Wooden Spoons and Cherries


Finished photoWooden spoons and cherries may be two odd kitchen pet peeves, but they were mine when I wrote my first cookbook, “The New Pastry Cook”, published by  William Morrow in 1986.  They still are.  I had a marvelous editor, Narcisse Chamberlain.  She was a seasoned professional who took a novice cookbook writer (me) and honed a book of, at the time, brand new ways of thinking about pastry.  She taught me much but there were two things that became my pet peeves – wooden spoons and cherries.

There were only two things about which we disagreed.  I won one and lost one. The first peeve is wooden spoons in a pastry kitchen.  I can’t for the life of me see why anyone would want to use a wooden spoon for anything except propping an oven door open to cool it off.  They are inherently difficult to get really clean because they are so porous and they harbor the flavors of whatever they were used for last.  If you were stirring onions and garlic, those are the flavors that will be transferred to your pastry even though you washed it.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want a delicate pastry cream, crème anglaise or milk heating for a yeast bread flavored with onions and garlic.  Narcisse wanted me to specify a wooden spoon for the Pate a Chou (cream puff pastry) in the book.  In those days, everything was done by mail or phone.  So a flurry of letters back and forth settled the matter since she couldn’t come up with a reason other that it was quieter.  One for me! The second pet peeve was using candied violets instead of marachino cherries.  Call me gauche or unworldly, but why is a flower picked from the field, dipped in egg white, unwashed,  and then plopped in sugar any better than a cherry that has been bleached and then colored red. I know they use a different red than they used to and that is fine, but I happen to love marachino cherries.  Fortunately, I don’t think the violets are used anymore.  At least I hope not. I lost this one.  We put violets in the book.  Narcisse was far more sophisticated than her Midwest protégé and I loved her for it! One of my favorite treats is vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, lots of marachino cherries and juice from the jar. If there is a moral to this, it is that if you absolutely must use wooden spoons for pastry, then keep a separate set for pastry making. But keep the cherries! So now you know my pet peeves in the kitchen are wooden spoons and cherries. We all have pet peeves in the kitchen, what are yours?  I’ll look forward to reading them in the comment area so we can all enjoy them.

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4 thoughts on “Wooden Spoons and Cherries

  1. Barbara

    I do not use the soft wooden spoons. I do love the bamboo spoons as they do not absorb the moisture from foods or the flavor. The do come out clean and fresh from the dishwasher.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Barbara I’m a big believer in whatever works for you. I stopped using wooden spoons years ago and didn’t even know about bamboo spoons. Thanks for enlightening us.

  2. Janet Woodward

    Have a choice of wooden spoons…and you are right..I have some specially for strongly flavoured goodies…the onions etc. Plus my very favourite cake spoon…had it for years…trusty servant. Wouldnt be baking time without it.

    Pet peeve…a longing for things I havent seen culinary wise in years…angelica is one. Saw some a couple of months ago…tasted it..the bright synthetic green (almost day-glo) put me off…and the big Lexia raisins..the really large sticky raisins..for Christmas cakes.

    Have fun….take care

    Yorkshire, England

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Janet: Thanks for letting me know your peeves. I just read an article in one of my professional newsletters about a critic bemoaning the fact there are no recognizable “old fashioned” desserts in New York. He lamented that New York has become a wasteland for restaurant desserts and there was no place to go for a real dessert. I knew of, but never used angelica and we never had the big raisins stateside. You handle the wooden spoon dilemma correctly. Different spoons for different tasks in the kitchen. I know you won’t give your spoons up any more than I’ll discard my cherries!

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