January 22, 2009
I am not a hoarder, but sometimes, when I really like something a lot, I tend to put it away for safe-keeping or a special occasion instead of using it regularly. Before we had kids I used to do this with pretty candles — I liked them so much I couldn’t bring myself to burn them.
I’m trying to break this habit, and I’ve started with this large bowl carved from ash that J. gave me as a birthday present 10 years ago this month. We were living in England at the time, in a tiny student-housing flat we nicknamed “cell block 45” for its dingy, depressing cinder block walls.
I had had my eye on this bowl since we first saw it at Once a Tree, a store in Oxford filled with gorgeous products made of wood — everything from jewelry to toys, cookware to furniture. This series of bowls was carved and then decorated with a burned-in recipe by artist Maxim Hastings. I would practically pet this bowl whenever I saw it, I loved it so much! But at that point in our lives, it seemed too frivolous an item to buy for myself when I certainly didn’t need it. So I was thrilled when J. took matters into his own hands and surprised me with it on my birthday.
He didn’t just hand me the bowl, though. J. constructed an elaborate scavenger hunt that started in our flat outside town, led me on a bus into the city, and ended with a key to a storage locker, where the large bowl had been safely stashed away from my prying eyes. Every time I look at this bowl I smile — I love the bowl, I love that J. knew I wanted it and got it for me, and I love the memory of the crazy scavenger hunt to find the present (plus the care and time that went into planning it).
There’s one more reason why I love this bowl:
The original recipe burned into the rim of the bowl called for “crisp-fried ham.” Since I don’t cook with ham, I felt a little odd about having a bowl that included it as an ingredient. We took the bowl back to the store (we said I was vegetarian, not kosher, as we thought that would be more easily understood!), and they graciously contacted the artist for me. Mr. Hastings generously agreed to sand out the “ham” and replace it with “brie.” So I have a very unique bowl, with a recipe not used on any other!
Here’s a close up:
I’ve been using the bowl to hold fruit on our counter, even though it takes up a lot of space. And after a month of it being out, I still feel my heart happily flip-flop when I see it.