Object

Apology Kintsugi

I went into a cheap housewares shop, anxious for a whisk to fulfill my New Years resolution to learn how to make zabaglione.

Of course they had an enticing super-sale. Although I am devoutly anti-impulse buying, €1 each for a collection of assorted small white dishes. These I use a lot. I thought about, and then indulged the thought of a ramekin for butter, which could free up the expensive oven-safe ASA tartlette dish for its intended purpose.

The ASA, having lived only as a soap dish and butter dish, frightened by the prospect of the oven, and further disoriented when I used her to eat a cookie in bed in the middle of the night, was overcome by anxiety and jumped off the bedside table.

I apologized for scaring her and promised to make it up to her by giving her kintsugi. And of course I told her she could continue to be the butter-dish.

Now the problem I’ve got myself into is that the popular kintsugi cult depends on repair with epoxy. Most epoxy is not food-safe. Food-safe epoxy is both extremely expensive and not, as far as I can tell, available in Italy. (But the fabulous French educator Alex has done a wonderful video about it.)

Going a bit deeper I learn that Kintsugi artisans from Japan are rightfully outraged by the “cultural appropriation” of using epoxy at all.

Fine, so what do the Japanese use? Lacquer. Well that’s not food-safe either. Which brought me to the only sticky alternative to lacquer, shellac, which is normally not used on anything but wood, but does (often inadvertently) turn out to be gluelike, as well as foodsafe, and available in a clear (“bleached”) version. Furthermore you can make it at home.

I’ve been to the cake decorating place, where I had to explain to the owner that some pastry chefs really do use real gold powder on their creations. Went home to google and found that one of the top global supplier of edible gold flakes and powder, alongside its restoration gilding material, is Manetti in Florence.

Now I’ve learned the word for shellac in Italian, as well as the specific ingredients I’ll need and have found a supplier in Turin.

So it’s become an adventure not only in the high price of cheap goods, but also in meeting all sorts of vendors who I wouldn’t have got to go talk to otherwise.

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