What’s Cooking in That Egg Spoon? A Bite-Size Culture War


Kat Kinsman, the senior food and drinks editor of the website Extra Crispy, devoted a column to what she saw as the inherent sexism in the egg-spoon attacks. If Francis Mallmann, the subject of a recent Esquire profile titled “Is Francis Mallmann the Most Interesting Chef in the World?,” had cooked an egg with a spoon instead of roasting a lamb on a wooden cross near blazing wood, he’d be a hero, she wrote. (Ms. Waters, incidentally, has given Mr. Mallmann one of her own beloved egg spoons.)

The new round of criticism also struck a nerve with Samin Nosrat, a cookbook author and New York Times Magazine columnist. Cooking an egg in an iron spoon over open fire is really no more precious and probably a lot less elitist than cooking an egg in $300 sous-vide machine, she said in a recent interview — except that women tend to do the former and men the latter.

“Is it any more practical to sous-vide an egg? No,” she said. “But it’s this amazing thing because a man is using it.” Consider the chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. When he celebrates these same ideals, she said, “he gets a hagiographic ‘Chef’s Table’ episode. It pisses me off.”

And now, the latest salvo: In Slow Food’s version of an in-your-face move, Alice Waters’s daughter, Fanny Singer, has introduced an egg spoon for sale through her website Permanent Collection.

The 16-inch iron spoon is hand-forged to Ms. Waters specifications by Shawn Lovell, whom Ms. Singer described in an email as “an incredible female blacksmith in Alameda, CA.”

The spoon costs $250. Five percent of each sale will go to the Edible Schoolyard Project, which began after Ms. Waters made gardening and cooking in schools her life’s work.

Photo

The famous Alice Waters egg spoon, now on sale for $250.

Credit
Alex Welsh for The New York Times

Ms. Waters has never marketed frying pans or signed her name to stoves. But this time the stakes were high enough, Ms. Singer said: “This is attitudinal and atmospheric.”

Still, $250 for a spoon? Doesn’t that just play into the hands of the haters?

“The price of the spoon is beside the point,” Ms. Singer said. “What’s ridiculous is that we treat men and women differently. I have never heard the word ‘precious’ used with a man who has promoted some little specialized gadget.”

For her part, Ms. Waters is as much a supportive parent as she is the figurehead of the spoon wing of the #MeToo movement. “It is hilarious,” she said, “but in another way, I want young boys to hold that spoon, too. I want them to feel the sense of the fire and the closeness to the simplicity of it. It helps you become sensitive. We are hoping men become sensitive and we find each other in that place.”

And what of Mr. Bourdain, the original egg-spoon skeptic? He concedes that there is a bit of sexism baked into the egg-spoon wars, but for him, the issue isn’t gender equity. It’s stupidity.

“I am quite sure male chefs have committed far, far worse crimes in the cause of pretentious and pomposity,” he said. “There is plenty of silliness out there to make fun of on both sides.”

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