Eric and I are developing traditions around our Wooden Spoon Wanderer project. We are building our cooking repertoire for the rest of our lives, and experiencing new flavours together. Sharing a meal is an intimate experience. When you sit down to eat a meal with another person, you are sharing an activity that gives you pleasure and, ultimately, life. We have always loved eating together. It was one of the first things we found we had in common, and we spent our early dates taking each other to our favourite restaurants and discovering new ones as a couple, later cooking for one another or together.
The Wooden Spoon Wanderer project has introduced a new activity to our culinary life. For the cook, there is an excitement in keeping the menu a secret for as long as possible, an excitement not unlike the thrill of a birthday surprise, a gift that must be kept secret for days and weeks before the big reveal. The day of, the cook often goes out to gather ingredients, and then starts the process. First the kitchen, then the house at large fill with the aromas of foods never before prepared here, and the not-cook of the day gets the first clue as to what awaits.
Then the meal: The cook calls the not-cook into the kitchen, where the table has been set with a beautiful meal. We ooh and aah over the delights on our plates. “You made this bread from scratch? It’s perfect!” The cook describes the dishes before us, ingredients, substitutions, context if necessary. We have started a tradition where the not-cook of the evening researches the cook’s assigned country or territory and shares the newly-gleaned information. Did you know that Samoa has a population of only 190,000? Bhutan is incredibly isolated, but has a rich culture spanning thousands of years. Hungary has a long history of occupation, and their culinary profile is therefore influenced by Russia, Germany, Poland….
We’ve covered just half a dozen places so far, but a Wooden Spoon night is always anticipated with enthusiasm. We sit at the kitchen table, a candle lit, our voices dipping in conversation and laughter, savouring this food and this moment.