Dressing your beautiful new hand carved spoon up is a personal thing; some people like a raw spoon that ages and develops a beautiful patina through years of use, and others like a sleek and shiny little number that sits pride of place in the cutlery drawer.
Whatever your choice, there are some basic things that you can do that will see you and your spoon growing old together. Put simply, wash it after you use it by running it under a tap and then leave it to air dry. Don’t soak it as this may cause the wood to split, and don’t pop it in the dishwasher!
Now if you want to treat it, a really good thing to use is a homemade oil and beeswax blend. It’s super easy to make, completely food safe and is handy for adding a bit of shine to any bit of wood lying around the house.
This is what you do: put about 1/2 cup of organic flax seed oil (the type you get from the health food store or supermarket) in a glass jar along with about 15 grams of organic beeswax (about the size of a 25mm cube). Put the jar into a saucepan half filled with water, pop it on the stove and gently heat until the wax melts into a liquid. Give it a sir and set aside to cool where it will turn into a beautiful smelling paste. Pop the lid back on the jar and Bob's your uncle.
Now all you need to do is slather your spoon in the paste, then buff off the excess with a paper towel. You’ll end up with a spoon that likes to show off its lustre and vibrant grain to all its mass produced stainless steel compatriots.
Keep what’s left over in the fridge and reapply whenever the wood is looking a little dry and tired.
If you don’t have flax seed oil you can use other oils like nut oils, but be wary of sharing the spoon with people who may have a nut allergy. Try to avoid olive oil as it can go rancid, and never use mineral oil or boiled linseed oil as they contain nasties.
The oil/beeswax method works best on spoons that aren't used in hot liquids because all your slathering and buffing will be lost the moment you stir a pot of soup as it'll melt into your dinner, and beeswax smells better than it tastes!
What I do for spoons that like a hot bath is to pour some warm flax seed oil into a ziplock bag big enough for your spoon, pop in your spoon, close the bag and leave your spoon wallowing in it's oil bath overnight. The oil will then soak deep into the wood and in the morning, wipe it off, give it a buff and the oil will also harden over the next week or so.
And that's it...enjoy your beautiful new spoon!
There are masses of things happening right now at Spoonsmith HQ and this is one very exciting thing. A woodworking exhibition and comp I'm hosting for the Eden Whale Festival. I'll also be holding spoon carving workshops on site so hop along to our Spoon School page and book your spot. Here's a media release we're sending out, but if you have any questions then just drop me a line on 0417 882 074 and we'll have a natter...
ARTISTS WHO WOOD RETURNS TO THE WHALE FESTIVAL!
Some of the region’s best woodsmiths are invited again to Eden for the approaching Whale Festival as the Artists who Wood exhibition and competition returns for its second year.
The popular woodworking competition is back with a bigger purse and more for the aspiring Woodsmith to do thanks to NSW Forestry Corporation and some interesting additions.
Exhibition organiser, Jeff Donne, said visitors to the exhibition can expect to see some incredible skills on display and a strong focus on handcrafted creations.
“Last year we had a massive range of entries from Paul Buckland’s winning leafy sea dragon carving to Darren Mongta’s entrancing snake stick and some excellent works from local schools. We even had a two metre long whale!
“But there was one entry from last year that really wedged in my mind, and that was a deceptively simple carving of a knot whittled out of a solid lump of Norfolk Island pine using just knives and chisels.
“Frank Swinfield was the genius behind the knot and the sole reason for making the unplugged prize much bigger this year. We’ve added $500 to the prize, bringing the total winnings for the best entry made without power tools to $750.
“Add to this an open prize of $1000 for the best overall entry and a $250 cash prize for the best entry made by a school or TAFE student aged under 18.
“With a heavy focus on hand crafted goods this year we will also be holding a number of workshops on both weekends for people wanting to learn the traditional craft of spoon carving using just a small axe and a knife or two.
“I’ll be donning my Spoonsmith hat for these workshops and people who sign up will be introduced to the joys of casually whittling a beautiful spoon from a lump of wood borrowed from a tree.
“It’s a bit like having hot chicken soup for the soul with the right cutlery, and of course you get to take your hand carved spoon home with you.”
Forestry Corporation of NSW’s Regional Manager Daniel Tuan said the corporation was proud to support the Eden Whale Festival and the Artists who Wood exhibition.
“Sustainable timber is one of the most renewable resources available and Forestry Corporation is pleased to support local artists who work with wood. The forest industry has a long history in the town of Eden and we’re proud to be supporting this year’s whale festival,” Mr Tuan said.
Exhibition organiser, Jeff, said the exact location of the pop up event and workshops will be revealed in coming weeks, but it will be in the Imlay Street area.
