A good chopping block is a kitchen basic, but when you get around to buying one it can suddenly feel a bit like a luxury .
You spend years admiring these great slabs of wood on TV cookery shows, or in your sister’s kitchen, but keep going back to the old plastic thing you bought last century in Woolworths. You’re comforted by a deluded mythology that it’s somehow more hygienic, and that it must be good because it’s still going strong.
But of course it’s still going strong. It’s actually so indestructible that being buried in landfill for three generations wouldn’t kill it. If you looked at it under a microscope, you’d probably faint at the wild lacerated toxicity of it all. Never mind that this hellish peeling thing has been blunting every knife you ever sliced on it.
T&G are based in Bristol, and they make a very wide range of wooden kitchen bits and bobs, but the star of their show, as far as I was concerned, was the Large Tuscany end grain acacia board. It has the sort of weight that suggests chunky longevity – even to a carpentry no-idea like me – and, at £35ish, it seems just about justifiable price-wise .
Mine was a bit rough at the edges when it arrived, and there were one or two scrapes and bops, so I was initially a bit disappointed, but as you use it, you realise these early scrapes soon join all your new scores and cuts. It is a block of wood, for goodness sake. In any case, it becomes good fun oiling the board and in time you start to feel something of an artisan, like Daniel Day Lewis and his shoes. It’s not the same artisanship as seasoning carbon steel pans either – which has a sort of rusty endlessness I find not fun, at all.
Anyway, sizewise, it’s perfect. The Medium, even in my small kitchen, would have been too small. If you’re a bit of a stramash with the chopping and you can’t afford to get one or two for different purposes, go for the Large. Fanning out great mounds of herbs just works better on the wider board if you’re not a terribly precise cook, and if you’re in a smallish galley, it can be doubly handy for lots of laying down and picking up of utensils if it’s near the stove. Speaking of which, the handles work really well, and transporting the board itself from point to point with a mound of diced neep is very easy.
It’s just the right height off the worktop as well, and straight away, chopping and dicing is just a whole deal better. There’s none of that slight hunching you get into with a thinner board, or worse, those glass plate things you see in holiday cottage kitchens that must be some kind of hospitality trade in-joke. Chopping stuff up is one of the great joys of cooking, a kind of transportative activity that is good for the brain, and the T&G board is a smooth and intuitive surface – not at all like my old plastic friend, which was like dicing carrots on the bonnet of a Land Rover.
Spending about three times what your bank statement tells you is sensible for a chopping board does make you seasick at first, but as the months roll by, the Tuscany increases the fun in cooking and you would be very sad without it. As you lay your hand to its oily forestry to start on a carrot, the whole world of making something to eat is immeasurably improved.