For me, one of the more enjoyable aspects of being an antiques dealer is the process of researching our new-found treasures. It’s like being a detective in the middle of a never-ending mystery story. For example, we recently found this great vintage spoon. Copper, fourteen inches long, and definitely well-loved…it had been silvered or tinned at one time, but barely a trace remained.
It had two separate bowls sharing the same center portion and was impressed with the maker’s mark for Jacquotot et Dehillerin located at 130 rue de Grenelle in Paris.
We found it at an outdoor brocante market in Brittany…I asked the vendor if he knew the specific purpose of this type of utensil…I assumed it was for measuring something or other as the two bowls were of slightly different sizes. The vendor said it was for putting eggs in the marmite or pot…he explained that different sized eggs required a different side of the spoon for lowering them into the pot. This seemed a wee bit far-fetched, but we loved it anyway and, thus, it had to be ours.
Back in Paris, the research process begins. Jacquotot we hadn’t heard of before, but some sleuthing on the internet came up with a rave review of the Jacquotot establishment that gave its location as 77 rue Damesme in the thirteenth arrondissement of Paris. Off we went to check it out…unfortunately, many things online are not dated and it turned out that we were a bit too late and Jacquotot was no longer…we figured that we must have been about five years too late, because now there was a modern building in its place.
But we were all too familiar with Dehillerin… …E. Dehillerin to be precise…a fabulous cooking equipment store in central Paris. One of the oldest…if not the oldest…cooking store in Paris. We’ve been there many times…marveling at the shelves full of cooking paraphernalia.
The store has been on rue Coquillière in the first arrondissement since 1820 and has amassed just about everything one could imagine in the way of matériel de cuisine.
Floor to ceiling…everything one could possibly want or need…and in great quantities…
…countless fouets (whisks) of every size…
…and even more rings for containing one’s tartes!
So, spoon in hand, we walk over to Dehillerin…
…where we spy none other than Monsieur Dehillerin busy supervising a delivery as we approach the store…he’s the boss and a direct descendent of the founder of the company…that’s him left of center with the grey sweater and slacks and matching hair. Surely he will know the purpose of our mystery spoon. Once inside, we pull out our treasure and ask one of the clerks who immediately exclaims ”hien…c’est très vieille la cuillère”. The other clerks began to gather around…”oui, c’est très vieille”…everyone agreeing that it was very old.
But what was its purpose? Ah, for that I was directed to ask Monsieur Dehillerin himself…”C’est très vieille la cuillière” was again pronounced and after caressing it a bit, he proposed that perhaps it was for poser sur le plat…a serving spoon intended to make sure that portions were precise.
Once outside the store, we looked at each other and thought that that didn’t quite make sense as wouldn’t the person using the spoon end up getting the food all over themselves instead of on le plat? But then again…this was the opinion of Monsieur Dehillerin who was brought up on these things…and he must know that the French cooks in the early 1800s were far more adept than I!
Stay tuned for more behind the scenes adventures of The Meadows Collection…or check out the results at www.meadowscollection.com