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Glass chopping boards and the pleasure of cooking

I hate glass chopping boards. You’re going to tell they are more hygienic. That there are no small knife cuts for germs to gather and they don’t expand and crack, creating more nooks and crannies for bacteria. I’m afraid your rebuttal is going to fall on deaf ears. I don’t care that glass chopping boards are more hygienic. They are horrible to use.

What’s more, you’re wrong. I just looked it up. Sure, glass is easier to sterilise but you just need to look after the wood by oiling it. Did you know that? The oil seals the surface and protects the wood. To completely sink your argument, glass boards dull your knives. No one mentions that fact, I’m not sure why. It’s not very well known. Everyone seems preoccupied with germs. I suppose that reflects our current state of mind about kitchens- how clean are they? How new and equipped are they? We overlook the simple things, like oiling your chopping board. So, the glass board dulls your knife after just a few cuts and it’s much more likely that you will cut yourself.

Plus, the glass slides. Some bright spark came up with idea of glass, because it was so sanitary and sometimes quite decorative but they didn’t actually try one out on a countertop. I have never ever understood how designers and designers managers seem to sign off on a product when they have clearly never tested it. They never, as a result, realised that a glass board needs rubber feet. Otherwise as soon as you put any sort of pressure onto the sheet of glass, say to cut an onion, the board goes one way and your common allium, half sliced, goes flying in the other direction. The other direction is always the floor.

The worst and most important problem with glass chopping boards however is the experience. When you hold your tomato flush with a wooden surface it holds steady. There is traction between the grain of the wood and the smooth red tomato. Against glass, the shiny fruit rolls around and slips about. You have to crush your unblemished vine-ripened tomato into the glass to secure it, and further bruise it with a vice like grip on its sides. Any damage to the flesh of a nicely juicy tomato immediately turns the delicate pink interior to grainy slush, like sand mixed into snow.

Finally, the most disgusting moment. The sound and feel of your knife blade hitting glass. Maybe it doesn’t bother you, you may tell me you’ve never even noticed it, but it sends shivers up my spine. The sound is both dull and high pitched like a cat falling from a building. It clunks and clanks and jars your shoulder like a weapon firing. You can feel your knife blunting and you’re certain that you’ve cracked the glass just slicing gently. Chopping carrots on a board like that is akin to flying through a snowstorm over a mountain range- pure jolting terror. You can’t possibly enjoy cooking when this is the precursor?

If more of us valued food, cheer and song over hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

J.R.R Tolkien

I’m currently temporarily staying in a rented flat in the South of France and it has a glass chopping board. When I started cooking and discovered this fact I let out a low groan. Then I ranted to my boyfriend Andy for the duration of the food preparation. ‘Why would anyone choose this?’ I asked indignant. He, for once, was happy to let me chop as he hates the glass things more than I do.

We discussed the chopping board throughout our cooking. We added to our list of hated and befuddling kitchen items: plastic chopping boards (an equally unpleasant tactile experience), blunt kitchen knives (so dangerous, so difficult to use, so easy to fix), cheap washing sponges and sub-par peelers. Give me a few more minutes and I could probably add ten more. All of these objects are tools that I use in the kitchen every day because I cook every day. When they don’t work well they drive me nuts. They almost ruin cooking. The only reason they don’t ruin cooking is because I get to eat at the end.

Anyone entering a shop and selecting a glass chopping board over a wooden one for their kitchen must be thinking of design over function. Before you suggest price, I want to step in and throw that idea right out. There is very little extra cost involved in buying a knife sharpener, a decent peeler and sturdy sponges. The chopping boards, regardless of material, cost about the same. The only reasonable answer must be that the anonymous shopper was lured by the idea that a glass chopping board is modern and fun and had absolutely no intention of actually using it. Therefore they must never enjoy cooking.

Form follows function - that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.

Frank Lloyd Wright

The glass chopping board is only the tip of the iceberg of things that irritate me in other people’s kitchens. I would love to know what they would find annoying in mine. I admit that I haven’t spent a lot of time or effort on my pans. Great pans is something I aspire to. My reasoning for having cheap for-now pots and pans is that I want really excellent ones and I can’t afford really excellent ones. So I don’t bother with almost great pans. Instead I pray for a windfall or a mystery inheritance and then I can carry my big bag of unexpected money to the nearest kitchen shop to trade it in for a cubic metre of tri-ply stainless steel.

This logic still doesn’t excuse the glass monstrosity, although it could explain the rubbish peeler. Frank Lloyd Wright was right when he insisted upon form and function working together. If every designer and designed object held that motto at its heart, I really believe we would live in a more efficient, happier world. However, this ethos is surprisingly difficult to find in an affordable kitchen utensil.

The very core of my frustration with all of this is that I want everyone to enjoy cooking. Of course I don’t wallow elbows deep in recipe books and arrays of spices every meal time. Most lunches I toast bread and dig around for something to put on it. Several times a week I eat rice and vegetables or soup. At least once a week my main dish is chips. I am not urging you to be a Nigella or a Martha. That is a fantasy- fun to watch, unhealthy to replicate. But I wish I could visit every kitchen with blunt kitchen knives and sharpen them. I may accidentally smash the glass chopping board on the way out. Cooking can be so relaxing and satisfying (on every level), but it has to start with some attention to small things.

For potato peelers I recommend Oxo Good Grips or a simple stainless steel Y shaped one. Take a carrot to test it out.

Photo by Tookapic/Pexels

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  • Elain

    I am so with you on this one. I have a glass one my mum got me many years ago , but it is just sat gathering dust in my kitchen while i use my many wooden ones.

    • Emma J

      Are you keeping it because your Mum gave it to you? If not, let it be the first thing you put into a bag for the charity shop. Unless you have a friend who particularly hates cooking that you can give it to? xx

  • Elain Burchell

    Alas because my mum gave it to me. I am a sentimental person and so i shall leave it to my children to dispose of in myany years to come……… lol

    • Emma J

      I’ll tell Andy. He can frame it and keep it as a memento. No way we’re using it though I’m afraid…sorry : /

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