Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: Brette waxes poetic about measuring spoons and cups.
For I have known them all already, known them all, Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons… - T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
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Measuring out life? In coffee spoons? Does it get more depressing than that?
Though my English professors may turn white at the thought of my using Eliot in a column about cookware – and this whole introspection-thing may be a product of this being the first week of my senior year of college – I couldn’t help but start thinking deep about measuring spoons. Real deep. Deep enough that I found myself in the half-dark on a sunny afternoon, laying on my couch, doing a dramatic reading of Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock to the giant jar of pretzels on the table next to me.
Slow down, Brette.
Measuring cups and spoons, sure, are one of the most essential items in a kitchen. They’re what this website is based on; they’re the building blocks of cookbooks and magazines; they’re how recipes are spread around the globe, through generations, across cultures and divides.
And choosing the right measuring cups and spoons – though there are many options available – is one of the easiest (and most boring) kitchen tasks out there. Sure, there’s plastic, stainless steel, wood, glass. Of course, you want ones that are accurate, easy to read. The kicker? Most of them are -- and they're easy to find.
(My one, real criterion: the measuring spoon has to be narrow enough to fit into a spice jar. The Cuisipro measuring spoons work wonders.)
So why – if measuring utensils are such a must in a home kitchen, if they’re so easy to find and use, if they’re left off no list of essential cookware – do we continually ignore them?
Why do we double some things and halve others, pour instead of splash? Why do take a recipe we love – one that we’ve followed exactly, and that’s worked to a T – and tweak it? Why do we feel the need make things messy, to color outside the lines, to add and subtract and to make new again?
Measuring utensils – and the quiet, respectful disregard of them – are what make cooking fun.
They’re how we have a constantly growing collection of recipes – how we document the ones we have, and how we create new ones. They’re how history is recorded and then changed. And with them – and without them – we can shape the way we cook: the way we approach our ingredients, our countertops, our stoves, and each other.
Because why not make something more salty, acidic, tart, bitter? Why not slather instead of spread, squeeze instead of sprinkle? Why not, as Kristen Miglore once did, add an extra 1/3 cup of olive oil to Marion Burros' Purple Plum Torte, and watch the top get dark, shiny, and perfect?
Do this, and your life will be measured in pours and in pinches, impulsive splashes and calculated dumps, in tastes and tweaks and shakes and splatters. Not, as Eliot put it, in coffee spoons.
How do you use your measuring spoons and cups? And how to do you approach innovation in the kitchen?