Hand-held Cooking Utensils
The first cooking utensil created by man was, and I’m just guessing here, probably a sharp stick. You know, like the ones you use to toast marshmallows over a campfire? My, have we come a long way! Still, the objects we use today serve the same general purposes as the ones our finger-licking ancestors developed around the same time they learned to cook.
In Suzi’s Kitchen, we use the term utensil to describe the tools that cut, score, spread, lift, dip, stir, mash, grind, strain, and skewer our food as it is being prepared for us to eat. We might also include silverware in our musings over hand-held kitchen essentials; however, in the western world, we’re assuming that you are already aware of the convenience of using a fork to get your food off your plate and into your mouth, or a spoon to scrape the last sweet drips of hot fudge out of your sundae bowl. Instead, let’s focus on the things that make it easier to get the food on the plate!
Way, Way Back in the Day
The discovery of ancient cooking utensils is a sure-fire way to guarantee a thrill for archeologists poking around in ancient dirt. The only way scientists can tell what ancient civilizations used to eat and how that food was prepared is to examine these tools, since ancient chefs don’t seem to have bothered writing down their recipes.
There are actually a number of studies that have been done with regard to how the creation of various utensils shaped the type of dishes that could be cooked depending on what type of heat source was being used. Although it might seem strange at first to think that you could tell the status and wealth of a family by how many different kinds of knives, forks, and spoons they had, do we not still judge a home by the fabulousness of its kitchen? (If you are unsure how to answer that, just ask your friendly, neighborhood realtor!)
We are fortunate to be living in a world where many of the old-time utensils are simply not needed anymore. Meat hooks, for example. We have also developed utensils that would have been ridiculous in even the most opulent medieval abbeys, like can openers. The point is that utensils are important in the making of an every day kitchen that works for you.
Can’t You Just Use Your Silverware for Cooking?
No. No you can’t. We are aiming to make cooking easier, not more dangerous. I realize that many of the kitchen utensils we’re going to be checking out might look like oversized pieces of silverware, so consider that there’s a reason for that. See those long handles on the big forks and spoons? That’s because ovens and stoves are HOT, and you want as much distance as you can reasonably manage between them and your delicate little fingers. Try flipping a slab of meat in the oven with a dinner fork and you’ll get the idea. In my kitchen, the must-haves include:
- long-handled fork and spoon
- soup ladle
- potato masher
- slotted spoon
- spaghetti fork
This is by no means all the utensils I own; just the ones that fit into the little utensil jar next to my stove. There are more in a drawer next to my silverware, and I have a set of knives in their own wooden holder as well. I can’t imagine doing without any of the items on that list. What about you?