The mission was simple—go forth and scout gift ideas for foodies.
It quickly became apparent simplicity was not on the menu. If you find the grocery's cereal aisle or drugstore's toothpaste selections bewildering, do not, for the love of all things holy, ever consider buying a spatula.
When children fall asleep in coming nights with visions of sugarplums in their heads, I will be tossing and turning with specters of spatulas haunting my dreams. I did not know this until recently but I am apparently a Luddite when it comes to flipping food. The approach of "it's clean, flat, has a handle and is within reach" is apparently only slightly more advanced than turning the food with my bare hands and howling "Hot thingy hurt haaaaaaaand!"
Hours strolling through places such as Southern Season, Whisk and Kitchenworks opened my eyes. There are more spatulas than stars in the sky. Some are more brightly hued than stars too. I could wrap and give spatulas to everyone I've ever known and have thousands left over, mocking my antisocial behavior from their store shelves.
Obviously, I've been unfair to my plain black slotted spatula by requiring it to flip burgers, pork chops and fish. At least, that's the conclusion drawn from discovering several labeled "Fish Spatula." They tend to be more rectangular, in case you're flipping the one that got away and not the short fish of reality. One "fish spatula" is a two-part affair, with a metallic part that clamps the fish to the more traditional spatula part as if you were flipping it with a pair of really funky pliers. Another's packaging helpfully notes "May also be used on burgers." You don't say? Wow, style and versatility.
Near the fish spatulas was a mutated one labeled "Panini Tongs." So, adding to my list of kitchen sins, I have violated the laws of foodie nature by using my trusty slotted black spatula to make a panini. I feel so ashamed.
At least spatulas aren't all serious business. Some have personality! There's the one shaped like a guitar, perfect for coffee shops populated by folk singers. There's also one that looks like two eggs sunny side up, perfect for couples still in the "aw, you made me brunch" stage. The shape of it zigs and zags so much, as egg edges tend to do, that my confidence would be shaky about maintaining all of whatever was being flipped on the spatula.
What seemed like days later, thinking I was emerging from the land of spatulas, I stumbled to an adjacent aisle to find ... more spatulas. But these were no ordinary spatulas. These were spatulas for your grill! Wood and metal and manly, they glistened with sturdy confidence. No effete primary colors allowed.
However, if your grill is lost in the past and engages in metrosexual behavior, you can assist its grooming with a "Grill Comb." OK, it may not be a styling tool. It did say something about being "simply a better skewer." Although how placing a piece of food one at a time on short individual comb teeth is "better" than pushing one long skewer through a row of food chunks and being done is beyond me. Then again I'm the sort who's flipped fish and burgers with the same spatula his whole life.
Other oddities seemed less so after that experience. The mug designed to look exactly like a red Solo cup, only with a handle, seemed almost cute. And, while I don't really want to think about mice in the kitchen, the cheese grater shaped like a mouse may appeal to some. So, too, the can opener designed like a toucan, the monkey-shaped peeler, the turtle fruit-slicer and the shark-shaped bottle opener (menacingly called The Decapitator). They could be used to introduce kids to cooking, for example, although such tools might impart a bad kitchen hygiene message about the propriety of animals in food prep areas.
Also, after learning it exists, I normally would forever worry my life is lacking without The Mayo Knife in it. The promise to "get it all and spread it on," sounds so promising, so exciting. But, instead of that neurosis-fueled feeling of inferiority, I remain haunted by legions of spatulas.
There is hope though; a cure to banish the screams of incorrectly flipped meat and fish from my nightmares. And I have J&D Foods to thank. J&D, making proud-to-be-human strides in sleep science, has developed Bacon Scented Pillowcases.
Yes, that's a thing. The company assures that if you follow the proper care instructions your head can be enveloped in bacon-y aroma for six to 12 months. At $12.99 plus shipping and handling, it's a ... well, it's something that will be perfect with the bacon-print throw sold by SkyMall.
If you can't find a gift for the foodie in your life when you go to Southern Season (at University Mall in Chapel Hill and Cameron Village in Raleigh), Kitchenworks (also at University Mall) or Whisk (at Waverly Place in Cary), we have to question if you're even trying.
Then again, you may be paralyzed by an abundance of choices. Less overwhelming but also fertile ground for gifts certain to please are NCMade (www.ncmade.net) and Bella Bean Organics (www.bellabeanorganics.com). As the name suggests, NCMade curates products from North Carolina into gift baskets of varying sizes and themes. Bella Bean specializes in delivering organic goods grown by area farmers to your doorstep.
This article appeared in print with the headline "So...many...spatulas"