Jen McAllister

For the Utata 19 Oct Weekend Project (This is My Home).

One of the most maddening things about trying to cook or bake in my kitchen is that none of the surfaces are of the right height to be truly workable. Ideally, you should be able to touch your work surface with your arms slightly bent. The countertops around my sink are too high; my kitchen table is too low. Happily, I managed to correct the table height a little bit by investing in a tavolini board, a maple board with a lip on one end (which hooks under the table), and a raised board on the other end (which helps to keep flour from splashing all over the table). It's still not a perfect height, but it's much, much better than it was.

There is not a day in our lives in which this board is not in use. Every light dusting of flour that shapes every loaf of bread; every flour-imbued pastry cloth on which I roll out every pie crust; every dough that gets kneaded, rolled, shaped or pressed; every cutting board that holds fruit, vegetables, meat, fish or chocolate, all of these things are made possible by the board. This is where I find myself on most nights and weekends, this is what I see before, during and after I bake. It is as familiar to me as my own face.

Good thing I don't treat my own face nearly as cavalierly as I do this board. I am not by nature an orderly person, and I am embarrassed to admit that more often than not, the tavolini serves as a dumping ground for condiments and equipment, such as the garlic jelly and burnt sugar essence I bought in Mystic; the custard cups and pinch bowls I use for mise en place; two heads of garlic; a box of kitchen matches; the small rolling pin I use for Indian breads and tartlet shells; the ruler I use for both of these things and countless other breads and pastries; a jar of roasted Szechuan peppercorns and kosher salt, ground together; a bottle of slivovitz; a bag of salt-rising yeast; a take-no-prisoners peppermill and a creme brulee torch. I am very bad about putting things away -- and yet, eventually, I do put them away, for there is dough to be rolled, and it needs its room to move.

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