Spoon Stories: Italian risotto spoons
Follow the cobblestoned Ruga Vecchia San Giovanni through the Rialto Market, past the artichoke lady, and -- if the weather is just right and the fates are aligned -- you'll come upon a man selling his handmade Pinocchios, toys, and the world's most perfect risotto spoons.
My husband Ted and I have traveled to Venice, Italy, many times, occasionally with Cousin Martin or a group of friends. We love to rent apartments with kitchens, so we can shop at this market, a warren of stalls at the foot of the famous Rialto Bridge that crosses the Grand Canal. Here, every morning, Venetians -- women and men, so often men -- come to buy what they need for the day's meals: fish, still feisty, caught just a few hours earlier; glorious produce brought in by boat from farms in the region; local cheese, wine and bread.
Alongside the porticoed market, on the narrow streets, you'll find bakeries, butcheries, pasticceries and groceries. Treat yourself to some carnaroli rice, and go looking for the spoon man's cart in the center of a small campo (plaza). Nobody knows when he'll be there, and that's part of the fun. You need to visit the market every day until you find him.
What I love most about these spoons is the shape of the bowl, pointed on the end so I can stir every last grain of rice in the risotto pot, and the way the handle turns flat for easy gripping. I tried to copy some elements of these spoons when I made my own wooden spoon.
You can see that one of the spoons looks a bit yellow. I used it to stir saffron-infused risotto alla Milanese, and the saffron threads stained the spoon. No matter -- it's like a cast-iron pan, absorbing the character of the food cooked with it.
Like all wooden spoons, my Venetian risotto spoons get better the more I use them.