Wooden Spoons

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23 Apr Wooden Spoons

I’ve been cooking at my Mom’s the past few weeks and find myself rummaging through her wooden spoon collection in search of the one pictured above. Yes, its bowl is broken,  but I like how it can simultaneously stir and scrape the sides of a pot. It’s so useful, more than once I’ve considered taking a saw to one of my own.

This blunt-sided spoon has been in my mother’s kitchen for well over 35 years. Although it arrived symmetrical and unremarkable, a single, emotionally-charged incident transformed it into a conversation piece. And yes, it was my fault.

I was very young and always getting into trouble. This innocent utensil just happened to be at hand when I did something that pushed my normally patient mother too far. While the details of my mischief have faded, the moment she lost her temper is very clear. I’d done something. Mom found out. My younger sister happened to be on hand and the three of us were in the kitchen when the spoon hit the counter.

In her sternest, most authoritative voice, Mom emphasized each word with a slap of the spoon to the edge of the counter. “Don’t. *whack* Ever. *whack* Do. *whack* That. *whack* AGAIN! *whack*!” On the final strike, it split.

No one moved. There was a horrifying, all-enveloping silence as a fragment of wood flew across the kitchen.  When the projectile landed I waited for a fresh wave of fury, wondering if it were physically possible for someone to get any angrier than my mom already was.

But, just like the spoon, Mom surprised us. Instead of bursting into apoplectic fury, she laughed. Hard. She laughed so hard she dropped the spoon.  She laughed so hard tears rolled down her cheeks. She laughed so hard she had to clutch the counter in order to stand up while she gasped for breath. And as fast as wood can splinter, we all forgot what had made her so spoon-smacking mad.

Now, you’d think the story of how this unusual spoon came to be is my main point. But you’d be wrong. I’m just getting warmed up. You see, on the other end of the spoon things get interesting. It boasts a big, red blotch. Why? Because this spoon has been designated for savory foods, specifically meat. And a red-tipped handle means meat around here.

Other spoons? They get earmarked, too. Only with words.

Why? Well, let’s just say if you make lemon butter with the same spoon you used to make that big vat of extra-hot chili, no one asks for the recipe. I believe Mom did that once. And then got out the Sharpie.

These are just a few of the spoons in my mom’s collection. Each has a different shape and purpose. My spoon collection is similar, but it’s still packed away. Somewhere. Under a layer of dust.

So, what’s your wooden spoon collection like? Do you have a favourite spoon with a colourful history?  Do you have a system to avoid transferring flavours? Or is my family unique in its love for wooden utensils?

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21 Comments
  • Amy Proulx
    Posted at 13:34h, 23 April Reply

    My spoons usually can be found hiding in the toy box. Not that I don’t like spoons, oh no! It’s just that someone small thinks they are canoe paddles. The rubber spatulas, and metal spoons don’t usually experience this same fate.

  • Charmian Christie
    Posted at 14:16h, 23 April Reply

    Canoe paddles? I can definitely see that. Quite the vivid imagination your little one has. I hope she enjoys her canoe trips as well as your cooking.

  • Lisa MacColl
    Posted at 14:44h, 23 April Reply

    This blog post brought back memories of my own miscreant childhood. All my mom had to do was take the wooden spoon out of the drawer and I cooled my jets. Immediately.
    I think your mom’s system is brilliant. I love wooden spoons, and I find the Pampered Chef Bamboo ones don’t transfer taste like some of the others do.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 16:02h, 23 April Reply

      @Lisa MacColl, good to know about bamboo not transferring flavour as much. I don’t have any bamboo spoons and will look into them.

      After this incident, no wooden spoon was ever a threat again. Mom would just revoke TV privileges if she wanted to keep us in line. Oh, the horror!

  • Christie
    Posted at 15:25h, 23 April Reply

    The wooden spoons in my family are held sacred! My grandmother’s spoons are worn down on their edges, and yes Charmian, they make excellent scraper/stirrers! I marvel at the number of pots these standbys have stirred, and I have lovely memories of licking batter from the designated baking spoon. We don’t write on them, but I may adopt the practice when I inherit them!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 16:05h, 23 April Reply

      @Christie, oh, the pots they’ve stirred and the meals they’ve made. Every spoon has a long and varied history.

      As for licking batter from a wooden spoon? I’m convinced cookie dough and cake batter taste better this way. Much better than if scooped off a silicon scraper.

