How did I manage to do cooking all those years in Sweden without the number one most fantastic indispensable yet most simple kitchen utensil ever created? What I am talking about? Cooking chopsticks – long wooden chopsticks that have completely transformed my way of cooking and have me enjoy my time in the kitchen like I never have before.
One day when I was cooking, turning over mushrooms in the frying pan with my favorite pair of cooking chopsticks, old memories came over me and brought me back all the way to junior high school and the hemkunskap-classes (house work or home skills classes that I today like to think of as my shufu-classes). Hemkunskap was a subject where we were taught things like cooking, baking, cleaning, washing, and home economics. I have two distinct memories from that time – one was of me using one table spoon of salt instead of one teaspoon when we were making pizza (I can still feel the taste in my mouth as well as the embarrassment when my teacher tasted the pizza). The other memory is from the day when our teacher advocated the use of a kitchen utensil called lilleman when cooking. A lilleman is basically a butter knife with a wide blunt toothed edge used when spreading out butter, baking and according to my teacher a host of other things. She was so passionately talking about her lilleman, and I want to remember her saying that she was always carrying around a lilleman in her purse.
Her speech made a very strong impression on me even though I found her point of view, although fascinating, incomprehensibly confounding. Now, after two years in Japan, I find her way of thinking both fascinating and very understandable. If there was one thing I could imagine always bringing with me in my purse (had I one big enough), it would be a pair of cooking chopsticks. Yesterday when I was scrambling eggs I found myself wondering what I was using in Sweden instead of the chopsticks and I drew a complete blank. How about when I was cooking pasta, what did I use to make sure the pasta did not stick together? How did I move the asparagus from the pot to the plate? How did I stir the sauce and fry the vegetables without chopsticks? The cooking chopsticks have become such an integral fundamental part of my life in that I really think it would feel like an insurmountable task to go back to cook the way I was doing it in Sweden.
When moving to Japan I did not even consider bringing a lilleman (I brought a Swedish potato peeler though; maybe there will be a little story about that one some day), but if I would go to Sweden I would bring cooking chopsticks. However, with the newfound understanding for my old teacher, maybe I will bring back a lilleman to Japan one day. After all – who knows what other wonderful cooking experiences I am missing out on by not owning one.
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