Sunday, September 25, 2011
Mario and the Measuring Spoons
My measuring spoons are vintage, and I use them so little that they will last forever. They spend their time in comfortable retirement in the knife drawer, except for the winter hours when I use them for making muffins and bread. Woe be to the he or she who tries to bake without precision. Without a measuring spoon-
My mother taught me to bake cookies. But as for general cookery, I am an autodidact. I taught myself- though not without help. I read cookbooks. I read " Gourmet" magazine. I watched Sarah Moulton and Nigella Lawson and Julia Child. And most of all, I watched Mario Batali.
And I cannot remember ever seeing him pick up a measuring spoon. A dash here and there of herbs. A pinch of salt. He had confidence between his fingers, which were his spoons. And I read somewhere about skilled Mexican cooks who call this confidence "weighing with the eye". This is the way I have learned to cook. Remembering that little good is not always lot better, I add my herbs and spices and salt in increments. And unless I am working with raw eggs or raw meat, I taste, taste, taste. One can always add more, but too much means more potluck for the Porch Possums.
Fear and bittiness have no place in my kitchen. I know mistakes will happen, but they will be fewer as time goes on. And although my kitchen is small, it is well used. Many ,luckier than I, have high- end refrigerators and ranges, priceless copper pans, the latest in food processors. But many of them are strangers to their own kitchens. They are afraid to let go. To make a mess and to use every pan in the house. They need to free themselves from their measuring spoons and learn to cook like an Italian grandmother.
Unless, of course, they are scratch baking. Unless you want your corn muffins to have the taste and consistency of a hockey puck, you had better pull out those spoons.
In the photo, the measuring spoons are obvious. The other two tools are not. I use them as spiders, to corral floating fried things and get them onto the plate. The longer utensil is a mystery, though. It has little claws that open up at the opposite end. I cannot even speculate-