The Nonchalant Crock on the Counter

It’s just a glazed earthen crock containing wire, wood, and silicone. To most minds, there is absolutely nothing special about that conglomeration of materials. However, heralding hues of red, orange, pink, purple, green, and blue make up the color wheel of vibrant images within the shape of this baked clay vessel. Above its rim, show-stopping color joyfully bursts forth like the welcome early-morning dawn or vibrant sun-setting dusk! Partnering with this kaleidoscope of color are nondescript entities resting in the calm of space. There is no sound…just the stillness of objects waiting to press into action like soldiers awaiting the order of “Charge!”

As I ponder the usefulness of each inanimate object within that crock on the counter, my mouth curves upward into a smile. Without the helpful aid of each of these objects within the kaleidoscope of vibrant and benign, my baking projects would be labor intensive. My baking passion would be stymied and overwrought with inefficiency.

The joy of baking is multi-faceted. Not only are accurate, well-designed recipes and high-quality ingredients of utmost importance, but time-tested baking tools enlighten the task of what could be a dreadful burden in the kitchen.

Dear Reader, please come into my kitchen. Get a glimpse of my favorite baking tools that create a still-life portrait inside this earthen crock that takes residence on my kitchen counter.

I must admit my life as a baker would be in shambles without the assortment of colorful silicone bowl scrapers! Tall, short, slim or round…they all hold a place of importance in my occupation as a baker. If I have a favorite baking tool within the arsenal of baking assistants, these would absolutely rate at the top of the heap! Various sizes and intense colors draw my hand to grasp my favorite color. Now, let’s see, will I grab the pink or orange one first?

Over the years, I have tossed some bowl scrapers of poor design into the scraper graveyard also known as File 13 or garbage can. Without flexibility of scraper head or stoutness of handle, this tool was a nonfunctional product no matter what color it was! I have said, “Sayonara” to wooden and hard plastic handles that have snapped under a load of stout batter. Scrapers that have been so stiff that it was humanly impossible to use them to complete the task for which they were designed left with an “Auf Wiedersehen.” Their inappropriate design produced frustration!

BUT, I have found the perfect answer to my bowl scraper madness! Those that are completely covered from head to toe with flexible silicone are just the ticket in my kitchen! You would love them in your kitchen, too! It’s as if the entire spatula was dropped into a bath of colorful silicone to completely enrobe this remarkable product. When using, the silicone protects the handle and gives my hand more comfort. Also, inside my grasp, this technological wonder masterfully flexes with the curve of the bowl to scrape it clean.

Within easy reach inside the crock on the counter are kitchen tools made of wire. They are not as eye catching but truly as purposeful. Whisks, sieve strainers, and an egg separator add a carefree airy design to the crock’s standstill conglomeration.

Sleuthing for facts about the wire whisk brought about the discovery that there are several different shapes and sizes of this magical wonder. In my kitchen, multiple sizes of the standard wire whisk have taken residence inside the crock on the counter. Little ones for little jobs. Big ones for big jobs. Silver-coated wires have been bent into balloon and flat shapes making this tool ultimately handy for whipping egg whites or cream or mixing dry and wet ingredients together for easy and thorough incorporation.

My inquiring mind trod the path of this wiry kitchen assistant’s remarkable history. Over four centuries ago in the 1600s, European cooks used wooden brushes and even birch branches for whipping air into egg whites. The use of tree branches as kitchen helpers continued on even into the 20th century. My favorite cookbook mentor, Maida Heatter, had noted in one of her more recently published dessert recipe collections that her mother would use a tree branch to whip cream, having achieved perfection each time.

The wire whisk, though, became an ideal kitchen tool in the 19th century when the Victorians, gadget lovers as they were, polished its popularity.

But hold on to your whisks Dear Readers because it was nonother than famed chef Julia Child who when asked to appear on the television show “I’ve Been Reading” to promote her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking instead theatrically performed magic with the bulb-shaped whisk to inflate egg whites into a snowy peak of foamy beauty. This was in 1963. With Ms. Childs’ outstanding performance, viewers wrote in to the television station and asked to see more of this innovative chef. According to the NY Times Magazine, “She was given her own show and became one of America’s most-recognized TV celebrities.” Ms. Childs was a lady of determination and remarkable culinary talents!

One more “can’t live without” tool peaking out of the top of the crock on the counter is my collection of steady Eddies,” my wooden handled metal flat blade spatulas. With one of these spatulas in hand, I level dry ingredients inside standardized measuring cups and spoons with lightning swiftness time and time again. I realize there are many of life’s virtues to attain. So when it comes to the baking world, I’m all about the “virtue” of measuring accurately. After all, when ingredients are measured and leveled with a flat blade metal spatula placed perpendicularly to the horizontal top edge of the cup or spoon, accuracy of the recipe plays the trump card helping to ensure satisfying results.

To the ordinary eye, my kitchen counter probably is pretty bare. Upon its surface sits a lonely benign crock filled with wire, wood, and silicone. But to my eye, this crock and all of its contents represent necessity, excitement for purpose, and beauty. It inadvertently typifies who I am as a baker. Yes, it speaks, “Baker in residence!”

Miss NiNi