Champagne coupes and crockery: Creatives share kitchen favourites

Food month: 'If it could speak, it would tell of laughter-filled moments around the kitchen table'

A painting featuring artist Mollie Douthit’s stovetop, hand-cranking popcorn popper

A painting featuring artist Mollie Douthit’s stovetop, hand-cranking popcorn popper

 

I have a tiny kitchen but that doesn’t stop me falling in love with fads. It’s only a lack of counter and storage space that prevents an onslaught of bread makers and their ilk moving in, subsequently to gather dust. To earn their keep, kitchen items have to be both beautiful and functional, and beloved ones have to have a little extra to add the magic.

So, while I’m fond of my nutribullet and couldn’t do without the kettle, I really adore my natty little green biosnacky seed sprouter, and my large knife, handmade by Hugo Byrne in Limerick. The knife was rendered even more beloved by the fact that I had to wait for it, and also because it needs special care. Thinking about this pair, I wonder what it says about me that I love gently nurturing small tender shoots, and also chopping stuff up into little pieces with a hefty but well-balanced piece of tempered steel? Six creative types share their own kitchen favourites.

Sasha Sykes

I’m obsessed with objects that carry memories, and functional pieces with a humorous twist. These 1930s champagne coupes do both exceptionally.They came into my hands from my inspirational aunt, Rosebud, who played life to the full and left us too young.They really remind me of the person she was: you think you’ve got your head around everything you see in front of you, but there’s always more to discover. In practical terms, with these glasses: you think you’re finished your drink and there’s an extra glug in the stem as it is hollow. 

Artist and designer Sasha Sykes with her champagne coupes
Artist and designer Sasha Sykes with her champagne coupes

It’s genius. They originally came from my grandmother, the artist Pamela Drew, and having read some of her diaries from the period, I’m impressed the glasses are here for this tale! I use them more for cocktails these days – they’re perfect for the twist at the end. We had Manhattans recently with my Carlow Cherry Brandy lurking unbeknownst in the stem. There’s nothing like a cocktail to jolt the endorphins, and just looking at these glasses makes me smile and think about what mischief we might create in the kitchen.

Sasha Sykes is an artist and designer

John Murray

We have serving plates of every kind on our kitchen dresser, both my partner Simon [Jackson] and I are compulsive crockery collectors, old and new. But of them all, I possess a favourite: a large Mason’s Ironstone serving platter. We picked it up for a few quid in a charity store in Bristol, where we previously lived, and it just begged to be taken home. I am not sure why, but for a reason unbeknownst to me, I always select this plate to serve my beetroot and walnut salad. I think secretly some plates choose their preferred dishes.

John Murray favours this large Mason’s Ironstone serving platter
John Murray favours this large Mason’s Ironstone serving platter

This has been the centrepiece for many a dinner party over the years and has travelled with us from house to house. If it could speak, it would tell of the many laughter-filled moments we shared around the kitchen table with friends and family and of eavesdropping our cheeky gossip-fuelled conversations and discussions of how we planned to put the world to right. I also think of all the families it has served before us. This plate represents the simple joy of how a meal creates togetherness, gratitude and meaning, and how a pretty, but simple inanimate object can inspire creativity and evoke such happy memories.

John Murray is co-founder and director of Sustainability at Modern Botany

Keith Walsh

I feel a special affection for our kitchen table. It’s the place where we gather and eat and it has always been at the centre of family life. But when lockdown happened, it was also where I worked. My wife Suzanne was in the office upstairs and I was here writing a new play, with my son Finn doing his homework at the other end. Maybe that’s why the play is called Pure Mental?! It’s a beautiful, big wooden table by Flamant. I think it’s oak, it’s a French maker, and I imagine it cost more money than I’ll ever know – or ever be told... We’ve had it for 10 years, so it’s nearly as old as my son.

