The morning after Valentine’s Day got me thinking about love and attachment. Nothing to do with the sainted day but because a friend on Twitter got in touch to let me know that the lid of her beloved slow cooker had met a sticky end in an altercation with a jar. You’re probably thinking, just buy another one then, but for me that ignores one of the most fundamental relationships with food and that’s the objects and items which we make it and serve it with.
This isn’t the historical side of this relationship because for that you must run to buy a copy of Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson for a whole new view on what we cook can be aided by what else we create. No, this is a love letter to the friends and helpers in your kitchen and your cabinets.
Once you start to cook, there are certain things you need. It’s hard to peel a butternut squash without a peeler. It’s hard to chop things without a knife, but I think you only start to love cooking when you establish a relationship with your tools and forge links with them. Everyone has kitchen essentials that just make their cooking work.
I am an unusual cook. I don’t own a wooden spoon. I have not used a wooden spoon in the last decade in my kitchen. The feel of them sits uncomfortably with me. I use silicone spatulas instead and I’m incredibly choosy about my preferred type there. The spatula that unleashed my love came from Hob in Russell Square and has a super flexible head and a sleek metal handle. I learned to bake and blog with that spatula. It just worked for me. The weight was right and it fitted my hand perfectly. It just made it all easier and shared the work and when I ripped it in two by accidentally shoving it in the blade of a blender, I let out a howl and felt an actual loss.
My hand felt empty after it went. My cooking rhythm was gone. I bought about six others and nothing was quite right. Luckily my brother saved the day, going to the one branch of Hob that still remained in Leeds and buying me another. It took me about ten minutes to adjust that my pink spatula was now yellow and then I was back in action.
It’s not the first time my big brother has helped out with my ability to become attached to stuff. Over my lifetime I have been hopelessly wedded to certain soft toys, particular jumpers and styles of make up brushes, many of which had to have proxies bought to calm the inevitable terror when the right stuffed monkey or eyeliner brush can’t be found.
Some of those things like brushes simply made my job easier in the way that setting your chair at the right height does in an office. Others have sentimental attachment. We all have an item or two that reminds us of a good time or a person we love or another significant event. This is why breaking a wedding present matters more than damaging something you bought in the pound shop.
I have my late grandmother’s mixing bowl and use it regularly. I like the link with her and all the dishes she cooked for her family from it. It’s quite crazed and discoloured and nothing special except for that connection. I’ve also got the potato masher from her house with the once painted handle and the ability to make mashed potato that tastes and feels like childhood.
Not everything in my kitchen is imbued with great emotional significance to be useful. I use endless cheap Ikea rice paddles for example and I like my knives but feel no great draw to them. I am more likely to have a love for the aesthetic look of my dishes, bowls or mugs because often they were gifts or items I saved up for that make me feel like a proper grown up to own. I have no idea what possessed me to put in a slate floor when I love my crockery like I do.
This fondness for a certain spoon or plate keeps me connected to my kitchen and my cooking. It stops me being too impulsive and allows me to cook at my pace as I still feel like I’m learning and establishing roots in the kitchen. It also allows any disasters to look very stylish when I serve them to my poor unsuspecting friends. What more can you ask for in life?
What about you? Do you care what you cook with or eat from? Do you still feel the loss of a loved item? Can such things be replaced?