January 16, 1998 in Features

Ask It, She Will Answer Martha Replies To Queries About Flatware, Folding Fitted Sheets, And Preserving Parsley

Martha Stewart New York Times S
 

Q. I’ve just started collecting utensils with the original early-plastic handles, which are yellow-tan in color. What is this called and how do I care for it? Lynn Shirley, Broken Arrow, Okla.

A: It is impossible to identify a piece without seeing it, but it certainly sounds like Bakelite flatware.

Bakelite was invented in 1907 in Yonkers, N.Y., by a chemist named Leo Baekeland. He was trying to develop a new kind of shellac, but instead ended up with phenolic resin, the first synthetic plastic, which he named Bakelite. In the late 1920s and the 1930s, it was used for jewelry, buttons, billiard balls and radios, as well as for the handles of inexpensive, stainless-steel flatware.

Bakelite fell out of favor as more durable plastics were developed. The colors of Bakelite aren’t stable, and it is more fragile than modern plastics. But to collectors, these characteristics add to its charm. Unlike most plastics, Bakelite actually improves as it ages; the colors mellow, becoming especially beautiful and luminous.

Bakelite flatware is best washed by hand; cleaning it in the dishwasher will eventually cloud the finish and weaken the joints. Store it out of direct sunlight, which fades the colors, and away from heat sources, as temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit make Bakelite brittle.

Handle it carefully, but don’t be afraid to use it. Your Bakelite has already lasted for decades, and chances are, you will enjoy it for many more.

Q: Can you tell me how to fold a fitted bed sheet neatly? - No Name, Memphis, Tenn.

A: Everyone should learn this simple method for folding fitted sheets. It is the key to a tidy, well-organized linen closet.

When you read the instructions that follow, it might seem complicated, but once you have a sheet in your hands, it makes perfect sense.

The following directions are for a right-handed person. If you are left-handed, reverse them if you wish.

1. With the sheet inside out, place one hand in each of two adjacent corners.

2. Bring your right hand over to meet your left, and fold the corner in your right hand over that in your left; the corner on top will be right-side out.

3. Reach down and pick up the corner that is adjacent to the one that was in your right hand; fold it onto your left hand, on top of the other two corners; this third corner will be inside out.

4. Bring the fourth corner up, and fold it over the others so it is right-side out.

5. Carefully lay the sheet on a flat surface, such as a bed or the table you use for folding laundry. Adjust it into a rough square shape with one rounded corner where all four elasticized corners are layered together. Fold two sides toward the center, so the square is folded into thirds and you have a rectangle with straight sides; the elastic will now be hidden.

6. Finally, fold the rectangle into the shape that best fits on your shelf.

Q: I’ve heard of placing fresh parsley in salt to preserve it for later use. Can you give me details about this? - Frances Bakken, Livingston, Wis.

A: This technique, like the two others that follow, is especially useful in the summer when your garden produces more herbs than you need. You can use them at any time of the year, though - to ensure that extra sprigs from the grocery store don’t go to waste.

In a glass container with a cover, alternate half-inch layers of kosher salt with single layers of fresh herbs, starting and ending with salt, which absorbs mold-breeding moisture and inhibits the enzymes that turn fresh herbs brown. Refrigerate, and use the herbs within six months.

The freezer is also a good way to preserve parsley or basil; the herbs keep their vibrant color and fresh taste. Wash and pat dry parsley or basil, and remove large stems. Chop the leaves in the food processor, then slowly add olive oil through the feed tube until the mixture reaches the consistency of a wet paste.

Spoon the mixture into an ice-cube tray, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. Transfer the frozen cubes to a resealable plastic bag. Add them to dishes such as tomato sauce, soups and stews.

Or try this parsley roll, which doesn’t contain oil. Pack leaves into a quart-size resealable bag, making a compact 1- to 2-inch layer at the bottom. Roll it up tightly, secure with rubber bands and freeze. When a recipe calls for parsley, slice some off the end of the roll and add it to the pan.

MEMO: Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail. Her address is: mstewart@marthastewart.com.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Martha Stewart New York Times Syndicate

Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail. Her address is: mstewart@marthastewart.com.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Martha Stewart New York Times Syndicate


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