Monday, February 6, 2012

Unruly Utensils


The kitchen gets a lot of traffic. Few industrial or convenience foods appear on grocery shelves in Tunisia and if they exist, the price is prohibitive. This means that in any functioning household, someone must cook from scratch everyday, usually the mother. Every day. The good news: obesity problems do not plague Tunisian society and Tunisian cuisine is healthy.
       When I first arrived in Tunisia, my father-in-law would set off for market every morning with his empty basket and return home with fresh meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables that were in season. Every day. And my mother-in-law spent the morning in the kitchen preparing delicious main dishes, salads, and deserts for the day, enough for the family and any possible visitors that might appear at the door. Every day. All the recipes were in her head—no cookbooks. My husband says that those were the good ol’ days, and heaves a heavy sigh. I say he didn’t appreciate his mother’s good cooking when it was in front of him, but, such is human nature—we don’t appreciate what we have.
        Because it was the man’s job to fill up the basket for his family every day, there existed an unwritten code between vendors and shoppers—a sort of male code of honor. Produce is sold from crates and the shopper asks for the quantity needed and the vendor does the necessary choosing and weighing. My father-in-law never came home with so much as a rotten tomato because he knew the vendor and expected to be well served if the vendor wanted his (male) estime and future business. A good system—it worked.
       Then women began to take over the shopping duties and the vendors became sly, slipping in sub-standard produce. When I shop once a week, I go to vendors who allow me to pick out the produce. It’s a constant battle—no more honor code. Something has broken down. In addition, prices have risen steeply due to the chaos and uncertainty in the region. In the end, we are thankful that the produce remains available.
Cupboard door
       Back to the kitchen where I find myself every morning, cooking. Every day. I have stream-lined the process and have a set of recipes in my head. However, I require organization in the kitchen for things to go smoothly. This brings me to the subject of the unruly utensils. I could put them in a drawer, but then I would have to fish in the drawer every time I needed a wooden spoon or a ladle or some other item.
My solution: a pot painted to match the cupboards, which sits on the counter and keeps utensils upright and within easy reach. Recently, the bottom fell out of this 30-year-old pot, so I glued and cemented it back together. It didn’t look so great; it was worn.
So I mosaicked it. Of course, I could have drilled a hole in the bottom and planted it, but, those unruly utensils were driving me nuts!
A new life. I think the pot can go another 30 years. And order has been restored in my kitchen. Now if the current government could restore a semblance of order as well…

30 comments:

CREATIVE MIND said...

this is so nice,perfect organizer :)
and definitely it will be useful many more years!
all the best!

rtquilter said...

Brillian, Nadia! Mine are in a stainless steel container from Lee Valley- efficient, effective, but it has no soul!

Sujata Shah said...

It will last not only 30 more years but you just made it look brand new and beautiful!
Life in Tunisia sounds so much like how I grew up in India...SO much of time was spent in the kitchen!

Linda said...

What a fascinating snippet of life in Tunisia! (And I love your utensil holder too)

fiberchick said...

I use a similar pot in my kitchen in the same way but it is not nearly as beautiful as your mosaic one. I find your posts about life in Tunisia absolutely fascinating...

lola ruiz said...

love the colors and desing of the pot.
In Spain money matters are getting harder as in most european countries these days. To cook every day is necessary here too.










I too cook every day. I have to.

susan christensen said...

So interesting, Nadia, to learn about the household division of labor then and now - The painting on your cupboard reminds me of the traditional Norwegian folk painting that decorates many of our local buildings here in Petersburg. Lovely job on mosaic refurbishing your utensil pot.

Nifty Quilts said...

Thank you for the lovely story! It's interesting to think about how your life is shaped by these trends. And I love seeing the creativity and ingenuity that results. Great pot too!

Carol said...

Thank you for sharing your country's history. It sounds wonderful. I'm always admiring your mosaic work and can't wait to see what you've done next. Have an even more creative day today.

Muddling Through said...

Great job, Nadia, it is really pretty and functional as well. And yes, I'm sure that the fresh foods are much healthier for all of us. We've given up a lot in the name of "convenience".

Connie Rose said...

