When I left home my mum handed me over two wooden utensils. A spoon and a spatula. I didn’t realise it at the time but these would soon become great allies. They have both become old and trusted friends of mine and although I have collected silicon and metal alternatives over the years, my fingers always reach for these when my eyes are on the pans. Metal peers of the utensil will never look old and weathered, they will never darken and smooth through love and excessive use. Simply cold and hard, uninspiring, bringing no warmth to the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lost in a fairy tale of enameled tin dishes, cast iron casseroles and Agas, quite the opposite. But I find the wooden spoon has been provoking me of late, nudging me. I’m sure every keen cook has an old wooden spoon with a smooth sheen and slight bend to the handle. Perhaps your wooden spoon has some black marks on the back of the face where it has been left idly in a pan while you answer the phone. As fundamental to my kitchen as the chefs knife, the fridge or even the oven, yet I can’t help but wonder whether the wooden spoon will one day be defunct. Inglorious health and safety inspectors have stamped out the likes of wooden handled knives and chopping boards in professional kitchens in favour of plastic, stainless steel and silicon. The wooden spoon has already been on the decline. In the want for minimal and clean looking kitchens, uniform stainless steel utensils have become a desired essential while the wooden spoon has been overlooked once more.
When I think back to when I was a child and reminisce of Sunday dinners and making cakes, I remember my mum creaming the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon. There’s a certain romance with them. The images it conjures up in the imagination. I can be inspired to cook by simply looking across to my utensil pot and notice that cheeky friend eyeing me up. It may have taken on a slight odour of garlic but who doesn’t love that smell and although my wooden spoon is tainted yellow and orange from spices, functionality far outweighs aesthetics and matching my other kitchen tools. If I am bringing dough together, it won’t bend like its silicon equivalent. When tasting a little of my Bolognese, I am less likely to burn my lips as I would on its heat transferring metal counterpart. To own a well-used wooden spoon, tainted and worn from a history of kitchen conquests and catastrophes, is to own an autobiography of your cooking pilgrimage. The spoon wears its heart on its sleeve, it’s honest, it signifies time served, mistakes and hard work.
It shows you’ve been through something together. For all our victories won, we have also been outdistanced on occasions, we have shared those times at the cooker and it shows. Is your silicon spoon marred with the efforts of the kitchen? Or is it simply still black?