I wish I could say it was Julia Child who inspired me to don my first apron, but it was spaghetti sauce. You know, the kind from a tall jar dumped quickly into a saucepan while noodles boil on a Tuesday night after a long day of work. Even on a low temperature, spaghetti sauce loves to spontaneously spurt and launch tiny sauce bombs upon the tired and unsuspecting.
I also wish I could say it was the first sauce bomb on my blouse that led me to an apron, but I'm a girl who likes to learn things the hard way. After offering up at least a few favorite shirts on the altar of kitchen cooking, it occurred to me that my shirts could be protected with some sort of temporary shield. Maybe something fabric that could loop around my neck and tie around my waist and possibly have a pocket or two? Something, perhaps, kind of like an ... apron. Oh, duh.
My first apron was sitting nearby all the while, neglected in the bottom drawer by the stove under a pile of folded faded dish towels that only came out when someone forgot to put the lid on the blender before turning it on.
It was a bright-red sandwich board-style apron that tied at the sides and barely hit below my waist, a homemade wedding gift from I-can't-remember-who that always reminded me of the uniforms worn by the people hawking beer up and down the stands at a baseball game. It wasn't pretty by any standard, but once I finally put it on and started sparing my shirts, I fell in love with its function.
Wearing an apron in the kitchen is not unlike valet parking in a city — it seems unnecessary until you actually try it.
Finding My Perfect Apron
A few years ago, my husband gave me a beautiful apron from Anthropologie for Christmas as an upgrade from my first apron. It has the kind of charming cut and pattern that looks like I'm ready to either host an epic cupcakes-and-cocktails party or perform my best Zooey Deschanel impersonation. Possibly both.
The sash (it can only be described as a sash) is just long enough to tie into a perfect bow at the small of my back. It's an apron too beautiful to expose to the elements. And by elements, I mean bacon grease. This lovely little number hangs decoratively in my kitchen, right next to my current go-to, a more well-worn apron I rescued from the depths of a Williams-Sonoma clearance basket when I finally admitted to myself that I needed something more practical.
This apron is serious without being pretentious, it's comfortable without being sloppy, and the ties are long enough to wrap around my back and tie in front, just right for securing a small towel in place. It has two perfectly deep pockets, ready to hold herbs snipped from my plants outside or to keep my cell phone on hand in case I need to snap a shot of my plated food, which I totally do even though I know how much of a dork that makes me seem.
My apron is basically a cape worn backwards.
Each evening my apron is ready to chop with me, peel with me, grate with me, emulsify with me. It jumps happily into the washer every few days, demanding to retain just enough stains to give it street cred. When I'm wearing it, my family knows food is coming soon to rescue them from hunger. My apron is basically a cape worn backwards.
My Apron Changed How I Cook
It started with spaghetti sauce, but wearing an apron led to a sort of personal transformation in the kitchen. Once I was safe from sauce and oil splatters, once I had some place to quickly wipe wet hands, all sorts of kitchen inhibitions left.
What used to be a chore to cook dinner for my small family became my favorite hobby, a creative ritual to challenge myself and nourish the people I love most. For years now, my favorite part of each day is putting on my trusty apron, setting a great Pandora station, and getting started on something delicious.
Sometimes I have a recipe in mind, sometimes I'm winging it in an effort to use up the motley crew of ingredients that remain in the fridge and pantry before the next grocery store run.
It doesn't matter what the plan is; my apron and I can handle it.
Steal this idea: Aprons as Wall Art? Yes, Please!
Do you wear an apron when you cook? What kind is it?