Swords into ploughshares (and vice versa)

Posted by Fuchsia on April 18, 2013
Equipment, Taiwan / 7 Comments

With all the horror of the Boston bombings, and of the way whoever did it turned a useful cooking pot (the pressure cooker) into a murderous weapon, I thought I’d mention something altogether opposite, and that is the remarkable knives made on the Taiwanese islands of Kinmen.

The Kinmen (also known as Jinmen and Quemoy) islands lie barely a couple of kilometres off the coast of Fujian Province, but have been under Taiwanese administration since the end of the Chinese civil war. In the 1950s, during the First and Second Taiwan Strait Crises, they were bombarded by Mainland forces, and the islands were littered with hundreds of thousands of artillery shells. Local artisans gathered up the shells, and transformed them into knives, which have become a famous local product.

This is one of the Kinmen knives I bought in Taipei last May. It’s a lovely knife, pleasingly weighted, and the shopkeeper who sold it to me said that the military-grade steel makes it particularly durable. Bombs into kitchen knives; destruction into creativity, nourishment, life and pleasure.


A spoon-tasting dinner in London

Posted by Fuchsia on May 06, 2012
Awards, Equipment, Events / 5 Comments

©Zoe Laughlin

My piece about this unusual event is in this weekend’s Financial Times Magazine here. Since that memorable evening, I’ve noticed myself on a few occasions unconsciously sucking my cutlery, just to see what it tastes like… One intriguing question that I didn’t have space to explore in the article is why we are sensitive to the tastes of different metals: could it be so that we can avoid those that are harmful, and are drawn to those that we need for our health? Zoe Laughlin told me she had noted that ‘men of a certain age’ have a penchant for copper; while Mark Miodownik cited a recent study backing up the suggestion that zinc, taken with Vitamin C, can help to stave off a cold. ‘Perhaps, instead of shelling out fortunes on mineral supplements,’ he said, ‘We could just stir our hot lemon juice and honey with a zinc-coated spoon.’ You can find out more about the materials adventures of Zoe, Mark and their colleagues here, at the Institute of Making.

P.S. My article about a cheese-tasting in Shaoxing (which appeared in the FT last year) won the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Food Culture and Travel on Friday night! Thrilled!


The ultimate multi-function kitchen gadget

Posted by Fuchsia on January 17, 2011
Chinese cuisine, Equipment / 9 Comments

You can hear me talking about the versatility of the Chinese kitchen cleaver (菜刀) in last week’s edition of The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4.

Using a cleaver is addictive, because it is so ruthlessly efficient. It is also a contagious habit, as my mother and certain of my friends (as well as some readers of my books?) would be able to tell you.

The photograph on the right is reproduced with kind permission of Martin Leeburn.