Sarah Leah Chase: Nantucket Serendipity 5 – Stirring the Pot

SERENDIPITY V

Sarah Leah Chase

STIRRING THE POT

Many a good cook will tell you that using top-notch ingredients makes for the most successful and memorable recipes. While such probably goes without saying, I also believe that the batterie de cuisine – or everyday utensils used for preparing meals – can greatly increase the enjoyment and dispel any drudgery inherent in cooking when they too are of the same caliber as the ingredients. In my own kitchen, I always keep a coveted old Nantucket lightship basket filled with commonly used utensils next to my stove, and the newest and current darlings of that basket are an array of exquisitely handcrafted wooden spoons from the Nantucket Looms.

I have no idea why it has taken so long for these superb spoons, marketed as Jonathan’s Wild Cherry Spoons, to catch my eye and blissfully elevate my pot stirring, as Looms’ owner Liz Winship says she has been stocking these beautiful American-made spoons in the store for almost 30 years, practically as long as Jonathan has been in business. The seeds for Jonathan’s business were sown one day many years ago when he forgot to pack a spoon in his lunch bag while working as an apprentice for a furniture maker. He resourcefully fashioned a spoon from a piece of scrap wood and proceeded to eat his lunch.

In 1978, Jonathan found himself working in a canoe-seat factory in Maine. As if that were not in and of itself depressing enough, Jonathan got laid off and set up a home workshop in his garage, where the temperature often hovered at a toasty 20 degrees below zero! Since it was far too frigid for glue to set up on any multi-faceted works, he once again turned to making single piece objects – i.e. wooden spoons. After trading many of these spoons for food in order to survive, Jonathan found a sales representative to launch his spoon business. A move back to his home state of Pennsylvania in 1979 brought warmer temperatures, a good supply of native hardwoods, and ultimate success.

Today, Jonathan’s shop in rural Kempton, Pennsylvania employs ten people who craft an ever-growing line of hand-carved wooden utensils for baking, cooking, and serving everything from Chinese food to salads. The Lazy Spoon, with its innovative notched handle allowing for perching on a pot’s edge, is one of the bestsellers and a prime example of how Jonathan excels at integrating tactile and aesthetic qualities with utility and purpose. A personal favorite of mine is the Ordinary Spoon, described by Jonathan as “a simple spoon for extraordinary cooking and eating.” He is absolutely right! The latest additions to the line are called MoonSpoons and these smaller spoons designed for salt cellars, honey pots, and serving hors d’oeuvres sport charming and decorative stargazing silhouettes intricately carved into the graceful handles by Jonathan’s wife Julia.

Spring cooking through April’s inevitable showers with Jonathan’s Spoons will no doubt lift the spirits of any island cook. I am also certain the spoons would make a truly appreciated hostess gift and most welcome change from the perfunctory, last minute bottle of wine. Jonathan’s spoons, spreaders, tongs, and salad servers are all on display inside the Nantucket Looms at their new location on Main Street and range in price from seven to twenty dollars.


Serendipity was conceived by Sarah Leah Chase as an occasional blog-like addition to Mahon About Town to shed positive and enthusiastic light on culinary pleasures and surprises encountered during day-to-day, off-season island living. Sarah is a cookbook writer, culinary consultant, and longtime columnist for the Inquirer & Mirror. Sarah’s previous columns on Mahon About Town can be found here.

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