Monday, 13 January 2014

You can't just look at them forever......

The above is a quote from my wife, commenting on the strange relationship I have with the spoons and other kitchen utensils I have carved over the past few years. Whenever I have sold an item I have always stressed it's utility and the fact that it is a practical tool and is made to be used. I have even included a small leaflet with items in the past explaining as much and with care instructions for those who chose to do so. And yet, ironically, paradoxically, hypocritically - call it what you will - I don't actually use them myself. Well, that's not actually true; I have a jar full of spreaders in the kitchen that we all use for butter, jam, chocolate spread etc, and my wife, despite never quite managing to get them the right way round (there is a definite handle end and blade end), claims they are good for a variety of kitchen tasks. I also have a single eating spoon that I have used when out camping. But apart from that, I have a bag of about 100 items that I get out to show friends and visitors who I either think might be interested or who I would like to scare away (and telling someone you carve wooden spoons for fun is as good a way of doing that as any!), and they look at them, turn them over in their hands, compare, contrast, discuss and often even admire them, then I put them away again.

So, thinking it's time I put my money where my mouth is, I decided to take the plunge yesterday and use a pair of silver birch spatulas that I must have carved at least 2 years ago. And they worked really well - not that the job they had to do was rocket-science. You kind of scrape and flip and agitate and that's about it.

So what job did I use them for? What my family call 'stove top stuffing', to be eaten with roast pork loin, potatoes dauphin noir, roast spuds, parsnips and sweet potatoes, Nigella Lawson's cumin seed savoy cabbage and Yorkshire pudding. Delicious!

I know this is not the traditional English way of cooking stuffing, ala up the bird's bum, but it is the way my mum has always done it and the way that is very popular in the States. I grew up in Banbury near Upper Hayford American Air Force base and I suspect Mum got the idea from American friends we met there.

My recipe is simple but effective - 1/2 a packet of regular stuffing mix, the dehydrated kind; add enough boiling water to rehydrate; add roughly torn bread, preferably dry and with seeds or something of a farmhouse nature; add a fairly finely chopped red onion; (I also like finely chopped chorizo, but my kids tell me off for this as they say I put it in everything); add an egg and lastly a glug of cooking oil. Mix together, but try not to break the bread down too much - it needs to stay chunky.

Heat a pan with some more oil. When hot, add the mixture and keep frying and turning the mixture until it is cooked through and the bread bits have gone caramelized and crunchy. My kids love it.

The spatulas performed well, I have lost my spatula virginity, and I look forward to them developing a bit of colour and patina through use.

And on a completely different note, the weather people have been saying for some time now that Britain is in for the coldest winter for a long time, and it hasn't quite materialized yet, though there's plenty of time yet. Anyway, we had our first real frost yesterday - clear blue skies and sunshine too - and while I didn't have the time to go out properly, it all looked really pretty in the garden.


  1. Did the food taste better having used a spatula you had made yourself? By the way, the food looks delicious. I have sacrificed just one of my spoons to the pressures of 'kitchen' use. Yesterday, I found it floundering in a bowl of washing up water having been used to make a mixed berry compote. Pangs of angst rose up, should I save it, give it a refreshing coat of oil and return it to the sanctuary where its brothers live? I decided to leave it, and this morning it was used to make porridge. On reflection, I think it relates to an Arts and Crafts question, my spoon is being used for what it was designed for

    1. "If you truly love something, you must let it go..." or something along those lines. I have a few spoons circulating the kitchen now and I am quite happy for them to be destroyed, if need be, so long as they are used. I uswed to worry when my family put my spoons in the dishwasher but I have a spreader that, since going in the dishwasher has gone an incredible deep reddy-brown.

  2. You must give a "utility value" to a (handmade) object.
    I mean that a very good looking, unique ornate spoon, that stir in a pot is double valuable like a very good looking, unique ornate spoon that ... lies in some dusty box :))

  3. Of course you can just look at them forever. I have my own drawer in the kitchen that is full of spoon that are just not quite ready for primetime though they are done. My wife just does not get the subtleties between ready and not ready. Or I am a bit delusional.

    1. I'm sure you're not delusional, but I guess we can't complain if our significant others don't get the subtleties - it's a miracle if they get the spoon carving thing at all. I know I can't complain.