Going Junking

On the hunt for red w/white striped wooden handled utensils

Dale and I got to do something last weekend we haven’t done in a long time: Dig through antique stores to find that one perfect “something,” which happened to be some antique metal utensils.

We saw some wooden handled utensils (like the ones pictured above) with white stripes (well, age kind of makes it look a little yellowish stripe) last year when Dale was laid off. There was what seemed to be a complete set in almost perfect condition at a booth at an antique mall we found in Norfork, Arkansas.

We couldn’t afford them then due to our job situation and when we went back last weekend, they were gone. I was disappointed at first, but as I combed through other booths, I found several that met my quality standards, which included no rust on the metal and little to no wear on the handles.

As it turned out, not buying those last year worked well. We really had a lot of fun going through the booths looking for that perfect find.

Dale and I don’t go “junk” hunting much anymore because, well, as you can imagine, we really just don’t need much in a 480-square foot house. Especially when we have a huge storage building crammed to the ceiling with boxes of stuff we don’t have room for anymore.

When I posted something about buying a new set of Le Creuset enamel coated cast iron cookware, one of our Living Large community, Kim Smith, who lives not far from us in Harrison, Arkansas, reminded me there were plenty of antique stores there in which to purchase antique utensils (making use of our mantra here of reuse and recycle).

The neighbor of ours, who uses only organic foods and makes everything from scratch, also told me how horrified she was to see a television cook using plastic utensils in hot pots. “Don’t they know the chemicals that are released from plastic when those get hot?” she asked.

Those conversations reminded me of our clandestine find last year and sent us back to buy these great and useful utensils. I checked and we can use metal in the new cookware, as long as we’re careful.

What’s even more fun is we didn’t find the pie server, large metal serving spoons (both solid and slatted) or the paring knife, so I see more antiquing in our future.

Now, I cannot wait until we have the money saved for the new pots and pans. Who would have ever thought I would say that!?

What kind of utensils do you cook with?

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16 Responses

  1. I grew up garage sale-ing with a favorite auntie. Then, I would have bought certain things for their quaintness. Now? I’m more inclined to seek out old-fashioned items that can still be used today. No plastic, no chemicals.

  2. Oh what fun! My in-laws go to estate sales every weekend and really enjoy it. I poke around in antique stores once in a while when I can. I can definitely see it as something I will like to do more when I am older and retired and have time on my hands.

  3. Sheryl says:

    I love going antique hunting. Finding things that look homey and like they were enjoyed for so many years brings a certain kind of comfort along with it, don’t you think?

  4. Kim says:

    Hey! What a surprise to drop by and see you talking about me! I love your finds.

    I use bamboo utensils and find them more durable than wood. I have several from the Pampered Chef that are nearly indestructible. However, I still love my wooden ones too…

    I’ve heard that the Mt. Home area is a great junk/thrift area because of all the retirees who are downsizing their stockpiles of stuff. I need to go check it out one of these days.

    • Kerri says:

      Hi, Kim! Yes, it can be a good area, but because it is also a recreational area, the prices can be high too. This mall didn’t seem really bad on the pricing. There is a store in MH called Flashbacks that’s really fun. A lot of 60s and 70s stuff in there. I donated a bunch of my mother’s stuff to Goodwill once and went to Flashbacks. About halfway through the store, I realized he had some of my mother’s things. He bought them from the Thriftstore and was reselling them at ridiculous prices. 🙂 We plan to get over your way to see if we can find the rest of our wooden handle stuff!

  5. mat says:

    My wife and I come from 2 different schools of thought concerning budgetary confines. She pretty much just hates them. I like the challenge. Normally I can get her along for the ride, as long as she manages the weekly monies–she gets to have some measure of control over what goes where.
    Sometimes, it’s just hard to figure out what wheel is squeaking the loudest. She has her eye on replacing the dishes that we got for our wedding (almost 9 years ago) because the bowls are chipping, one or two plates have been broken. I’m not convinced it’s time yet–maybe after another 6 years of service.

