Lame excuses

The lame, or grignette as it is sometimes known, is a humble tool of French origin, which is used to make slashes in proved bread dough before it enters the oven. A lame is basically a razor blade on a stick. It’s pretty simple and, as a result, the design of lames tends towards function rather than beauty. Here’s the one I’ve been using for the last couple of years.

Lame lame

You aren’t likely to find something as prosaic as this on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum or MoMA. The lame has a very specific purpose, of course. In fact, in the context of food and cooking on the whole, it’s rather obscure. No wonder nobody thought to pay close attention to the finer details of such an undistinguished implement. Until now.

Primal Kitchen lame boxed

In today’s post arrived a package quite out of the ordinary. Surely no mass-produced tool would come as handsomely presented. This lame from Primal Kitchen in the US is handmade from walnut, a beautiful (and expensive) wood, and uses brass thumbscrews to hold a razor blade at an angle. Apart from being easy on the eye, it’s a pleasure to use.

Primal kitchen lame open

Admittedly, the lame isn’t a tool one uses for long periods of time – quite the opposite. Nonetheless, the ergonomic sweep of the handle fits the hand perfectly, while the angle at which the blade is held makes scoring dough easier and cleaner than when using traditional designs that hold the blade at right angles to the handle.

The Primal Kitchen lame uses ordinary double-edged safety razor blades, which are cheap and widely available from chemists and supermarkets. Being double-edged, each blade can be used twice. In any case, bread dough hardly blunts sharp edges so a single blade can last for years. The lame comes with a box of five; you’ll be getting old before you need to buy more.

Primal Kitchen lame ready to use

William Morris famously exhorted his readers to “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. If the two qualities can be combined in an object, so much the better. Although thoughtful design often comes at a premium, the Primal Kitchen lame is just over £12 and postage and packaging is less than many shops charge for delivery within the UK. I reckon it’s worth paying a few pounds more for a tool that will outlast its plastic equivalents many times over, and looks good too.