“That’s the nature of a pop up, we’ll be there one minute, sharing space again with the fantastic Trashformation exhibition, and then we’ll be gone again in a flurry of wood shavings until next year.
"Our region has some outstanding makers and artists producing world-class pieces, and I can’t wait to see them proudly exhibiting their pride and joy again at this year’s Eden Whale Festival.
“So off to the shed with you, crank up your machines or dig your trusty old whittling knife from the bottom of your tool bag, and get making. Entry is FREE and it’s open right now.”
For more information on the exhibition, competition applications and the spoon carving workshops go to www.spoonsmith.com.au or contact Jeff Donne on 0417 882 074 or email@example.com
This is reblogged from slate.com but it needs sharing because it contains the finest ever quote involving the humble wooden spoon!
"It’s hard to imagine any other kind of spoon powerful enough to ward off Satan."
Whether you're a God fearin' chap or not, that's one fine quote and we owe it to Lee Havlicek. Thanks Lee, and if you want to read about the fascinating cultural history of the wooden spoon, then please read the rest of his article...
There are few things I absolutely have to have in a kitchen. I don’t need fancy pots (though Le Creuset makes some beautiful ones), or impressive tools I will rarely use (though I began asking for a blowtorch every Christmas at age 12), or single-use gadgets like avocado slicers or mango pitters (you already own these—they’re called knives). In fact, to feel confident that I can put together a good meal using whatever’s around, all I really need is some garlic, a little olive oil, and a wooden spoon.
For other people, the first two of that threesome will vary—but the third should always stay the same. Wood is sturdy but not harsh, lasts for years or even decades, and is one of the most versatile materials out of which a kitchen utensil can be crafted. Despite this, wooden spoons seem to have fallen out of favor in home kitchens. I rarely see more than one (if any at all) in the tangle of utensils on friends’ counters, and wooden utensils are consistently outnumbered by those made from other materials in stores. So many people neglect this beautifully efficient and historic kitchen tool, ignoring the many reasons wooden spoons are better than the rest.
Spoons predate forks by thousands of years, going back as far as the Paleolithic Era. The earliest known versions were simply small pieces of wood used to help scoop up foods not quite liquid enough to drink directly from a bowl. The etymology of the word spoon reflects these humble origins—the Anglo-Saxon spon means chip.
Since the moment of its invention, the wooden spoon has been integral to an impressive variety of cultural traditions. According to Charles Panati in Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, wooden spoons have been uncovered alongside gold and silver versions in the tombs of ancient Egyptians, indicating that their owners saw them as useful enough to be considered essential even in the afterlife. In late 18th-century Britain, wooden spoons were handed out as booby prizes to students with the worst academic performances; later, they were instead bestowed upon the most popular person in a class. To this day, “wooden spoon awards” are still sometimes given (though not always with actual spoons) to the team with the worst record in sports like crew and rugby. All the while, wooden spoons have played an important role in kitchens around the world—and for good reason.
As long and varied as its history is, the wooden spoon’s versatility and durability is what makes it worth using. Wooden spoons don’t quickly heat to scalding temperatures, chemically react with acidic foods, or scratch pots and bowls, as their metal counterparts do. They don’t melt or leach chemicals or strange tastes into hot foods as plastic does. A wooden spoon can be used to stir any dish in any type of vessel. It can muddle lemon and mint for a whiskey smash, stop a pot of pasta from boiling over, and fold together the wet and dry ingredients of pancake batter. It is also, I have found, much more effective in punctuating emotions than other utensils when waved around in gesticulations. It lasts forever, looks equally at home on a stovetop as on a beautifully set family-style table, and like Helen Mirren, just gets better-looking with age.
And yet take a quick look around a cooking-supply store (or most home kitchens), and it’s easy to see how outnumbered wooden spoons are by non-wooden ones. A Williams-Sonoma’s customer-service representative, who said she sells more stainless-steel spoons than anything else, told me that the company’s wooden spoons are just not as popular as their flashier cousins. A Sur La Table representative I spoke with told me the spoons she sells the most of are silicone. I browsed Amazon's list of best-selling kitchen utensils and gadgets, which is updated hourly, on multiple occasions over the course of several weeks, and I never once saw a wooden spoon in the top 10 or even in the top 100.
Why do people prefer non-wooden spoons? There are a few concerns associated with wooden spoons, but none of them hold water.
