The theme of this year's Oxford Symposium, held a few weeks ago, was Material Culture. It has gotten me thinking deeply about the tools in my kitchen, particularly those on which I absolutely depend. There are a few without which no kitchen could function: knives, spoons, spatulas, I'd add tongs. My grater too. None of these are trophy items. I don't own a single big very expensive knife, though I do have a lot of them. I think of them as tools, nothing more. But then I realized that my most prominent kitchen drawer, above the cutlery, holds these right up front. Why? One corkscrew would do perfectly fine. I actively use all 15 of these, and that's not counting the rabbit, and 6 or 7 other kinds of corskscrew I own but almost never use. So the question is why I fetishize these objects. I think it's because I can tell you exactly where each one came from. I have explicit memories associated with them. And of course my favorites have the most interesting stories. I emphatically don't collect them - especially since corkscrews haven't been allowed in carry on luggage for the past decade. But I'm still wondering why this particular object, apart from the fact that I use them every day? Are there objects any of you hold as dear, and if so, why?
Food Historian at the University of the Pacific. Director of Food Studies in San Francisco.
Author of Eating Right in the Renaissance, Food in Early Modern Europe, Cooking in Europe 1250-1650, The Banquet, Beans (2008 IACP Jane Grigson Award) and Pancake. A cookbook with Rosanna Nafziger THE LOST ART OF REAL COOKING.
Coeditor of The Lord's Supper with Trudy Eden and Editor of A Cultural History of Food: The Renaissance.
Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia (4 vols.) Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican and Chinese recently won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards Best Foreign Cuisine book in the World. The Routledge International Handbook to Food Studies is in print.
A sequel to the cookbook - entitled THE LOST ARTS OF HEARTH AND HOME.
Latest Books: Grow Food, Cook Food, Share Food from Oregon State U Press, a little book on Nuts from Reaktion and The Food History Reader from Bloomsbury. The Most Excellent Book of Cookery (translation of a 16th c. French Cookbook with Tim Tomasik) from Prospect Books. Not to mention THE BEAST: The Food Issues Encyclopedia for Sage. Latest: At the Table. Noodle Soups coming up next!