Love in the Kitchen



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 unusal 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. Mister North 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 stuffed animals, particular jumpers and styles of make up brushes, many of which had to have proxies bought to calm the inevitable terror when the right 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?



12 replies
  1. Caitriona - Wholesome Ireland
    Caitriona - Wholesome Ireland says:

    Like you I rarely use a wooden spoon & I adore my cheap-as-chips spatula from Sainsburys. I don’t have an emotional attachment to it. I guess the plates that I use for food shots are the closest I get because they’re gathered from relatives houses and decorate my dresser when they’re not in use. I’d be very very upset if they went missing or got damaged.

  2. Helen M.
    Helen M. says:

    I can totally empathise with your attachment to certain kitchen objects. When my grandmother died all I wanted to inherit was her big mixing bowl- which churned out endless loaves of delicious brown bread as well as all of her grandchildrens’ birthday cakes- and “proper” silver table spoon as she used to meticulously measure her quantities when baking. Both of these had belonged to her mother so they must be nearly 100 years old. Imagine my horror when my bowl got knocked off the draining board by a young wannabe Wayne Rooney! It cracked in 3 and despite my best efforts to glue it back together it’s no longer waterproof and has been demoted to the role of fruit bowl. I saw the Japanese have a technique where they insert gold into the cracks of a broken ceramic bowl- thereby rendering it more beautiful than it’s original form. If ever the opportunity presents itself I have the perfect candidate.

  3. Ricardo
    Ricardo says:

    I was thinking about this when I saw the photo of your fried porridge on that decorative plate. What I eat off makes a big difference. I have a couple of shallow ‘pasta’ bowls and I’ll eat virtually everything from them, even if it should be on a flat plate, because they just suit me so well. But could cooking equipment can come from any source. I recently came across a large metal spoon in a charity shop that is so well designed that I knew I had to have it. The fact it is worn by its previous owner doesn’t matter. And it actually adds to the whole cooking experience. On the other hand I needed a potato masher and I had a list of criteria it had to have to be a proper masher. I dropped into every cook shop and hardware shop in London I passed by to see if they had such a thing. I saw plenty of second bests but I held off until I eventually found the ideal one. It’ll last me for years so I’m glad it’s just right. And, come the impending apocalypse when there’ll be nothing left to eat but potatoes, I’ll be there brandishing my masher (and that’s not a euphemism).

  4. Mary
    Mary says:

    You touched a nerve here, you’re so right about being attached to certain items – too attached, my Mother would say! When I make bread – any bread – I have to use my Rubbermaid silicone spatula (a freebie from Hotelympia yonks ago) and frying anything usually involves a square ended wooden spatula that came with an electric wok bought when in a one room flat decades ago (still have the electric wok in a loft somewhere – have tried to offload it several times but noone seems to want it). My Husband brought a Romertopf into the marriage and now I bake all of our everyday bread in that. Then there’s the cast iron Le Creuset-type pot in which I make all my risottos – oh heavens, I could go on and on…

  5. `Becs @ Lay the table
    `Becs @ Lay the table says:

    Hmm I think that Hob in Leeds has shut down now as has everything else on New Dock (formerly Clarence Dock), so you best not ruin that spatula! Was a great shop, used to live near it and loved walking round it.

    I got my grandmother’s pestle and mortar a few months ago and I definitely feel a connection to it. It’s very heavy made of something like concrete/stone and is pretty amazing – I’m wondering how she brought it from Singapore! Made a couple of curry pastes very successfully.

  6. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Becs: I know that Hob has gone too! Sob! It was a great shop. I saved the packaging of the spatula and have sourced it on Amazon for an emergency. Love the pestle and mortar story. That’s some serious weight of history there!

    Mary: spatula lovers unite! I love that you’ve adopted a spatula that came with something too. I love my dimpled one that came with the now defunct rice cooker. Best thing ever for pushing things through sieves.

  7. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Ricardo: everything about this comment made me smile. The right bowl or plate just makes a meal. And being fussy about your masher is just common sense!

  8. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Helen: this actually made me gasp when I read it. Breaking my treasured bowl is a terrible fear of mine, but then again so is the idea of not using it! Love this Japanese idea. Must Google it!

    Caitriona: I am so delighted to see all these other spatula lovers declare it loud and proud. And you always have lovely plates in your photos!

  9. Juliet
    Juliet says:

    I inherited my mother’s ‘cooking fork’ Long thin tines and a dark brown slightly bent bone handle, which obviously worked itself loose at some point over her many years’ cooking with it, because the metal bit is jammed into the handle with the additional packing of some ancient black electrical tape. Not aesthetically pleasing then, but my mother used it for everything and it carries so much emotional weight. I nearly cried when I snapped off half one of the tines opening a tin of hot smoked paprika. How could I be so cavalier with it?! I just didn’t think. I still use it though, I’ve adapted! Luckily I have a couple of ‘spares’ in the form of my gran’s cooking forks, which are actually slightly nicer versions of her daughter, my mother’s. Just like her though, I don’t use them, I use my mother’s.

  10. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Ahh… extra large tupperware mixing bowl. It was in the hideous orange that tupperware used to be and had a tight fitting lid.

    That bowl saw me through my children’s growing up. All those cookies, cakes, bread, bread rolls, Christmas cooking.

    And then, one day, without thinking, I moved it to one side as I was working and put in onto the cooker hob. Yes, the hob was hot. I smelt burning and the bowl had morphed into a modern art sculpture.

    I can’t believe how upset I was at the loss of something so ugly.

  11. Kate
    Kate says:

    Great post – and thank heavens it’s not just me! I have a horrible old tablespoon I am ridiculously attached to (it belonged to my mother) and constantly fight attempts to bin it. I also inherited an old Kenwood and, even though it was clearly dying and making vile noises and smells in use, kept it going until it actually burnt out completely. I then found another vintage model on eBay but it’s not the same. My kitchen is full of stuff like this – even pans. Oh dear…

  12. Allie J
    Allie J says:

    Oh, my favourite, long-staying kitchen item is a little grater with fine holes, I think intended as a nutmeg grater, but excellent for so many things – finely grated chocolate, parmesan, fresh ginger. And the biggest plus – pretty much impossible to grate my knuckles on it! I bought it at Sainsburys, Clapham High Street and we’ve travelled many miles and been together for many years. I wouldn’t be without it!

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