Thursday, 8 November 2018

Knives, forks and spoons

In a post on my last holiday in the West Country I mentioned that I'd been lucky enough to buy a sixteen-piece set of quality stainless steel cutlery for just £16 at Wroes department store in Bude. That's £1 per item. It was on display loose. You picked what you wanted, as much or as little as you wanted. All at £1 a pop. It was all stuff that a cutlery salesmen brought to the store as samples. I imagine they used some of it in their wonderful cafĂ© that has a sea view. But the rest got sold cheaply to the customers. I wanted a new set of matching knives, forks and spoons for the caravan, but didn't want to pay a lot, and this find was perfect.

I bought four of each type of cutlery. They were a big step up from the miscellaneous collection of knives, forks and spoons I'd been using in the caravan for years past. The old stuff did the job, but it was not in the least classy. My new set was. It was almost a touch of luxury. And I enjoyed using my new cutlery: it not only looked good, it felt good in my hands.

Once home again in early October I reverted to the twenty-four piece set of stainless steel cutlery I'd been using in the house since separation from W--- in 1991. It had been a wedding present from Mum and Dad in 1983, and so I had retained it. Remarkably, it was still intact after thirty-five years of continuous use, apart from the mysterious loss of of one tablespoon just before last Christmas - which I think must have got accidentally binned when I put on my Goose Dinner. That old set still looked good, but it didn't have the same feel as my new short set from Wroes, and I actually missed using my caravan cutlery.  As the end of October approached, and another trip was only days away, I felt glad that I'd be eating my caravan meals with the new set of knives, forks and spoons.

And you know what? Although I'm home again, I've decided to use the caravan cutlery all the time, because I like it so much. Here it is, or at least four pieces of it.

And here are four pieces from my 'old' set in the house.

And here are both, side by side: the 'new' on the left, the 'old' on the right.

The 'old' set is lighter, slimmer, longer in the handle, and a touch more elegant. The 'new' set has more heft, and the knife and fork in particular are broader. But for some subtle reason the weight, shorter handle, and the broadness all improve the feel and efficiency of the 'new' cutlery as a set of eating implements.

It must be to do with the shape and size of my hands (wide-palmed, short-fingered, smallish overall). How weightier cutlery can feel nicer in the hand has no obvious answer, but it does.

The knives of the 'new' set are serrated on one side, smooth on the other. So if you slightly angle them one way, you can bring the serrations into play and (combined with the extra heft) this makes cutting meat easy. I've tackled steak and lamb chops with no problems whatever, and it looks as if the set of steak knives and forks at home (an engagement present from an aunt and uncle dating from 1980) are now redundant.

I can't use my new set of cutlery in company. There's not enough of it. If putting on a meal, I'd bring out my old cutlery. And there's yet another set of thirty-six pieces on a wooden plinth, even more formal, which Mum and Dad bought back in the 1960s. All of it is posher than my new set.

No, my new set is strictly for personal use. Here it is, installed in my kitchen, still in the blue rubber IKEA boxes used in the caravan.

It's not a very stylish way of displaying them, but I might be able to find something better. Four of each type of cutlery is just enough to see me through one day. Usage is high, and none of it will ever gather dust. I hope the knives, forks and dessert spoons stay bright and shiny for a long time to come, but of course the small tablespoons are likely to get scuffed and scratched sooner, a consequence of the extra rubbing needed at washing-up times to get rid of tea and coffee stains. You can't avoid that.

Meanwhile the 'best' cutlery is having a rest. It will come out whenever I entertain.

Is it an odd notion, to have a set of 'personal' cutlery? Well, no. If you hark back to childhood, you might well recall having a miniature knife, fork and spoon just for your own use, designed for little hands and fingers. I didn't myself ever have a full set like this, but I did have a spoon for use with breakfast cereals. I've still got it. It must be about sixty years old. A silver-plated spoon with the cartoon character Yogi Bear at the end of the handle.

My younger brother Wayne had one too, although his was embellished with Huckleberry Hound. I rediscovered my Yogi Bear spoon quite recently, in a bundle of odd cutlery in Mum and Dad's welsh dresser. I hadn't seen it for decades. Fancy their keeping it. Perhaps they let my nephew Michael use it when he was a little boy back in the 1980s, and then hung onto it (somewhat untypical of their throw-it-out habits). Well, I now have it back.

My goodness. Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. That takes me back! But let's keep it for another post sometime.

Rueful sequel
I'd thought that buying cutlery at £1 a piece was a wonderful bargain, but today I discovered a better bargain on exactly the same make and style of cutlery. I was at Robert Dyas in Eastbourne, and saw this boxed set.

What! Twenty-four pieces of the same cutlery that I'd already bought - but for only £14.93! It was a 'one third off' offer, and the pre-discount price was therefore a penny shy of £23. I did a simple calculation. If I had bought twenty-four pieces of this cutlery at Wroes back in September, at £1 each, I'd have paid £24! The difference is trivial, but clearly it wasn't quite the amazing purchase I'd thought it was.

I confess I now feel ever so slightly diddled. What was all that stuff told to me at Wroes, about unwanted salesman's samples being sold off cheaply? Just eyewash?

Oh well. The sixteen knives, forks and spoons I got from Wroes still made a nice holiday souvenir. And they are are great improvement on what I was using previously in the caravan. They'll last for years too. I can't let myself get hung up on the exact price I paid, when it was still a bargain compared to fancier makes and styles.

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