    • Kerri says:

      HI, Mat. See my note below about dishes. I’ll be using my mother’s “good” dishes when these wear out. I think she would approve of us enjoying them and especially not using more resources when new ones are made, marketed and shipped from China.

  6. Olivia says:

    Talk about antiques……..! My cookware is mainly stainless steel saucepans (copper bottomed) that were my Mum’s. She used them when WE were kids. We also have a new one made by Paderno but my husband burns everything in them and now they are showing signs of metal fatigue. Then there are are all the cast iron frypans, again mainly antique cause those things just never wear out if properly cared for. Cast iron stewpot, one Le Creuset. Had more but now two are enough. Wooden and metal spoons. It’s not that I am an antique hunter as we live in an 1875 farmhouse and most of our furniture is antique, again mostly inherited, as is most of my china and silverware, etc. So I am actually kind of fed up with antiques but no sense in replacing it at this stage of the game unless the kids want it :). I have one new nonstick frypan that my chef son gave my husband because he always burns eggs that have to be literally scraped off the cast iron and then they have to be reseasoned. I only use it occasionally to cook scrambled eggs and with that I use a silicone spatula.

    • Kerri says:

      I’m actually very jealous, Olivia. I would love to have some antique cookware of my grandmother and mother’s. I do have a bowl and vinegar bottle of my grandmother’s and my mother’s china, which is packed away. I’ve decided when my dishes wear out, I will simply use the “good” china of my mother’s. At over 50 years old, it’s been used maybe 20 times and is now sitting in boxes. Might as well make some use of them while we can!

  7. David says:


    Has your area been troubled with all the flooding in your region? So many from fairly near you in Arkansas and Missouri on various email lists have been talking about all the flooded areas, closed roads, and so forth. I do hope it mostly bypassed you folks!

    We recently bought a set of hard anodized aluminum non-stick cookwear. The newer formulations of non-stick technology seem far better than the older ones, both in durability and in safety. They cook fabulously–and we’re using wood utensils with them so we can preserve them for a very long time.

    (Ours is the KitchenAid “Gourmet Essentials” line–we were going to buy the Cuisanart set but read too many stories of how many arrive with warped pots from shipping stresses–and, living in Ukraine, that was not acceptable. )

    Despite what most factories say about “metal if you’re careful” there is little doubt they reduce the life of the pots.

    As for “plastic” being a problem–there are some major differences between one material and another. Basically, the best “soft” utensils for non-stick are wood, nylon, or silicone. Since silicone is used for various medical implant devices, that would seem a fairly safe choice as well.

    I do like many of the antique utensils, though–but again, living here our choices are quite limited. That’s why when we bought the pots we also bought a set of Victorinox knives–top rated by Cooks Illustrated but very far from the most expensive knives out there. They are fabulous knives, but like most really good tools they respond well to being extremely well cared for.


    • Kerri says:

      Thanks for asking, David. Yes, our area is seeing a lot of flooding again. Turns out that 100 year flood in 2008 was actually a “3 year flood.” We had over 15 inches of rain last week and our lake rose a whopping 20 feet. Thanks for all of the advice on utensils and pans. What do you think of bamboo utensils instead of wood?

      • David says:

        Sorry–although I am fully aware that bamboo is technically a grass, for utensils I simply consider it one of the “wood” varieties. It can be an outstanding choice.

        Hard anodized aluminum is twice as strong as stainless steel, by the way, and because it is such a good conductor it can be among the best-cooking options.

        There are various utensils from OXO that are quite good as well. I will soon be picking up one of their side-cutting can openers, I think–the resulting opened cans are far safer than the traditional openers leave them, and the lids can actually be placed back on the can as tops if you don’t happen to use the entire can and want to keep the rest for a few days in the refrigerator.

        Their measuring cups are genius, too–you can instantly see the level of the contents from above. In all, I like a mix of old and new utensils for cooking–some things are as good as you can get in the old style, while other things really have been substantially improved lately. To me, the aesthetics of the antique things around do not replace the ease of use of some of the best modern stuff–really good tools can turn cooking from a necessary evil to a joy.