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July 10, 2011

Spoon Stories: Italian risotto spoons

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Comments

I love wooden spoons as you can tell from my blog header so i found this very interesting!

Every day I learn something new. Until today I was unaware that there were spoons specifically for risotto. Love and learn!

I love the spoons, and I wish I'd known you when you were going to Venice and maybe I could have tagged along on one of the trips. That's on my list of "must go" places!

I'm headed in Venice in October, renting a place in Cannaregio across from the Rialto. Any other tips? Favorite bacari or osterie? I'll certainly be seeing out one of these beautiful spoons. What a great souvenir or gift!

What a great story and what a great find, Lydia. You may have to start a mini-import business the next time you go to Venice. I'd like to put my order in now, please. ;)

I'm ready to visit Venice, and hunt for this gentleman and his spoons. I've not yet been to Venice, but I loved the markets of Bologna.

Maris, there's nothing I love more than a well-used wooden spoon. Do keep yours oiled, and they'll last for many years.

Bellini, the shape is perfect for getting into the "corners" of the risotto pan. So handy.

Kalyn, there will no doubt be another trip before too many more years pass. I needed to take a break from our annual visits, but now I'm aching to return.

GilbyEast, send me an email and we can continue this conversation. I do have some favorites!

Christine, much better to take you with us!

TW, you would love it. Venice is a walking city, no cars, and quiet at night and in the early morning. I'm in love with the city.

These spoons are so pretty. And your post conjures up such neat Venetian images. But I still think your own handmade spoon is the most beautiful one of them all!

Have you read the mysteries by Donna Leon, set in Venice? The detective, Guido Brunetti, goes home for lunch, cooked by his wife (a university professor), and would probably have familiar landmarks for you. Bookworm time!
Always love the spoons, Lydia. Keep this up!

These are great spoons! I love the history with them.

What a wonderful post! And I love the spoon you made. Beautiful!

Homegrown Girl, I might be a wee bit partial, but I think my handmade spoon is most beautiful, too. Thank you for saying so.

Susan, yes indeed, I've read Donna Leon's mysteries. They're so much fun when you've been to Venice and can picture the street scenes.

Barefeet, aren't they just the perfect shape for stirring rice? I love them.

Paz, thank you. I realize that almost all of my wooden spoons have a story to tell, so stay tuned for more Spoon Stories.

Using a proper wooden spoon to 'massage' your risotto is one of the secrets of making it great. I keep one in my knife kit at all times.

Wish I could visit Venice! Someday. Great post

What a deliciously evocative story to go along with your beautiful spoons! Now I'm looking through my schedule, trying to see when I trip to Venice could be in the cards ... Until then, we'll just have to make more risotto!

You even made a wooden spoon?? Is there anything you can't do, Lydia? You are truly an inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

Riyaad, Venice is a marvelous city for foodies. I hope you get there some day.

Amalthea, whenever I stir risotto with my spoons, I say a thank you to the spoon man. I ope to see him again.

Karen, Yes, I made a spoon, probably the only one I'll ever make. It was a celebration of my 50th birthday year. The story is here on the blog.

Wow - what a great story! and THANKS for reminding me about Venice. I traveled there many years ago with my parents and just walked around with my jaw hanging open the whole time at the marvel of this city. My dad and I were so interested in how this city infrastructure actually works, that we struck up conversation (in a barely able to speak Italian way) with some city workers who told us that they can only work under the city streets at low tide and even then it is nothing but a low crawl space! We were there in early spring so less crowded and a bit rainy - but the incredible blooming Wisteria at the time....

I love this post. More please!

Carol, Venice is an unforgettable experience, isn't it? The city captured my heart on my first visit.

EB, no worries. I have 200+ wooden spoons, and lots of stories.

Hi Lydia, I read often and rarely comment, but these spoons can't go by without me saying "oooh". I have a bit of an unhealthy love for kitchenware, and these risotto spoons really do look wonderful. Love the story behind them! Thanks to your post, I'm on the lookout for one of my own. Have a great day!

spoons, something so mundane & taken for granted & yet, you've brought out such a beautiful detail about them...I'll never look at my wooden spoons the same way again!
thanks!

That saffron stained spoon made the artist in me speak and wonder what would it be like if you were to make beet risotto with it :). I'll bet it will be pretty unique in the end. You have a great blog, I'll try to stop more often.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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