“My paternal grandfather would have scoffed at the word foodie, but in his own way he was a forerunner of the species. He mail-ordered chili powder from Texas, ate sweet corn and tomatoes only in season (and usually from his own garden), and would travel across the country every Thanksgiving, to wherever we were living, with a farm-raised Ohio turkey and a country ham to cook for his children and grandchildren.”
“He used the meat-grinding attachment on the forehead of his mixer to make breakfast sausage. I can’t say I’ve done that. I use the flat paddle for mashed potatoes or cookie dough and the whisk attachment to stiffen egg whites. I could do any of that just as easily with hand tools, but I prefer to drag the bulky old machine onto the counter and listen to the rough industrial music of its motor. It takes me back.”
And finally, since I asked all these people to share their stories and personal memories about one of their kitchen objects, I thought it was only fair to add an object, and a story, of mine.
When I flip an egg, I think of my grandmother. That’s because for the past 25 years, I’ve been using her 1930s spatula. It has a teardrop wooden handle and a thin metal blade. The blade is punched through with an Art Deco design. It is beautiful, flexible, and strong. I’ve carried it around with me from kitchen to kitchen since college.
My grandmother was from Colorado and I grew up in New York, so during my childhood I only saw her about once a year. Grandma Alice had a powerful presence. She was vivacious, sharp-tongued, and larger than life. People gravitated toward her.
She was also totally unsentimental, as was her eldest daughter, my aunt—so when Alice died, my aunt decided to throw away all of her things. I’m the opposite: Objects hold memory and history for me. I believe that the past is not really past; it lives on in the present. So when I spied the spatula on a dusty shelf, I grabbed it. I’ve held onto it, literally, ever since.
Adam Harrison Levy is a documentary filmmaker, a contributing writer for Design Observer, and a teacher at New York’s School of Visual Arts. His most recent story for Gourmet Live featured the award-winning Battenkill Valley Creamery.