Susan. Spices are also commonly stored on smaller devices in kitchen pantries or cabinets. While the invention is commonly associated with food, their storage use doesn’t have to be limited to the edible. Store your shoes or craft supplies on one for accessibility.
Using a lazy Susan in a space minimizes clutter. Create order wherever you choose to use it: under the sink, in the fridge, on the counter, or even hanging from the underside of hanging cabinets. Lazy Susans can be used to suit your needs. If you decide to hang one upside down, instead of setting things on the disc space, attach hooks to it and hang pots or utensils from it. Some lazy Susans come in multiple tiers which offers another level of organization.
Coffee/Hot Cocoa Station
Looking for a cozy fuel-up station in the morning? Keep all your coffee or hot cocoa fixin’s stored in one place and on display. It adds to a charming atmosphere in any kitchen, you don’t have to stick to hot drinks. You can use a lazy Susan to create a serving station for anything you want readily at hand: cereal, fruit, condiments or even nonedibles like silverware.
Sure, they’re great for serving food, but lazy Susans can also be helpful in the preparation stage as well. Any cake decorator worth her salts knows that a lazy Susan makes for a more even application of frosting or fondant.
Gameplay For the Whole Family
Playing Life with the littles? Don’t let adolescent arm length get in the way of your fun. If you place the game board on a lazy Susan, any space is easily reached, be it “Buy a Home” or “Payday.”