Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mrs. Wirgler's Spatula

Mrs. Wirgler’s Spatula

My kitchen is a hodge-podge of chipped coffee mugs and hand-me-down plates. I have friends who have beautiful pots and pans and gourmet mixers and chef knifes and the latest seasonal place settings from Pottery Barn. Jon asked me the other day if I dreamed of having fancy kitchen stuff too.

Sometimes I do. Sometimes, when I am fixing dinner, I think how pretty and inviting it would be to have shiny new pots boiling pasta on the stove top. Or sometimes, when I am setting the table, I think it’d be real nice to have bright, flowery plates.

But all in all, I am not so concerned about my kitchen ware and once I leave the kitchen I don’t really think about it so much.

However, there is one kitchen item I think I’d like to be buried with.

For our wedding gift, Mrs. Wirgler loaded up a big box full of all sorts of the things you don’t really think about, but you really need in the kitchen. Mrs. Wirgler and her family lived across the street from Jon when he was a wild monster of a child. But she was always kind, always patient and gentle, even when what Jon really deserved was a good whipping. Mrs. Wirgler knew her stuff. There were wooden spoons and serving spoons, measuring spoons and wire whisks, and a simple metal spatula.

I love that spatula with all my heart.

The end of the handle has been broken off for years. I don’t seem to recall how it got broken, but when flipping a burger, although your hand is close to the flame, your grip is steady and agile and seemingly even more sturdy than when the handle was long. The metal on the shoveling end is pressed wide and thin and is able to slip under and lift the most fragile of pancakes. It’s even been known to ease its way under a crepe or two without so much as even a tiny tear, top those with some fresh berries and whip cream, and you’ve got Christmas morning at the Hughes’. Stop by on Lasagna night and you’ll see us enjoying even the bottom layer of pasta, all thanks to that aged and broken spatula.

People can say what they want about our trusty old kitchen utensil. They can say it’s not very glamorous, that it’s worn or broken; they may even go as far as to say that it needs to be replaced. But that spatula tells our story… candle lit dinners in a tiny apartment in Santa Barbara, baby girls eating their first scrambled eggs, turkey burgers on warm summer nights, Christmas morning crepes, Grammie’s pot roast, Nana’s casserole, barbeque chicken tacos…and last night’s lasagna.

Imprinted just below the broken handle is a stamp that reads: stainless steel. And the funny thing is, even with all those sticky sauces, all that caked on grease, and even the burnt parts, there’re no stains, and it still shines bright as new. I’d be hard pressed to find a spatula as strong and faithful and enduring as the one Mrs. Wirgler gave us nearly twenty years ago.

Some people think that when they get a new spatula it will work perfectly for ever after. Some people think that when it gets broken, that it won’t work anymore, that it can’t be fixed and they should just throw it out and get a new one. Some people think that the burnt cheese at the bottom of the pan is just too much to bare.

But I know…that if you treat it kindly, wash it well, put the time and work in to scrub off the burnt and sticky parts and you keep it in a safe place… and then if you can see that the broken parts may actually make it work better, be stronger, more able, more useful, then…well, then… you’ll just have something truly beautiful. Truth is, it’s just better broken than it was before…and yet…it still shines as bright as the day we were married.