No matter what you cook, from the simplest improvised snack to the most challenging multi-step masterpiece, sooner or later you’re going to use a spoon. Now, certain principles of wielding this tool are obvious and intuitive. Naturally you know that a spoon is for stirring stuff and for picking stuff up, and if you don’t know that, how do you even know how to read?
But beyond those simple uses lies a world of technique, known collectively as “spoonskills,” even the most cursory review of which can transform your cooking in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction.
Before reviewing these basic rudiments, however, it may be helpful to pinpoint some common mistakes in spoon usage—to un-learn some bad practices, so to speak, before replacing them with improved techniques. How many of these spoonskill errors do you make?
1. You grasp the spoon at the wrong end. No, seriously. You hold it at the spoon end and try to use the handle.
Really? What is the matter with you?
2. If you are right-handed, you stir counter-clockwise. If you are left-handed, you stir clockwise.
Why do you do this? To upset your mother? To get your name in the paper? Just stop.
3. If you live in Australia, you stir the wrong way and do everything backwards because of the Coriolanus Effect.
This has something to do either with Shakespeare or hemispheric weather systems. In any case, it’s not your fault, for once.
4. You use a metal spoon when cooking in a metal pan, and a wooden spoon when cooking in a wooden pan. But the wooden pan catches fire and so does the spoon and the food, and the whole kitchen burns down.
Obviously, this is a bad idea. Who uses wooden pans? Who even manufactures them?
5. You use a slotted spoon when eating soup, and then wonder why there is always so much “liquid” left over.
Did you ever, just once, stop and ask yourself what the holes or slots in the spoon were for? Have you ever heard of “gravity”? I mean just never mind.
Once you’ve rid yourself of the above bad habits, you’ll be able to acquire new skills, such as the following. In practicing them, remember—start slow. Once you’ve built up a familiarity with each one, you’ll be able to unleash it at speed, and apply it fluidly and expertly.
1. When cutting and dicing vegetables and aromatics, don’t use a spoon.
Use a knife. That’s what it’s for. And don’t use a fork, either, because just don’t.
2. Use two teaspoons or tablespoons, separated by a finger, to create a crude but effective percussive folk instrument.
Slap them on your knee (while in a seated position), and then smack them with the opposite palm, and after a while you’ll be really “cookin’.”
3. It was Thomas Jefferson who described the Senate as “the saucer of the Legislature.” Wasn’t it? Let’s say it was. What he meant was, in olden times, a “saucer” was so-called because it provided a shallow concave vessel in which to pour sauce, to hasten its cooling prior to consumption. The Senate’s purpose was to “cool” the heated legislation that was passed in the hothouse known as the hot House. In a similar manner, the spoon is the Senate of soup.
In other words, you should use a spoon for cooling off soup before you serve it to someone in the Senate. They will thank you. Well, some of them will.
4. When serving jelly or jam or preserves, use the concave side of the spoon to scoop out and deliver the mixture, then use the concave side to spread it.
This will astound and amaze your friends, who as one will cry, “Wait—you mean we don’t even need a knife? Imagine the savings in dish washing alone!”
5. The shape of an eating utensil should mimic the shape of the surface on which the food is served. Thus, use a spoon for eating from a bowl, a fork for eating from a plate, and a knife for eating off the floor.
“But I don’t eat off the floor,” you might think. Of course not. No one does. That’s because no one has a knife. And whose fault is that?