Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Back in the Kitchen

All this talk of bistros and cooking got me thinking about kitchen tools. We've got a very functional kitchen full of groovy tools. But there are some for which I have particular fondness.

The coffee maker. Duh. Because you have to have coffee. You have to have coffee to start the day, you have to have coffee to cap the perfect meal. (This also assumes having decaf in the house, for the light weights. Sometimes I forget that).

The corkscrew. We have to replace this tool about every 2 years. I live by the motto that you should never cook with any wine you wouldn't drink. That's why I've never purchased "cooking sherry" in my entire life and never will. Wine isn't just essential to accompany a meal, it is the soul of a good sauce and is vital to a good daube. A glug of red wine even goes into the house pizza sauce. And as we were reminded during the Big Blow of '06, the beauty of a cork screw is that it isn't powered by electricity.

I call this wooden spatula "Dame Judi", because it is an all-purpose, useful thing, like my mom. I found it at a yard sale for 25 ¢. "Dame Judi" can stir, scrape up deglazed bits from a pan, flip pancakes, flatten fried plantains...whatever is asked of her. She bears her age with remarkable grace.

The microplane. I saw people using these bad boys on cooking shows for years but never had one because a grater is just a grater, after all. Right? Wrong.

Microplane graters come in all sizes. We have a box grater microplane that The Boys gave us for a hostess gift and which I love but this little number gets used all the time. Food glides right over it. I can reduce a hunk of very hard Parmesan fairydust bits without breaking a sweat.

When we were first married, The Spouse worked for a specialty food company. He drove truck in the morning and did computer stuff in the afternoon. One of the benefits of this job was that he got to bring home goods that couldn't be sold. If, for example, a bottle of olive oil broke in the case, all the bottles that got oily couldn't be sold so they just sat in the warehouse, free for the taking. For years we never spent a dime on oil, balsamic vinegar, capers and the like.

Once there was some food show at which his company had a presence and one of the other vendors was using Kitchen Aid mixers at their booth. When the show was over, The Spouse negotiated an obscenely good price for one of the mixers. One of the first things I ever used it for was marshmallows. (Hmmm...haven't made those in a while....). These things are built to last. I expect my great-grandchildren will still be using this mixer.

I ♥ my measuring cups. They are from Nigella Lawson's line of kitchenware. I ♥ them because they look like proper teacups. I'm a sucker for good design and like having tools that are both functional and beautiful. I like that they look like teacups because long, long ago, that's what women used when a recipe called for a cup of something. It makes me feel very retro to use these.

For years I used cheap whisks from the grocery store. Then we discovered Dick's Restaurant Supply. I have 2 of these big balloon whisks. They have heft. That's important when you're whisking egg whites and don't want your arm to fall off from exhaustion.

This is the single most important investment we've ever made. I big, fat puffy ♥ my stove.2 ovens (one with convection ability), 6 burners and a griddle. It is beautiful. I love that it has little legs so it looks like a piece of furniture. I love that it is so big. I love that it is gas. (I'd never cooked with gas heat before we got this...I burned a lot of sauces before I got the hang of it). We turned out some pretty amazing meals on much smaller, much crappier stoves, all the while dreaming of what it would be like to have the capabilities of a big Viking range. And I'll be honest, we balked at the expense. But then we were certain that it would more than pay for itself. The reaction from our friends when we remodeled (designing everything we did around this purchase) the unanimous reaction from our friends was, "I can't think of two people who will get more use out of it". Which helped us feel much more comfortable about spending The Child's first year of college tuition. She can get a scholarship, right?

My hands. And I don't mean that in the obvious sense because of course I have to use my hands to cook. I mean that I consider my hands to be tools. From separating eggs to kneading bread dough (I start it with the bread hook on the mixer but you can over-knead it that way, which is not good, so I always finish the job by hand) to mixing meatloaf, sometimes just using your hands makes the most sense. It's efficient, they are easy to clean and you can't drop them on your toes.

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Blogger Dariush Alavi opined...

Ahhh... a post after my own heart... the fastest way to which is through my stomach...

I do most of our cooking at home too (for purely logistical reasons) and yes, truth be told, I also like some gadgets more than others. I give the steamer a pretty good workout several times a week (asparagus stems, brocolli, rice) and I also prefer to use our microwave as a conventional oven because it means I get to press buttons and watch the clock counting down (yes, I'm a boy when it comes to gadgets) and I really like my knife sharpener 'cause it allows me to make grandiose chef-like gestures at the beginning of the preparation for every meal.

Your Nigella cups are pretty cool... and you know how to make marshallows??? Send me a recipe and I'll send you one back for... umm... let me think... the best ever tiramisu... but then you probably already have recipes for the best ever everything...

February 07, 2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger Citymouse opined...

OMFG .... I want your stove! That is the only thing I dont have, and to be honest I have this fear that if I get one I will neve leave the house again and grow into a very large woman. Thou shall not covet...eeekkk too late

February 07, 2007 11:50 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

D: Marshmallow recipe on its way. (I so have to make some now).

CM: I love my stove so much that I want our priest to consecrate it so we can both be buried in it. There's room.

February 07, 2007 11:58 AM  
Blogger Seattle Coffee Girl opined...

Aaah, the rooster napkin to match your (my) rooster dishes. Nice touch!

February 07, 2007 12:17 PM  
Blogger Dana opined...

1. Your stove is the size of my living room. But then, most things are the size of my living room. Your stove makes me want to cook. That's something.

