by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
A simple stick was, more than likely, the first stirrer that people (would have) used for stirring the gruel in the pot and the Scottish spurtle, the traditional implement for stirring the porridge while it is cooking, is still very close to that original.
Sometime later, I should guess, the stirring paddle arrived, which then, later still, turned into the spatula.
The wooden spoon for stirring the pot, and especially for eating, I should think, at that time, was still a long way off and in coming. But it is evident from all this how ancient and traditional the use of wood is in the kitchen, and not just in the kitchen, obviously, and no one seems to have suffered any ill effects as the result of this use.
The stirring paddle, to some extent, is by far more efficient for, well, stirring, as is the wooden spoon though the latter has its uses for sure. More than likely the cooking spoon for use in stirring came about as as tool for multi-tasking, that is to say to also serve as a tasting spoon.
Wooden kitchen implements vary in design from culture to culture and often even from region to region, and that is just the basic tool. Each and every maker, no doubt, make variations on the theme (no, not Greensleeves).
Metal utensils, with the exception of the knife, and especially utensils made from plastic, have really only come into use in the last one and a half centuries or so; plastic obviously only in the last fifty or so years.
The Japanese use the Shamoji, the rice paddle, for “fluffing up” their rice after cooking (steaming); a tool that is virtually unknown in the West. Mind you, I still wonder as to whether one also might require a rice canoe to go with such a paddle. Some Eastern European cultures still the stew (or goulash) with wooden paddles (no, not the canoe kind) rather than wooden spoons and maybe we can learn something from those practices and cultures.
Wood in the kitchen is more hygienic that plastic, and metal even, including stainless steel, as many woods, if not indeed all woods, bar a few toxic ones, have ant-bacterial and anti-viral properties, some to a greater extent than others, with pine and the much maligned sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus) in the lead here.
If you have used a plastic spatula in your skillet for some time you will notice how much of its original size will have gone over a couple of years, literally melted away. That plastic will have ended up in your food. Such will never happen with a wooden spatula.
Ever since the advent of plastic, from Bakelite until today, industry has tried to convince us that plastic would be so much better than wood and other natural materials and so much more hygienic and healthier for us. But this may not be at all the case as we come to find out more and more today. The damage, however, is done and especially to our woods and woodland industries. A reversal of the fortunes of both is possible but only if people change their ways and habits and return to traditionally crafted goods.
Yes, traditionally crafted wooden goods are somewhat more expensive than those mass produced wooden goods or those made somewhere in countries far away. On the other hand by buying homegrown traditionally crafted wooden goods the buyer invests in the local woodland economy and also in the woodlands.
So, put some homegrown wood into your kitchen (and other parts of your home).