Stunning cache pot, Nadia! I've kept my unruly utensils in a tall basket for eons. I love Middle Eastern food, which I imagine is what Tunisian cuisine is all about, so I'm sure your meals are scrumptuous!

Roxanne said...

A very nice redo. I'd be lost without my utensil jar.

Radka said...

Again, a very interesting post, a little more insight into your life :)

Debbie said...

This is just beautiful....I really like the new life you have given it. I do appreciate your posts about life in your part of the world....it puts things in perspective. Thank you for that.

Ms. ∆×∆p×≥h/4π said...

Nice post--those sly vendors won't get away with much when this woman shops, loss of trust or not. It's always buyer beware in any gender when the bonds of honor and friendship are frayed, and it certainly is a fraying time in the world. there will never be true peace in any marketplace so long as justice is not well served. My wish for you is that your country will find it's new order soon, and that it might be as beautiful as your mosaic, including all the broken pieces in one harmonious vessel.

Merilyn said...

Your utility holder looks great!!
I'm glad I don't have to cook everyday, I wouldn't have time to do anything else LOL, like hold down a job!! I do a big cookup about once a week and make meals and freeze them to take to work with me! I also cook from scratch, don't like stuff that comes in packets!!

katell said...

Merci d'écrire si bien avec ta tête et ton coeur, tes articles sont toujours aussi passionnants, mêlant ta créativité avec ta vision aigue de la société dans laquelle tu vis. Venir d'ailleurs te donne des repères pour mieux "sentir" les choses, mieux les analyser... Et bravo pour cette si belle rénovation !

Salsy said...

I so love your post Nadia. Great pot! We too have some of our utensils in an old pottery vessel on the bench, and then a few things on a hook-rail too...frees up the bench. (in fact when we added this we called it our kitchen extension).
My partner does the shopping and cooking. And we count our riches in life with wonderful fresh produce, food made from scratch, and a little from our own garden too. :)

aracne said...

A very enjoyable post, I usually go to the market and pick my own products, but a few of the vendors are trustable, and it is a nice feeling to think that someone is not trying to cheat on you.
I love your pot, of course, I like to have beautiful things around me especially if they are in use every day.

Carole said...

Maybe you should run for the government! You'd have them organized and honest in no time!
Love your utensil pot.

Emma said...

If I could justify the expense of convenience food or organic, I would, occaisonally, but as we only have the infrequent tiny market we use the local supermarket (11m away)You can't always have the roast chicken meal you planned as they might have sold out, so you adapt. He loves his food, & cooking, I just love my food! He cooked for the first 10 years, I cooked for the next 10 years, for the chldren' sake & he's cooked for the last 10 years...every day ;)Fab pot!

Michele said...

Your life in Tunisia is so interesting. Thanks for sharing it. Very different to me. Your utensil holder is beautiful! What a great way to make an old object new again and avoid unnecessary waste.

Rachaeldaisy said...

Your post is fascinating! It's a shame things have changed. I really love your mosaic! The green tiles are wonderful with the pale flashes through them. I too keep my utensils in a pot, and old vase actually, it's much easier to find what you need!

Becky said...

Wow! Thanks for the FMQ-ing advice you gave me. I'm really enjoying your blog! I decided to quit my job a few years ago, and the loss in income forced me to cook, mostly from scratch, every single day, 3-4 times a day. I now feel lucky that I don't have to shop each day too. As mentioned, it's a whole heck of a lot of work, but we do eat much better. Our garden and my husband's hunting also helps put food on the table.

Linda said...

What an interesting blog post - I did enjoy reading it! And I really like your mosaic pot; you did a great job.

Maggi said...

What a great job giving the pot an even longer life. Really interesting about the markets.
Thank you for dropping by my blog.

Sarah said...

I loved reading about life in Tunisia - how different to mine! Your mosaic pot is absolutely beautiful and should do another 30 or so years!

Melanie R. said...

Your pot is beautiful and reminds me of how my kitchen is organized. Your blog made me think of my son's friend. He was looking through my pantry for something to eat and said, "You don't have food, you have ingredients."

Diane J. Evans said...

Love what you did to this pot -- you have one of the most creative minds I've had the pleasure to travel into. What talent!

Here's wishing you a future of peaceful days.

Diane

Claire said...

I really love this.