Obviously, when it comes to choosing what to take on a camping trip, most of us are seriously tempted by the convenience of employing paper plates, foil platters and plastic cutlery. Pretty understandable really. But I detest eating off paper plates and as for cutting into a delicious steak with a teeny, plastic knife? Hmmmm. As I’ve done more camping over the years and got better at packing less, I’m also getting good at carefully choosing some more weighty cooking kit that is much more of a pleasure to use. Like my favourite enamel platter which can carry a whole BBQ-load of steaks and sausages from campfire to table; or my hefty folding picnic knife. Even a wok-shaped pan which can handle more bacon than you would ever think possible at breakfast time, and then heat enough curry to feed 10 adults at dinner. These things are now packed each and every time we head off camping.
The niceties of taking things that actually work when you’re camping, despite the space they might take up, speak for themselves. What I didn’t realise is that it kind of works in reverse too. When I use those bits of kit at home on a rainy London Monday, my mind wanders off to the time I held on to them while standing next to a crackling campfire knowing I was about to make lots of hungry campers happy. I get a smile on my face every time I pull out the two steel cake cooling racks that enabled me to make the best BBQ’d salmon with crispy skin ever. It’s these kinds of moments that get a girl through Winter. Seriously, they’re needed. And as I build up my collection of kitchen kit and try and invest in smart, long-lasting bits of kitchenware that will work for years, I can even stretch to thinking about how much joy they’ll also bring my boys when they get older, as they too remember all the adventures we had together.
And that brings me to Ariele Alasko and her ridiculously gorgeous spoons, knives and boards. Alasko is a Brooklyn-based furniture builder and woodworker and she sells her pieces via her online shop. She works with plaster lath, the small strips of wood that come from the old walls of hundred-year-old brownstones in Brooklyn that are constantly being gutted. She collects the materials, cleans it, and uses the wood’s natural coloration and patina to create intricate patterns in her work, without the use of any stains. Every piece is hand carved by her in her little studio.
So highly prized are her pieces, that when you do visit her online store, you’ll likely find everything has been sold already. But follow her on instagram and read her blog and you’ll know as soon as there is a spoon or a butter knife up for grabs. Or try your luck in one of her numerous, generous giveaways!
These are pieces that will last you a lifetime and land a smile on your face every time you toss a salad or spread some butter on a piece of warm damper fresh off the campfire. And for a long, long time after that too.
All photographs by Ariel Alasko