Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Touch not the spoon!

Every home cook seems to have some tools they cannot bear to be without. This is one of mine:

Daaa...daa....daaaaa.....DA DUM!!!! (dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum)

This large spoon has been in the family for years. My immediate family, that is. We bought it at a Lechter's. "A what?" you say? Lechter's Houseware was an excellent chain of home supplies, including many kitchen items. This spoon was part of its Cooks Club line.

The chain imploded in 2001 due to increasing challenges from national chains like Bed Bath & Beyond, overexpansion, and cash flow problems. It went from almost 500 stores in 2000 to none the next year. But the spoon marches on.

Incidentally, one of Lechter's most ferocious competitors was Linens 'n Things---which itself collapsed as a chain of stores in 2008. We still have a bunch of LnT things, too.

I know my mom had a lot of tools that she was loyal to, tools that she stuck with because they seemed to be unbreakable and they worked just the way she wanted. They were the right size, or held the right amount, or were fireproof when other tools of the type were not, or just stuck around so long that they became the tool. She had a colander that outlived her that finally developed a crack, and I kept using it until it was nearly split in half. It may have been older than I was when I had to let it go.

If you're interested in Greek food, or just really good food, I recommend the Kukla's Kouzina site, which features wonderful recipes by the author, Kelly Staikopoulos, her sister, and their late mother and grandmother. Their grandmother wrote down her old family recipes in Greek, but she didn't know how to write (not having been schooled), and the recipes came out as one loooooong sentence. Their mother was an educated woman, but she tended to use all sorts of things for measurements:
We started writing this cookbook with our mother in 1997 but, unfortunately, she was diagnosed with cancer one year later. During that year before her diagnosis an ominous feeling compelled us to learn not only how to read her Greek script, a challenge to be sure, but also to record measurement amounts for typical Greek recipe terms like “a handful”, “1 wine glass” or “1 water glass”—the most daunting being “1 little plastic cup.”
Their mom could use such inexact measurements because they were exact for her. She did not see the need to upgrade her tools.

I wouldn't be surprised in the least if professional chefs also have their favorite idiosyncratic tools. They like to make a big fat display of their beautiful knife sets, as if they were precision surgical tools, and the good sets cost about as much as something that usually has four wheels---but maybe somewhere they have an old spoon, or a cheap paring knife, or a cracked colander, or 1 little plastic cup, things they would hate to have to cook without.

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