Over the holidays I visited my parents, who live in another state. As I was digging through one of their kitchen drawers, I came across two mortifying objects: the first wooden spoons I ever carved.
Here they are, with one of my recent spoons for comparison:
I have only the vaguest memory of making these spoon-shaped objects nine or ten years ago. Obviously I was just practicing in some home-center pine. There are so many things wrong with these spoons that I just don’t know where to start. The handles are square and blocky. The rims of the bowls are far too wide. The underside of the bowls are hardly shaped at all.
In short, they are utterly unsuited for any actual kitchen task, and my first impulse was to sneak them out of the kitchen and burn them. I think it was only my primal fear of The Mother that kept me from doing so.
On the other hand, if I could go back and talk to my past self about these spoons, I would have only one thing to say: “Keep going. There’s still a spoon buried in these pieces of wood, but you haven’t gotten it out yet.” Because, aside from being pine, there’s nothing in these spoons that couldn’t be fixed by simply removing more material, especially in and around the bowls.
Now, at the risk of thoroughly embarrassing myself, here’s another picture of some of my other early attempts at making kitchen utensils (c. 2007).
All except the spatula on the far right are hard maple–not, perhaps, the easiest wood I could have started with. But it was the one hardwood that I could get my hands on at the time, so I used it. The spoon on the right saw some long-term use mixing bread dough, though I eventually thinned out the bowl to make it more graceful. The flat-ended spatula (second from the left) is still in regular use, and I continue to make spatulas like it regularly. Perhaps the oddest one still in use is the narrow one in the middle. We designed it for stirring big pitchers of lemonade and other beverages, and it still does good service. In fact, other than rounding over the end, I’m not sure I could have designed a better stirring paddle.
The rest are still lying around somewhere, in the backs of kitchen drawers or at the bottom of a cardboard box of abortive spoons. (What IS that thing in the middle with the hole in the middle of it? A stirring paddle? A slapstick? It’s hard to remember…) Much as I hate the look of some of them, I don’t have the heart to just toss them out.
Besides, I learned a lot from these spoons, failures though many of them were. Mostly, I learned not to give up, that if one spoon didn’t turn out right, I could lay it aside and try again. And again. And again, until I got it right.