Try flipping bacon with a putty knife

As the years fly by and we stagger randomly down the broken sidewalk of life, we become accustomed to losing things along the way – misplaced keys and pocket knives, socks devoured by the clothes dryer and receipts necessary for the return of defective appliances purchased during moments of retail irresponsibility.

These missing items eventually turn up – or don’t – and their loss is gradually forgotten.

Some essential lifestyle items, however, are not so easily dismissed when they unexpectedly disappear.

The kitchen spatula, for instance. One of the most mundane items to be found in any home, a missing spatula leaves a huge gap in one’s culinary repertoire and frequently prompts shouts of anguish and dismay when it disappears.

I know. I’ve been shouting and anguishing for several days now.

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

Last Sunday I was industriously frying some bacon when I reached for my trusty spatula – and kept reaching. My longtime kitchen helper was nowhere to be found and I had to do some major maneuvering with a nearby putty knife to turn my bacon before it was transformed into sizzling strips of crunchy carbon.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a very big deal, but when was the last time you actually lost a large stainless steel spatula right in the middle of preparing breakfast?

Probably never.

And I don’t even know where to begin to look for a stray spatula.

After all, I never work on my car with the utensil, never take it to work to scrape overly enthusiastic co-workers off the ceiling, don’t use it to scrub my back in the shower or swat toads down by the creek. My spatula never leaves the kitchen. At least not until now.

I received no sympathy from my Philistine colleagues here at the newspaper.

“Pull yourself together, man,” advised one co-worker. “Go down to Big Lots and buy another one. Hell, get a half-dozen and stash one in every room. You’ll never be without one!”

Sounds like good advice, but we’re not talking about just any spatula here, amigos. No, indeed.

The spatula in question is a 14-inch, heavy-gauge stainless steel workhorse made, I might add, not in China or Sri Lanka, but in Norway, a country famed for its hand-crafted spatulas.

Besides, it’s got sentimental value. My kitchen spatula was purchased one bright spring day 15 years ago as I squired the newspaper’s feature editor and her three comely daughters through a gourmet kitchen shop off Sonoma Square.

That spatula is, alas, the only memory I have of those captivating young women. They haven’t spoken to me ever since I promised to take the youngest of the three to the county fair pig races and then, er, stood her up.

Where do missing spatulas go, anyway? I already checked all the cupboards, the dishwasher, the broiler and the refrigerator – no spatula.

On the plus side, however, I did recover three mismatched blue socks…

Originally published March 12, 2006