When it comes to design, I am drawn to simplicity. In choosing what I wear I favor pieces that are functional, with classic lines that serve my body. As an athlete, I have excelled in sports that require minimum gear; in fact, sometimes it seems the equipment is there only to confuse me. I am a swimmer, yogi, hiker, dancer; any sport that requires more complicated gear than a pair of shoes and a racquet is thus cause for alarm. I will inevitably hurt myself, another person, or the gear. Inside the kitchen then, the most sophisticated, and my favorite cooking tool is my palm-sized brass mortar and pestle.
There is something mystical about a mortar and a pestle in their primitive functionality. They are useless without one another, and can only work together. There is nothing excessive in this pair; sheer elegance in its respect for measure. I have even been tempted to place them in my library.
Yet, I keep my mortar and pestle next to the various small containers of saffron threads in the kitchen cabinet. They discretely fit in any little nook. Even on top of a carton of spices, the heavy and grounded mortar balances itself gracefully. When I look for them inside the dark cabinet, the shiny brass gives itself up quickly, so I never have to waste time in frustration looking for them in my over-filled cabinet. I use my mortar and pestle exclusively to ground and crush the golden threads of Saffron. I place one or two pinches of the saffron threads into the palmed sized mortal which protects every single precious thread; the smooth surface minimizes waste. I hold the mortal in my left palm, my fingers reaching all the way and passing the rimmed cylinder. Holding the textured and ribbed column of pestle with right fingers I can beat, and crush and swirl the golden particles with its flat end, until they are pulverized. The sound of the brass transforms the duo into a tibetan musical bowl. The intuitive handling of the primitive tool releasing the smell of the saffron, inevitably cause a Proustian recall, connecting me to a primordial time of cooking. Alas, the experience is always too short; the grinding never takes longer than 30 seconds.
NYC, Fall 2012
One thought on “Mortar and Pestle”