Sunday, January 10, 2010


At a recent sourdough bread baking class offered by (the marvelous) Brooklyn Kitchen, baker Nathan L. explained the use of a lame (a curved razor blade mounted on a plastic wand). One uses it to score the top of a dough boule in order to give the ball room to expand properly, generally allowing gas to escape and steam to rise. A swipe of the lame also serves as a baker's signature.

Nathan L. said, It's a snotty thing to have but it's fun.

I thought, "It's snotty?" Gadget-y, yes. But snotty?

I emailed Nathan L., telling him that I was trying to figure out what he meant by snotty.

He responded: "The comment was off the cuff, but what I was likely trying to get at is a personal opposition to having single use tools in the kitchen - especially things that can easily be replaced by another multiple-use tool. The lame is no better than a simple straight razor and is only nominally more flexible than a sharp knife. If you're making bread commercially, it makes sense to use one, but for the home cook it shouldn't be a high priority investment - unless of course you want to be snotty and show off to your friends that you have a French razorblade-on-a-stick."

It seems to me that if you are an aspiring artisan baker, the chosen tools of your trade are simply your tools. A master baker in Cavaillon uses a "sliver of tin clipped from a can" (Peter Mayle described it thus). A first-time non-baker in New York City can make do with a training razor-blade.

Nathan L. might have said snooty, or snobbish, or snobby. Snotty, though, is most current, isn't it?

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