31 Dec2013

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Presenting food directly on natural wooden boards seems to be all the rage on recent television cooking shows. Add to that the frequent feature in food magazines and cookbooks of natural wooden chopping boards made by some Ivy-league grad gone woodsman in the far reaches of Vermont or the Appalachians or even Oregon and suddenly au naturel is the latest and hottest thing. Everytime I see such products, I covet but inhale deeply when I see the price tag, as they are almost always way too expensive for me… So here’s how I get the same look, if not the same product, for far less money…

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Driving up to Tagaytay one day, I wondered if all those furniture shops would sell me a raw log… so I stopped, picked out a medium sized (say a meter and a half long) cut acacia tree trunk just strewn on the side of the road and bargained until we reached a mutually acceptable price of PHP3,000. The vendor agreed to saw them into ten board lengths roughly 1.5 inches thick, then sand them down until smooth. I wanted the bark to stay on, but they took it off. I picked up the boards a few days later on our way back from the beach. The wood was rather fresh, despite it looking like it had been there for ages, and I knew it would be prone to warping in the months ahead. Those are the boards hours after we picked them up, in photo up top.

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For the next 3-4 months, I stacked the wooden boards and weighed them down with roughly 40 kilos of tiles, hoping to dry them out naturally (I don’t have a kiln) and keep them as straight as possible. For the most part it worked, except that I grew some mold on the wood, due to the compressed moisture… So on the 5th month, I removed the weights, dried them individually under the hot sun for several days, sanded off much of the mold and let them air dry for another month or so. I think the next time I do this I might dry them on the edges of our lechonan, in a smokey kiln like dry environment…

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Each piece is unique, and the grain of the wood really shows itself when you rub the boards down with food grade mineral oil. I just poured copious amounts of mineral oil on the dried and sanded boards and wiped them with a clean towel. Repeat this twice with a week’s time in-between to make sure the wood is nicely oiled.

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For the holidays, I used them on our appetizer table to great effect. Several guests commented favorably, and three of them ended up taking an acacia board home (in some cases, carted all the way back to South Korea, and if they pass customs, one to the U.S.) as a Christmas gift. I can see them being used as chopping boards for roasts, or to serve charcuterie, or to display vegetables, fruit or even desserts. Once they age and seem really stable, I suppose I could put food directly on the wood, just like they do on those snazzy cooking shows…

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If you put three boards on each other in the center of a long dining table, you could put a whole array of tapas, or a centerpiece of fruit and nuts, etc. At PHP300 per board, I thought they were brilliantly well-priced and I will keep my eye out for more felled tree trunks in the months ahead. There were tons in Northern Cebu after Typhoon Yolanda, and I thought to buy some of them but the Teen thought that was inappropriate (I didn’t see why, better to pay good money for their wood, rather than locals turning them into firewood) so I hesitated on our first day up North. On our second trip, I stopped to try and buy mango and acacia trunks and someone had gotten there days before and BOUGHT every single large tree trunk in sight… bummer.

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Over the years, we have added mango wood bowls, narra bowls, langka wood centerpieces, acacia boards, sampaloc chopping boards, molave lechon stands, ironwood pieces, etc. to our collection… and after this recent experience with the boards, I think I will be actively seeking to expand our cache of wooden pieces.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Ronald says:

    Happy New Year Mr. Marketman and Family!!! God bless!!! :)

    Dec 31, 2013 | 6:11 pm

     
  2. madgwenny says:

    Happy New Year, Mr. & Mrs. MM and The Teen…more power for 2014.

    Dec 31, 2013 | 9:41 pm

     
  3. Betchay says:

    More blessings to you and your family this 2014!

    Jan 1, 2014 | 2:51 am

     
  4. natie says:

    Beautiful gifts from Mother Nature !! Happy new year, MM and family!

    Jan 1, 2014 | 3:46 am

     
  5. marilen says:

    Happy new year, MM and family. And more great ecogreen -ideas!!

    Jan 1, 2014 | 8:37 am

     
  6. ros says:

    Nice!! I wonder what color would they take upon aging.
    Just watched an entire season of Tudor Monastery Farm. Anybody who wants to give it a go at making wooden plates; the way the English did during the Tudor period, here’s how:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjRt0FVs1PE#t=2576

    **if the video didn’t properly skipped the scene starts at 42:57.

    :D

    Jan 1, 2014 | 10:12 am

     
  7. millet says:

    really, really nice!

    Jan 1, 2014 | 9:23 pm

     
  8. myra_p says:

    MM, in the palengke, you can find cheap and effective alternatives in sampaloc wood. I have them in short planks and assorted rounds. FYI :)

    Jan 2, 2014 | 11:02 am

     
  9. Marketman says:

    Myra, yup, have several of those too… This old post, and some shown here. Our caretaker at the beach once but down a dead sampaloc tree and we got someone with a chainsaw to slice a dozen or more chopping boards, we still have them to this day… So useful to buy the most natural implements…

    Jan 2, 2014 | 11:19 am

     
  10. rosedmd says:

    ganda

    Jan 4, 2014 | 4:00 am

     
  11. benchjet says:

    Happy New Year MM! Those are Wonderful!

    Jan 4, 2014 | 8:52 am

     

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