Causing a stir
Causing a stir
A ladle is distinguished from a spoon by the length of its handle and the size and semi-spherical shape of its bowl. All of which makes it ideal for dipping into the deepest pots and pans. You can use it to take a large measure of liquid: not only of soup or broth, but of sauce, cream or batter. Using it to serve is a familiar act: generous, quick and easy.
Its capacity is approximate. Indeed, the French say “à la louche" (“louche” being ladle) when they refer to a generous but indeterminate helping. Its capacity lies somewhere between a large spoon and a bowl: about a quarter of a litre. There are ladles of many shapes and sizes, including smaller ones and ones with spouts for more precise pouring. Some are designed to skim fat from the surface of the liquid.
The ladle is the perfect tool for serving a fair portion of soup or stew to each person. With its bowl-shaped dipper at the end of a long handle, it’s designed for clean, quick and nutritionally well-balanced service. Thanks to the ladle, individual rations are no cause for jealousy. Which is how, in French, by the magic of metonymy, the word for ladle (“louche”) came to describe its contents.
From iron to silver
The ladle is at ease in any setting. For the kitchen it was first made of iron, then aluminium, stainless steel and now silicone. But it also has a posh side, which it shows off in the dining room. As part of the silverware, with a family crest or not, it can serve from the beautiful porcelain soup tureen without spilling a drop.
In the kitchen, the ladle is primarily a professional tool, designed expressly for practical use. Its long inflexible handle puts hot liquids in the deepest pots within easy reach. Its ergonomic form can be safely gripped with greasy or damp hands. It allows the user to scoop up the exact quantity of liquid desired, thanks to its demi-spherical "pouch". Finally, the curved end of its handle (which is sometimes graduated) hangs just as tidily on the rim of the pot as on the utensil bar.
Ladies to the party
Since 1884, every second Sunday in October in the town of Comines on the Belgian border, wooden ladles are thrown into the crowd from the town hall. Why? Because a legend recounts that in the Middle Ages a French lord, imprisoned by the English after the battle of Agincourt (1415), had the idea of throwing his large spoon – a beautiful and heavy ladle engraved with his coat of arms – out of his dungeon window. Thus alerted to his presence, his allies were able to lay siege to the tower where he was incarcerated and set him free. A parade of “giants” armed with oversized ladles is now the finale of three days of celebrations marking this picturesque event, which since 1456 has symbolised the right to hold a free fair.
In two spoonfuls In French an old name for the ladle is “la cuiller à pot”. Hence the expression “en deux coups de cuiller à pot”, or “in two spoonfuls”, which means to do something quickly and well. This may refer to the easy motion of dipping a ladle into the soup to rapidly pour some into a bowl. Or to the “cuiller à pot” used by typographers in the days of metal type: in fact a composing stick resembling a small tray, which enabled them to quickly assemble individual letters into words. Or the source may be sailors, for whom it was the name of a kind of sabre. In any case, let’s hope we explained all that “in two spoonfuls”.
Handy little tip
Adapt the size of the ladle to the size of your crêpe pan: for a diameter of 35 cm, you’ll need a ladle of 70 ml for a wheat crêpe and 90 ml for a buckwheat crêpe.
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