Keith Walsh at his oak table by Flamant
Keith Walsh at his oak table by Flamant

Before lockdown, we had great parties here. You can seat eight comfortably, sometimes we went up to 11. It has been a loyal friend. It is also very forgiving. We look after it by staining it from time to time, but we don’t use coasters or anything. Mugs go straight down! Working in the kitchen was difficult, I was envious of my wife upstairs. For one thing there’s the proximity to snacks, which is always a distraction. You can see the fridge from the table... But the play is written now and we’re in rehearsals, then it goes on tour. It might be time for another party soon.

Keith Walsh is a writer, creative director and broadcaster

Mollie Douthit

My vice of popcorn leaves me with a clean colon rather than tarred lungs or a shot liver. It has been a passion ever since I can remember. I like it popped in oil and salted. Hold the butter. I have standards and expectations of my popping abilities analysed by the velocity, sound and time a batch takes to make. So, like a wine lover invests in the perfect cooler for their beloved bottles, I have a stovetop hand cranking popper. A kitchen item that serves one purpose, it takes up a lot of space but is critical to the perfect kernel explosion.

Last year, when I moved back to Ireland from the United States, it was one item I reluctantly left behind – due to its size. I made do with regular pots, and mismatched lids. However, when Christmas came around, I opened the large package from my family, and inside was a shiny new popper, and bag of kernels for the inaugural pop. I don’t think I could have been gifted anything more meaningful than this piece of kitchen equipment, which allows me to enjoy my favourite food in its prime form. The gift warmed my soul showing how well my family knows me, accepts my vices, and (being that they’re not destructive) supports them.

Mollie Douthit is an artist based in west Cork, she exhibits with the Molesworth Gallery

Karen McCartney

There is the most beautiful shop in the Sydney village of Woollahra selling Japanese homewares. I had a path worn going back for “just one more thing – sure we might never be back again!” I was there as the third wheel on a holiday my mam and aunt organised to visit my cousin.

Karen McCartney with her Japanese fruit basket
Karen McCartney with her Japanese fruit basket

As a westerner who has never been to Japan, I have a major love for what I think of as the typical Japanese aesthetic. Give me that Yamamoto look any day: clean lines, reduced colour palette, where everything functional is also beautiful. Okay, I know, not everyone in Japan is cooking their omelettes in a specialised copper pan with a hand-finished wooden handle, but in my dream world, everything would be that special. So back I went to this shop time and again for incense, tiny blue and white serving plates and this black (of course) fruit basket. It is handmade using one piece of Japanese paper and finished in lacquer. The design’s simplicity and minimalism embodies everything I admire about the Japanese culture.

Actor Karen McCartney stars in SHAM by Gúna Nua, running in Limerick, and streaming on demand

Alannah Monks

I’ve spent my career collecting the perfect items to style a home, and along the way my own home has become more and more of a playbook for styling hacks. My kitchen is no exception. However, as much as I would like to keep my kitchen picture perfect it does have to function as a place to prepare food sometimes! So I’ve learned to only add pieces that serve up equal form and function. My favourite example of this is my collection of chopping boards, especially this black marble piece. I find that adding luxurious natural textures like marble elevates any space and it is a pleasure to use over industrial plastic boards.

Alanna Monks says her black marble chopping board is the ideal size, shape and weight for serving charcuterie
Alanna Monks says her black marble chopping board is the ideal size, shape and weight for serving charcuterie

Black stone has always held a special place in my heart; my mother made a point of using black granite slabs to protect the kitchen counters, and black slate was a staple kitchen texture in my grandmother’s kitchen. I even opted for a polished black stone for my kitchen island, against all advice because of its mirror shine (which I will admit is a pain despite its prettiness!). But this board strikes the balance of being beautiful and useful with its matte finish and heavy grain to hide the cuts and gouges of use. This particular board translates from food preparation to presentation seamlessly, I find it the ideal size, shape and weight for serving up charcuterie, and it always garners compliments from guests over wine and cheese!

Alannah Monks is creative director of Oriana B in Dublin 3

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