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The Legendary Egg Spoon of Alice Waters and Fanny Singer, Easter Edition

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The Legendary Egg Spoon of Alice Waters and Fanny Singer, Easter Edition

April 13, 2017

The upcoming Easter holiday has us thinking of culinary icon Alice Waters’s way with the humble egg. Every time her daughter, Fanny, who lives in London, makes the journey to her mother’s house in Berkeley, California, she’s greeted with an egg cooked over an open flame in a hand-forged iron spoon. “It’s like the seduction of the return,” Fanny says.

On a recent visit to their Berkeley kitchen, we asked Alice and Fanny about the ritual. “The egg spoon was hand-wrought by Sicilian master blacksmith Angelo Garro of Renaissance Forge in San Francisco,” Fanny told us. “He’s a mythical figure,” said Fanny. “His mind is impotable.”

To Fanny, the egg spoon tradition is illustrative of the pleasure of manual work: “Doing something in a slightly slower, even sometimes less efficient way, is actually really pleasurable,” she said. “I remember that so much from my childhood, like pounding something in a mortar with my mom. It took us ten or fifteen minutes to do something an electric device could do in thirty seconds, but it meant more time being together in the same space.”

Photography by Daniel Dent for Remodelista.

fanny, who recently cofounded home accessories and women&#8\2\17;s clothin 9
Above: Fanny, who recently cofounded home accessories and women’s clothing line Permanent Collection with Mariah Nielson, cradles the famous egg spoon. She’s wearing the Blunk Bangle—a replica of a 1965 design by artist J. B. Blunk, father of Mariah—from her line.
a wood fired brick oven in the open kitchen/dining room of alice waters&#8\ 10
Above: A wood-fired brick oven in the open kitchen/dining room of Alice Waters’s Berkeley home.

To cook the egg, explains Fanny, her mother makes an “oven” of logs over a small bed of coals so heat envelops the spoon on all sides. When the coals are hot and the logs aflame, she heats the spoon, adds a little olive oil and the egg, and slides it into the oven. “It puffs up like a little soufflé,” said Fanny. “It’s kind of amazing the way the egg reacts to the multidirectional heat.”

an aromatic smudge stick is stored inside the hearth. 11
Above: An aromatic smudge stick is stored inside the hearth.

Says Alice of the source of the technique: “I saw it in a book about the magic of fire, with illustrations on cooking in the fireplace around the world. There was a spoon, and an egg in the spoon, and I said, ‘Oh, how beautiful—I can cook an egg in a spoon.’ So my friend Angelo made it for me.”

in addition to fireplace tools, angelo garro makes furniture, doors, sculptures 12
Above: In addition to fireplace tools, Angelo Garro makes furniture, doors, sculptures, and more.

Alice and Fanny share a deep appreciation for the irregularity of handmade goods and their exceptional quality that becomes obvious over decades of use. “Everything in my mom’s kitchen gets used,” said Fanny. “Things aren’t held back for special occasions or special guests; the idea that something can have that kind of permanence and resilience is amazing.”

alice&#8\2\17;s illustrious egg spoon hangs beside the fireplace. (see a b 13
Above: Alice’s illustrious egg spoon hangs beside the fireplace. (See A Berkeley Kitchen Tour with Alice Waters and Fanny Singer for more on Alice’s storage system.)

Angelo also made a double egg spoon for the pair; “it’s for mom and daughter on Christmas Day,” Fanny says.

logs, burning and tented, are ready for the egg spoon. 14
Above: Logs, burning and tented, are ready for the egg spoon.

The importance of the ritual—and its star ingredient—is undisguised in the household. “My ex didn’t like eggs,” said Fanny, “and my mom said plainly: ‘I don’t care for him.'”

matches and natural fiber fans for stoking the fire. 15
Above: Matches and natural-fiber fans for stoking the fire.

“When I was young, we cooked on the fire a lot,” Fanny says. “Maybe three out of five meals at home.”

alice&#8\2\17;s slate topped dining table is from the gardener in berkeley. 16
Above: Alice’s slate-topped dining table is from The Gardener in Berkeley.

Even when she’s not cooking in it, Alice lights a fire to keep the Berkeley chill at bay. “She was policing the quantity of logs I was putting on it just this morning,” said Fanny. “She likes a robust fire.”

fanny singer in her mother&#8\2\17;s kitchen, wearing a permanent collectio 17
Above: Fanny Singer in her mother’s kitchen, wearing a Permanent Collection Sturtevant linen jacket.
alice waters&#8\2\17;s berkeley kitchen. 18
Above: Alice Waters’s Berkeley kitchen.

For a full tour of Alice’s kitchen, go to A Berkeley Kitchen Tour with Alice Waters and Fanny Singer.

N.B.: The egg spoon has stirred some controversy of late; read on in The New York Times.

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