Unknown bones in my cutlery drawer – Bee Wilson at Swindon Festival of Literature

8 May

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I rarely consider utensils, they are just there, unless they’re not and then I consider them, I consider them lost or in the washing up.

I don’t consider why they are the way they are or why the Chinese think we’re weird and that the average French kitchen has an array of knives which could easily supply several circus knife throwing professionals.

In her book ‘Consider the Fork’ , Bee Wilson delves into just those things and makes some interesting discoveries. Bright and breezy, Bee described Swindon Festival of Literature as one of her favourite festivals and continued to her core argument which was that we rarely lose sight of tradition and that products offering kitchen miracles never endure.

At this point I visualised my JML chopper, dicer, slicer, cutter, bottle opener and car jack on a car boot trestle table very soon.

We deal in the familiar, the wooden spoon is the most popular utensil because it does its job and when you look at it it’s pretty beautiful too. Wooden spoons are used worldwide as well, although they can differ in shape due to local needs.

The history of some items is incredible too,  the balloon whisk for example dates back to the 16th century and before that twigs were tied together to achieve the same purpose.

Once the why is considered with a subject that seems so mundane things get very interesting, we use blunter knives at the table than in the kitchen for very long-standing safety reasons. That we actually choose a blunter, less effective knife to eat a meal would get the Chinese (no knife at all) and the French (Sabatier’s sharp enough to cut the air at the in-laws) completely baffled.

Bee also suggests that we get irrationally attached to particular pieces of equipment that may have a family history or other significance.

This is where my unknown bones come in, before hearing Bee I hadn’t considered the knives that belonged to my granddad which have been a skeletal feature of our cutlery drawer for all of my life.

Now I am wondering about the origin of the bone handles, the method of attachment, the salesmanship in the shop and my granddad is not around to ask.

Once again Swindon Festival of Literature gets me thinking about something I hadn’t thought about before.

Bee Wilson, Swindon Arts Centre, Swindon Festival of Literature 7 May 2014.
Words by Michael Scott.
Photos by Calyx Pictures.

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2 Responses to “Unknown bones in my cutlery drawer – Bee Wilson at Swindon Festival of Literature”

  1. amaatk123 9th May 2014 at 7:33 am #

    Reblogged this on Born again Swindonian and commented:
    I feel moved to share this post from Festival Chronicles onto Born again Swindonian for no other reason than I just enjoyed it. And that’s a good enough reason I feel.

    Isn’t it fab that we have such a most marvellous festival of literature right here in Swindon?

  2. amaatk123 9th May 2014 at 7:36 am #

    Nice post. I now have ‘Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones’ in my head. So thanks for the ear worm. 🙂

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