I own a tablespoon. I’m not the first person to own it.
It came to me from my Grandma, but she wasn’t the first person to own it either.
It isn’t a particularly special spoon – it isn’t silver. It feels like it’s made of quite a cheap metal. That makes sense – my grandparents and their parents before them didn’t have much money at all.
The ‘hallmark’ says DEBESCO Stainless Nickel Silver Sheffield. Google tells me that Debesco was a tradename of Lewis, Rose & Co who started trading in 1922. So my spoon could be nearly a hundred years old. And as far as I know it’s been in continuous use all that time.
It’s been used, and used, and used again. Used by generations of women to stir and scrape and dish up the food they fed to their families. I count myself privileged to be in that line of women.
It’s been used so much that it’s actually worn away at one side – we must have all been right handed!! When you use it, the way it’s worn means that it fits the inside of a bowl perfectly. And using it feels like there’s a direct line down through the years to all of these women who, for whatever reason, were having to scrimp and save to make things stretch as far as they could.
Going back to my Great Grandmother and maybe beyond. I remember her, very vaguely. I have a picture of her in my mind, an old old lady with white hair, sitting in front of a big black kitchen range when we went to visit. She seemed ancient – I now know that she was 72 when she died, which isn’t really very old at all, but I guess everyone seems really old when you’re four.
I keep it in the cutlery drawer, and I use it whenever I need a proper spoon for stirring or scraping or dishing up food. It’s my link to a past. A link to cooking before silicone spatulas, food processors and boil-in-the-bag rice.
I have a great interest in the history of cooking and the history of kitchens in general, and Mrs Beeton in particular. And I think this spoon is one of the reasons for that interest.
It’s still a working spoon. It doesn’t need to be kept anywhere special. I think it would be lonely! It’s happy in the drawer with the rolling pin and the kitchen knives and the wooden spoons. Goodness knows what it makes of the garlic press, the pizza wheel, and the chopsticks that are in there too!!
I don’t believe in any sort of after life – but if I’m wrong, and that long line of women are indeed looking down at me, I hope they’re pleased to see that their spoon is still being put to good use.
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