Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Best Old Things

I have mixers and processors, ice cream machines, an infrared thermometer, digital scale and my share of electric or electronic gadgets in my kitchen. But some of my best, most often used tools are old and simple. Good looking too. And filled with memories. A few date from l972, acquired at La Samaritaine in, or a street market or corner quincaillerie (hardware store). If I need a cup or two of grated carrots or beets, I'd rather reach for one of my tin (not even stainless steel) Mouli graters than bother with the food processor. One has a rotary barrel, the other slightly larger, Mouli Julienne, has three disks with different size holes. They remind me of finely shredded veggies dressed in vinaigrette, the ubiquitous salades de crudites we ate in modest French restaurants and cafes long ago.

Rolling pins? I have my great grandmother's tapered maple pin, with which my mother made her Thanksgiving apple pie, before she decided it was more convenient to make apple crisps instead of apple pies. I have a small slender pin made of dark wood, that's only 12 inches long and just an inch in diameter. More like a fat dowel than what we consider a rolling pin, this pin is used to roll out crackers or flat bread in I-forget-which country, and was given to me by a friend from Indiana. It is surprisingly versatile. Actually it's the sports car of rolling pins: I find it remarkably easy to manoeuvre and it turns on a dime. I also have a beautiful, and hefty, hand-turned ash and walnut pin crafted recently by another friend. I use whichever suits the task and my mood.

The slotted spoon is employed several times each week to lift perfect poached eggs from their hot (not-even-simmering) bath. I love my micro plane and vastly prefer the original design, without a handle to distract from the essential beauty of a perfect functional tool. I use the grooved mortar and pestle often to make, among other things, a ground coriander, fennel, and pepper corn crust for seared tuna (From Paul Johnson's book, Fish Forever).

The mystery tool that resembles a miniature jaws of life is one of my very best old things. In lieu of an oven mitt, it's used to grab a hot cake pan or dish from the oven, or at least slide it into view, without gouging the contents with the gigantic thumb of my oven mitt. Tell me that never happens to you... I bought this grabby thing at at the Bazaar de l'Hotel De Ville, (known as BHV, pronounced "bay ahsh vay" of course) for less than 5 francs when France had francs and francs were only 5 to the dollar! I'm afraid it will break some day and I have no idea what it is called or whether one can even still buy them in France (are you listening David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan?) I loved photographing these beloved and useful old tools and remembering when and where I got them. Not that I would object (at all!) to having a Pacojet...