2. How do you get the actual heart in your post? Much more effective than the word "heart."

February 07, 2007 12:23 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

SCG: I know! Aren't they brilliant? They were hostess gifts from the other night.

You make me giggle, Dana. I'll email you the cheatsheet for the symbols.

February 07, 2007 12:29 PM  
Blogger Red7Eric opined...

I'm envious. The kitchen tool that gets the most use in my house is the microwave.

February 07, 2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Oh, don't dis the microwave, Red. Those come in mighty handy.

February 07, 2007 1:11 PM  
Blogger Renee opined...

My grandma Rita spent her whole life cooking meals for her 13 children and many many grandchildren on a small gas range. When they decided to build a new house to be able to accomodate all her children and grandchildren when they came back to the farm for visits, she splurged on a Viking too.

She never got to cook on it. Before the house was finished, she was hospitalized for dizzy spells and never came back home after they discovered a brain tumor.

I'm sorry for the downer story. I just wanted to say I'm really happy you decided to splurge while you are able to enjoy it - and while countless others enjoy it through you.

February 07, 2007 1:17 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Renee, (boo boo face) May Rita rest in peace. I have been very thankful for my I'm even more so.

February 07, 2007 1:30 PM  
Blogger jp opined...

I'm kind of fond of my ice maker.

February 07, 2007 1:41 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Mmmm, pickletinis, shaken not stirred.

February 07, 2007 1:41 PM  
Blogger Red7Eric opined...

However, I'm not envious of your coffee maker. Because I have the exact same one.


February 07, 2007 3:08 PM  
Blogger Edy opined...

Being separated at birth, you always make sense to me...except for this stuff. Which is o.k. Unbelievable, actually. I will confess that I own something that looks like the whisk, purchased at a Pampered Chef party given by my pastor's wife, in which I was the only one in the group who raised my arm when the question was asked, "How many of you have never been to a Pampered Chef party before?"....or Tupperware, or Mary Kay, or a baby shower, or a bridal shower. Crap. Maybe Iwanski and I were separated at birth.

February 07, 2007 5:20 PM  
Blogger barista brat opined...

i don't know how to cook, but if i had that stove and those measuring cooks i'd be cooking up a storm!

February 07, 2007 6:49 PM  
Blogger rosemary opined...

I like that most of your tools are simple...well except for the mixer thing and the stove that doubles as a family room....I still use my hand can opener. My husband has gotten me three or four spiffy little electric numbers, but I don't use them.

February 07, 2007 6:57 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

No, Edy, we were separated at birth. I've never been to one of those ding danged parties. Not to worry.

But I think Iwanski could be a cousin.

Brat: I even know how to steam an egg with an espresso machine. Tell you what, I'll teach you to cook and you can teach me how to make the perfect cappucino.

February 07, 2007 6:59 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Funny you should mention, Rosemary. I almost posted a photo of my gorgeous red Kitchen Aid can opener. It is the best one I've ever used. I adore it. Dang. I should have posted it. Electric can openers...pft and double pft.

February 07, 2007 7:01 PM  
Blogger Sling opined...

TOOLS!!...I love tools.
If we didn't have mixers and corkscrews,we'd just be apes,.without mixers and corkscrews, sounded better in my head..

February 07, 2007 7:15 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Tools and opposable thumbs, baby!

February 07, 2007 7:59 PM  
Anonymous stacy opined...

whatcha cookin in that there bowl?
i big fat puffy envy you and your mad skillz

February 07, 2007 8:25 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Stacy, a) Where the frak have you been? and 2) that would be eggnog cake batter.

February 07, 2007 8:53 PM  
Blogger HORIZON opined...

Wow- now that's what l call a cooker! Totally agree with the corkscrew as a must and as they say for the rest of it, "form follows function"- there is nothing like good design- l agree.
Nice post Lorraine- now l can picture your kitchen in my mind and you working it-lol.

February 08, 2007 5:20 AM  
Blogger Eric opined...

I must now weigh in on this.
There is an old saying, "The bad Carpenter Blames his tools"
Not to say we are bad carpenters or cooks for that matter, I think we both excell at it. the tools are simple and when possible of Professional grade simply because we use them and they need to last. In our 16 years together we have gone through 2 food processors (on our 3rd) Killed at least one stove and two dishwashers and are on our 2nd Deep Fat Fryer We have also made just as good meals without the fancy tools and it worked out just fine.
I remember one time making home made pasta with a rolling pin and drying it on a broom handle slung across the kitchen. This was B.F. Before Fluffy. But my point is we realized what is important and got the best we could afford with an eye to practicality. No Kumquat Peelers

February 08, 2007 7:38 AM  
Blogger jLow opined...


Okay, now reading this blog is starting to cost me money.


February 08, 2007 1:51 PM  
Blogger Jon opined...

This is a brilliant post. Really. I'm all verklempt. Especially the bit about your hands.

February 11, 2007 8:57 AM  
Blogger gina opined...

I want your stove. But you know that. I also want your measuring cups. They are to die for. Wine - it's a must have. It goes into everything. Spaghetti sauce isn't spaghetti sauce without it. Even on those occasions when I cheat and use Newman's pasta sauce, I add wine. I have most of the rest of your tools, with the same eye to quality and simplicity. I have the most excellent knives, too. The best investment ever. I don't have the Kitchen Maid mixer, though. Daughter does. Nice, nice kitchen!

February 11, 2007 7:24 PM  

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