After I renovated my Harlem home/laboratory a few years ago, I kept some random samples of materials I collected, for use in projects and repair. Tiles of ceramic and stone, in particular, morph instantly into other uses. The soapstone sample that I ordered from Vermont S0apstone when considering soapstone countertops recently became the perfect flame tamer/heat diffuser, a intermediary surface between burner flame and pot which keeps foods hot and delicate ones at the right temperature.

Remembering the soapstone pot a friend brought me from Brazil years ago, I researched the heating properties of soapstone: long used for cooking, it holds a constant heat as hot as 1000′. So I just slapped that soapstone tile right on the burner.

When I needed to take the chill of milk in a hurry for the Giant Parmigiano Popover Pancake I wanted to make, I put a measuring cup of milk on the heating soapstone square while I prepped the rest of the ingredients. It worked perfectly.

Sally Schneider

Of course, you could hunt for a grander slab of soapstone from a stone dealer who often sell random slices and shapes for cheap.


…And heat diffusers lead right into trivets. A random bathroom tile has proven useful as a hot pad/trivet to place right-off-the-stove pots and pans on to protect my Corian counter tops.

Sally Schneider


I stuck felt furniture slides on the underside to keep the tile slipping around or hitting too hard on the counter.

Sally Schneider

It works great for any tile that goes with your surroundings…like these handmade Moroccan ones.


There is nothing like the private gratification that comes from an out-of-the-blue, works-great


Here’s a Billy Collins poem about it:


Tonight the moon is a cracker,
with a bite out of it
floating in the night,

and in a week or so
according to the calendar
it will probably look

like a silver football,
and nine, maybe ten days ago
it reminded me of a thin bright claw.

But eventually —
by the end of the month,
I reckon —

it will waste away
to nothing,
nothing but stars in the sky,

and I will have a few nights
to myself,
a little time to rest my jittery pen.




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