For instance, many people worry that wooden spoons harbor bacteria and are therefore more likely to contaminate your food than plastic or metal spoons. It’s true that if you don’t properly clean your wooden spoon, it will retain bacteria—but so will any other type of spoon. Thoroughly cleaning any utensil, wood or not, after it’s been in contact with raw meat, poultry, or fish is the only sure way to prevent contamination, according to Angela M. Fraser, an associate professor and food safety specialist in at Clemson University. Commercial kitchens sanitize wooden utensils with either soap and scalding water or a weak bleach solution, the latter of which is a bit extreme for home kitchens. The easiest way for laypeople to sanitize wood that’s been in contact with raw meats is to put it in the dishwasher. Most dishwashers now have a high-temperature final rinse that will kill any residual bacteria that survived the detergent. Let wooden spoons air-dry after washing to ensure they are completely clean (dishtowels can re-contaminate wood and don’t thoroughly dry it), and you’ll have no reason to fear food-borne illness.
But, you’re thinking, doesn’t wood retain the flavor of pungent foods? It can, but there’s an easy fix for this: Keep one spoon for savory dishes and one for sweet. (Do this for wooden cutting boards, too, and your apple pie will never taste like onions again.)
Another highly exaggerated wooden-spoon concern: Wooden spoons are flammable. Well, so are a lot of things hanging around your kitchen. You shouldn’t be leaving a spoon anywhere that it can light on fire. If you do this with metal, it will burn you, and if you do it with plastic, it may melt. Best bet: Keep your spoons—and most other things—away from fire.
While all of these facts already tip the scale in favor of wooden spoons, there is also an emotional and visceral reason to use them that comes from the comforting, familiar way wood feels in your hand—not cold and severe like stainless steel, or dull and characterless like plastic. Wood retains memories in a way that metal and plastic cannot. It shows signs of use. It changes color and texture, wears and ages, even changes shape. I can look at one of my wooden spoons and see a dent from harried Thanksgiving cooking, or a dark spot from summer blueberry pie. And when I use the wooden spoon that belonged first to my grandmother, then to my mother, and now to me, I cannot help but feel that I am cooking in the company of all past meals that the spoon has stirred and with the help of all the hands that have done the stirring.
I also can’t help but remember a Sicilian custom that my family followed when I was growing up: On Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, children arm themselves with wooden spoons and run around whacking everything made of wood in their house while shouting a Sicilian phrase that means, “Devil get out; Jesus get in!” The religious meaning of this practice has never held any weight in my family, but it’s always been one of my favorite traditions.
It’s hard to imagine any other kind of spoon powerful enough to ward off Satan. It’s equally difficult to imagine a parent passing a silicone spoon down to a child as an heirloom, or a Cambridge professor dangling a metal spoon in front of a failing student, or Sancho Panza in Don Quixote declaring, “Oh! What delicate plastic spoons shall I make,” as he dreams of what simple joys the future might bring. There’s only one kind of spoon that can play all these cultural roles so effortlessly and unassumingly—and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in the kitchen, either.
Thanks Lee. Page sourced from here.
Lee Havlicek is graduate of Barnard College and has worked in everything from cupcakes to publishing to Shakespeare.
I’m in a blog tidying mood and decided to move some of my favourite posts from an older blog over to this one. This is nearly a year old now and it’s interesting to see how my spoons have changed in that time. Still I like this post, so enjoy :)
For someone who treasures simplicity so much, I like many of you have a busy old life. Work, a beautiful and crazy family, more work (the stuff I’m forced to bring home under duress and considerable grumbling), tending to our deliciously rambling cottage and garden, and of course doing the dishes because the lovely stainless steel dishwasher that I coveted for so many years is failing (quite miserably) to do what it says on the tin.
So when I get a rare moment, there’s little I like better than to go spoon scrounging. Now, this doesn’t mean I walk up to people with arms outstretched, begging for their cutlery….no, it means that I scrounge a bit of wood from here or there, and work this probable waste product into something simple, useful and a little bit beautiful.
Here’s some I did last week (actually a long time ago now); the long and narrow spoon and knife are from a wayward branch on my weeping cherry tree, and my current favourite, a Christmas tree spoon, carved from a piece of our Christmas tree. I wonder how many gzillions of these are cast out to go brown and bare on the roadside, waiting to be squashed by the trashman? Not ours, I see wood as wood – functional once taken to with a blade. OK, it may be a bit sappy and like working with a honey coated banana, but once partially dry it carved beautifully with my trusty and treasured Svante Djarv spoon gouge, and turned into this simple, light and functional spoon that will feed me muesli in the morning and cake in the evening for many years to come.
It’s a bit late I know, but Happy New Year everyone.
POSTSCRIPT: We have a new dishwasher. We call it Derek and we love him. Also my belated New Year message is now early. Gotta love recycling :)