  • Robin Smart
    Posted at 17:19h, 23 April Reply

    You will notice I was not around when what ever evil deed was done to get Mom going. I don’t know how anyone could run a kitchen without at least 3 wooden spoons! I like the fact some of mine are really long handled for huge soup pots and some are shorter for beating baking. Since we never do spice I have never had to worry about designating “Meat” ones.
    My biggest problem is training family not to put them through the dishwasher.
    Cheers,
    Robin

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:14h, 27 April Reply

      @Robin Smart, long handles are important! But surely you use garlic and onions, even if you don’t use spices. Just a little?

  • barbara
    Posted at 17:46h, 23 April Reply

    My mother in law had this spoon..worn down to the nub and whenever I went over I watched her use it and always kinda of coveted it ..For christmas one year they presented me with my own nub spoon made out of a broken one I had here at home. I use this more than I use any other spoon !

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:16h, 27 April Reply

      @barbara, what a lovely gift. No wonder it’s a favourite. I can only imagine all the cooking your mother-in-law did to wear down that spoon!

  • Debbie
    Posted at 20:15h, 23 April Reply

    I do not own a wooden spoon. Oh, the germs they hold! YUCK!
    But that broken wooden spoon of yours looks very familliar. We had one or it was my grandmother.
    I won’t use a wooden cutting board either. LOL!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:23h, 27 April Reply

      @Debbie, actually wood is naturally anti-bacterial and a better choice for chopping boards over plastic. Here’s a link to a university study.

      http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm

      Although the study looked at cutting boards, the same anti-bacterial properties apply to wooden spoons. Now, I’m sure I haven’t convinced you to buy a wooden spoon collection, but you don’t have to worry if eating a meal cooked with a wooden spoon.

  • I Sicilian
    Posted at 01:37h, 26 April Reply

    I too cherish my wooden utensils. Especially since I found these beautifully simple carved cherry wood utensils in Brazil 4 years ago. I use nothing else but these, they come in every shape for every task.
    .-= I Sicilian´s last blog ..Sicilian Fried Shrimp =-.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:24h, 27 April Reply

      @I Sicilian, your cherry wood utensils sound amazing. Do you have a picture of them? I’m curious to see their handy shape.

  • Kathryn
    Posted at 13:33h, 26 April Reply

    I have a couple of wooden spoons which belonged to my Mother. I cherish these spoons. When first married, my Mother asked my Dad to cut off the top of the spoons to make them easier to manage. Who knows why, but he did not want to do that. Instead, he carved two eyes, a nose, and a smile on the the top of the handle. Of course, they stayed tall — who could remove a face?

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:26h, 27 April Reply

      @Kathryn, what a great story! Your dad sounds like a real character! And the spoons? I bet they start lots of conversations. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 15:03h, 26 April Reply

    I can definitely understand your love for that half-spoon, Charmian. Both for the funny memory and for the surprising usefulness in its new incarnation!

    I treasure my wooden spoons too, though I’m not as organized with the whole labeling thing. I tend not to use the wooden spoons for baking so the whole flavor transfer thing isn’t much of an issue. Funny, but there’s something rather comforting about a well worn wooden spoon – so much more inviting than a new one.
    .-= The Diva on a Diet´s last blog ..Key Lime Pie =-.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:27h, 27 April Reply

      @The Diva on a Diet, you’re right about how the spoons feel when they are well worn. I use my spoons for savory as well as sweet and have adopted my mom’s system. Now I’m wondering if I should keep the baking spoons in a separate drawer — once my new island is built :-)

  • Kathryn
    Posted at 12:07h, 27 April Reply

    Just a follow-up to the spoons-with-faces story. I used the spoons for a year or so after I inherited them, but now I have them hanging on a kitchen wall. I look at them and see both of my parents enjoying a laugh with me.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:19h, 30 April Reply

      @Kathryn, how lovely. I think you win best spoon story EVER. If you have a photo of these spoons I’d love to see their smiling faces!

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 14:38h, 06 May Reply

    Personally, I have to great wooden spoon colelction or stories, but it is family legend in Hubby’s family about the time he was getting spanked and the wooden spoon broke over his butt. His mom could only start laughing too and no one was spanked again.
    .-= Cheryl Arkison´s last blog ..Taste Adventure – Eggplant =-.

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