the oddness and power of real cook’s tools

Ellen Silverman

Ellen Silverman

Just about every cook I know has a favorite fork or a spoon that they use for all sorts of purposes in the kitchen; they reach for it before any other tool when they need to toss or stir or shift something in a pan, because it feels right in their hand, makes them feel right in the kitchen, and able to deal with whatever comes up.

Ellen Silverman took a picture of mine. I am certain that each utensil in this odd assortment HELPS me to cook. Each has a unique feel of its own. All are balanced, attuned in some special way that helps me to listen to whatever I am making. These implements are so much a part of my cooking that I am often not aware of all the different things I do with them.

They are the opposite of kitchen catalogue offerings; all except one are cheap and beat-up. They all have stories.

The long, skinny fork is a fondue fork I bought as a set at the flea market years ago. The length is perfect, like a smaller, more elegant version of a two-or-three pronged cooking fork. I use it daily for tossing and spearing things, or peeking under something that is browning in a pan. It is the perfect fork for eating private bowls of salad.

The extraordinarily thin, long wooden spoon was brought to me by a friend from Colombia, South America. Though it looks like a doll’s spoon, to my hand, it has a much better feel than regular wooden spoons, more sensitive somehow to whatever I am stirring or tossing. My boyfriend uses it to stir the coffee he makes Brazilian-style: freshly ground beans dumped into a little pot of barely simmering water and stirred until it’s just on-the-verge of boiling again, then poured through a filter. That spoon is part of his waking up.

The silver spoon was forged by my friend Holton Rower, who is an artist. It makes me feel like an artist too. It is the perfect sauce-making spoon, made for tasting from either end. It is so beautiful, I use it as a serving spoon as well.

The silverplate fork with the bent tine was my Greek grandmother’s. She used it for everything: to make scrambled eggs, to spear a baked potato, to toss long strands of thick macaroni with clarified butter and aged Sheep’s milk cheese, as an accompaniment to her Kapama, a cinnamon-scented lamb stew. I don’t use the fork often, but keep it as a kind of talisman in my utensil drawer, to see whenever I open it, and remind me of my grandmother and a lineage of cooks that came before me…

What odd utensil helps you cook, or feel like a million bucks in your kitchen?

4 Responses to the oddness and power of real cook’s tools

  1. Jean Gogolin 11.04.2009 at 9:26am #

    I couldn’t cook without my wooden spoon much like yours, a whisk, and tongs. And I love this blog – I think it’s my favorite.

  2. dana joy altman 11.04.2009 at 11:06am #

    My marble rolling pin with wooden handles. It was my mother’s and not only is it drop dead beautiful but it rolls out pizza dough like nothing else. It’s heaviness makes me happy.

    I agree with Jean, this is the best blog ever. congrats.

  3. Andrea Raisfeld 11.05.2009 at 9:12am #

    The biggest article of controversy in my husband’s divorce settlement was a wooden rice paddle! (Small victory, he got it.)

    Myself? I’m a thrift store/tag sale shopper. I like my utensils worn in (and cheap!)

  4. Susan 11.17.2009 at 6:45pm #

    Ditto thrift store utensils. It’s nice to have someone else’s history of dings (and without the baggage).

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