Posted on January 20, 2012
One of the comments I hear frequently when I'm selling my utensils face-to-face is "oh, they're too nice to use". I usually reply with some tongue-in-cheek comment involving plastic spoons or such ... and get disapproving looks as the commenter leaves the stall.
This sort of comment gets me thinking a bit about how we, as the most advanced race on the planet, have evolved and some of the strange habits we've come to accept as normal. One of these habits is our obsession with old or used objects and items with flaws or defects ... endearing features as we call them. Often, these objects are poorly designed, well past their prime or are simply inappropriate for the task at hand ... but, we hang onto them because they're 'worn-in' and 'not too nice to use'.
The simple ... and rather interesting ... question is ... for what reason did we lose the appreciation of having nice tools to use in our daily endeavour? In times prior to the industrial revolution, utensil and bowl makers were revered and were highly respected members of the community ... as were coffin-makers, but that's another story. Domestic utensils and vessel-ware were made with pride, were often highly decorated and were, in many cases, prized by the owners. Archaeological recoveries also show that many highly decorated pots and utensils showed visible signs of extensive wear ... so, they 'weren't' too good to be used. So, what changed?
Most likely, the advent of our 'throwaway' society provided the biggest stimulus to accepting less than ideal tools and gadgets. Reduced costs and mass production gave us items which deteriorated more quickly than hand-made ones and didn't do as good a job due to the design restraints imposed by the very processes that enabled large scale production. It became very evident to me that the $5 utensils that our kitchen was full of just weren't capable of providing a nice user experience ... and, were pretty much throwaways each year ... due to either breakage or mould growth.
In 1999, I decided to make some utensils for myself. I was doing all the main meal cooking in the household at the time and had spent a fair few years cooking for paying guests on my charter boats previously. Having just given up that business, I was now spending more time at home ... and, had more time to spend.
I was tired of using the poorly made mostly imported utensils available from kitchen shops and supermarkets and, I hadn't really run across any utensil makers who actually spent time in the kitchen themselves.
The goal of making my own utensils was to improve the pleasure of cooking ... by having nice tools to work with. The process was an immediate success for me and several friends asked for some as well. After a while I decided to sell my utensils at the local market and now, 11 years later I make a living from the process. During these years, demand for my hand-made utensils has been strong ... and I have a well established loyal customer base.
I don't believe that 'anything' is ever 'too' nice to use for its intended purpose. Additionally, tools that are well designed and tested offer better and more efficient function ... resulting in ultimately better cooking and greater enjoyment.
As demands on our time increase exponentially, it's becoming too easy to side-step the old-school activities which made 'living' sort of real ... like spending time in the kitchen to cook the Sunday roast, or even just the nightly meal. Any form of drudgery in the kitchen is a good catalyst these days to eat out ... or open a tin of beans - not a very healthy or socially wholesome experience.
To me, the idea of having nice tools to work with just enhances the experience of being in the kitchen ... nice utensils, knives, flatware etc, all help to make everyday activities seem less mundane. This helps make time spent in the kitchen enjoyable which, in turn promotes the inspiration to create great food ... instead of dialling out for pizza.
The full range of Forest Treasures cooking utensils is currently available in my Etsy store -> Forest Treasures @ Etsy.