Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Utensils: Spooning and the Perfect Bite!

I know that some of you out there may have clicked on this blog because I present myself as a chef; we have reputations to live up to and can be 'know it alls'. I do get asked quite a lot about what are the right utensils and what do I use in my kitchen. I am a trained chef, I love talking about food, wine and all the frills of cooking, but this rant today is about my favorite utensil, the spoon. If you do have questions about utensils email me and just ask; otherwise most people buy thousands of gadgets and eventually figure out which ones clog up the drawer. Hands down I love spoons and the bigger the better!

While enjoying dinner recently at a quaint French bistro in Metuchen, New Jersey, Café Paris. I wanted a spoon to eat my Beef Bourguignon, so I kept the one from my soup appetizer. This silver extension of my hand was a nice deep rounded spoon for eating. I liked using it to dip into the mashed potatoes and then into the beef with its red wine gravy, mushrooms, carrots and tiny bacon pieces, and have what I call the perfect bite. A little bit of each ingredient ready to be tasted, and followed by a sip of wine.

I remember as far back in my earliest childhood memories, eating with a spoon. My brother ate his cereal out of the biggest mixing bowls in the house. We all chose to eat with whatever utensil work, right?

Well, my friend saw me reach and grab back my spoon from the bowl as the waitress was removing our empty bowls, so I felt I had to explain that I did not care for forks as much as a spoon. Explain how my husband and I discuss what the perfect bite really is. A chef goes to a lot of trouble preparing dishes that they feel are the perfect match. Many times you find your fish atop spinach atop potatoes or risotto and sauced. So why wouldn't you take a piece of each and see if it is the perfect bite. If they meld together and yet you can distinguish each flavor as it moves about your tongue and cheeks, melting in your mouth until you swallow its succulence. Then the next bite you want to have a sip of wine to see if they also meld together, complimenting one another. Forks just do not hold all of it on without tiny bites of it landing on the table, our laps, or in the woman's case, her plateaus. Seems to me it is more important that others do not see more of the food on us, the table than what went into our mouths.

The bottom line is I am a gravy girl. Dry food does not work for me. I eat pasta with my sauce. I love soup, stew, and sauce with my BBQ. I get upset when I ask someone to put food away in my kitchen and I find the pan in the sink with remnants of sauce still sitting at the bottom. I gasp, and lecture about the importance of that food needing its moisture to help protect it from the cold isolation of a drying refrigerator. Especially if it is chicken, and there is nothing worse than reheating a piece of chicken and finding it dry the next day! You know what forced air does to our own bodies.

I have spent time researching spoons and found websites on a recent book called 'Spoon Theory', loads of knives in the break room, a small child that eats ice cream with five spoons, and even found a website dedicated to a spoon museum. Spoons were around much longer than forks. Try drinking water with a fork, since the whole spoon idea came from liquid flowing through our fingers even if we cup our hands, and I usually have to use both for that one.

Getting more into our conversation with my dinner company I confessed that in my house finding the big spoons was always a problem. My husband uses them like I do, and he eats cereal every morning. So, we only have so many big spoons, and I end up giving in and use the teaspoons; which it is still a spoon. My dinner friend said that her husband only likes the small ones, and we laughed at that one. She did agree at my theory of the perfect bite, and gave it a try. When our crepes came that was the real challenge with the fork, and it ended up we used all three utensils. She ordered the chocolate with Nutella, and I ordered the banana and walnut crepe. We ended up cutting it up and sharing so that I could have Nutella with my bananas. Try forking a crepe with bananas popping out everywhere, and walnuts on a fork? Some foods I admit just are not meant to spoon with, but most can be.

Frankly it is an etiquette thing, but my reality is that food is meant to be enjoyed. If you are eating out with friends they should not care how or what you eat with. If it is a business associate or clients then order food that can be eaten with the proper utensils, but if you like sauce and gravy like me then just confidently pick up the best scooper on the table.

I am still waiting for utensil makers to come up with a more conventional metal version of the spork, I could live with that!