Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Overstocked Kitchen

Dear Bon Appetit,

Surely you are totally insane. Ice cream maker? Potato masher? Juicer? Cardboard cake rounds?

Here is a tip, Bon Appetit: if there is a cheap and easy substitute for something (i.e. dried beans=pie weights, should one ever need pie weights, or saucepan+metal bowl=double boiler), it is not a kitchen essential. Additionally, why would you recommend two tools for the same job (microplane grater & zester)? Also, no one uses basters, ever, and interestingly enough, anything heavy will serve as a meat mallet. I use my fists. And unless you're serving ten or more people on a regular basis, a square cake pan lined with foil makes a handy roasting pan. It fits a five-pound chicken or roast. I can tell you from experience.

All told, the number of kitchen "essentials" I do not own? Thirty-one. Thirty-one. And I do more cooking than most people I know. I know that we're talking about a "well-stocked" kitchen here, for someone who has a particular interest in cooking, but seriously, Bon Appetit. Get real.


Anonymous said...

Not to be crass, but a turkey baster was used to inseminate the "pregnant man" who recently gave birth.

expat said...

Well, I never! I don't know that I can read your blog anymore, knowing now that you run such a ramshackle affair. You have a lot of nerve cobbling together tasty meals without all those kitchen gadgets. At the very least you should be going to a respectable restaurant that does employ those tools.

It's people like you who are the ruination of our country!

DiningonCents said...

All I can say after reading that list is that people used to make good food before the invention of all those tools, so we can continue on in their tradition (it just take a little more work and less storage space to motivate you for that!)

Anonymous said...

I love it whenever you write a letter to someone. Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is lacking 25 of their items I do consider my pie weights an essential item. But then I do use them regularly and don't always have dried beans on hand.

Lara said...

Wow, I don't have 41 of them, and I have quite a bit of kitchen crap. Then again, I wasn't familiar with a lot of the things and said I had some, when I may not actually have them, and vice versa.

"Wooden Skewers" for testing cakes and cookies? Is that the same thing as toothpicks?

English Major said...

Lara, as far as I'm concerned it is. It may also be the same thing as "a fork," depending on whether or not I have toothpicks.

And anon, I suppose I might buy pie weights if I were blind-baking piecrusts on a weekly basis, but until then, it's all about the dried beans (I've also always got them on hand).

And to the first anon...well, ick, if that's true, but also, not sure that counts as a kitchen usage.

Expat, I'll try to do better. I'm going to borrow tart pans from my parents' house this weekend--does that count?

Jennie said...

Wow...I am only missing eight. I must be a total gadget nerd. Although I will say, once I tasted my first homemade ice cream, I could never go back to the grocery store stuff.

mOOm said...

A potato masher was standard equipment when I was growing up in England :)

We use chopsticks as "cake testers". Chopsticks are an essential in our kitchen.

Jenn @ Frugal Upstate said...

I think they are in cahoots with the kitchen gadet marketing folks!

I love Alton Brown of "Good Eats" and he always refuses to buy a gadet that can only be used for one thing!

Oh-and for testing doneness of cakes-you can use a piece of uncooked spaghetti too. That way if it isn't done and you have to bake some more, you can just break off the "used" bit and try again.

Laura said...

Okay I will admit I totally crave the ice cream maker, but that may be due to my recent infatuation with Italian gelato after spending two weeks in Italy. But the suggestion that you need poultry shears to cut chicken made me laugh out loud. Ever heard of a knife?

English Major said...

Wow--I will totally use either a piece of dry spaghetti or a chopstick to test cakes in future. Lucky for me that I heard this advice now, since I'm baking tonight. Thanks, Moom & Jenn!

And Laura and Jennie, I'm with you--I do want an ice cream maker. But I just don't have space in my kitchen to store one (and my parents have a big old monster one inherited from my uncle), so it's going to have to wait until I'm in my dream kitchen and don't plan on moving around a lot anymore.

English Major said...

Oh, and Laura, I kind of do understand the "poultry shears" thing--it's way easier to butterfly a chicken with shears than with a knife, but chicken has a high risk of cross-contamination, so they don't want to recommend that you use your regular kitchen shears. (I do anyway, and wash them in very hot water with lots of soap afterwards.)

Taylor said...

I love my ice cream maker - I don't have too many kitchen gadgets, and even sold my KitchenAid mixer to Trent at the Simple Dollar last year, but my ice maker is fabulous. I bought the cadillac of mixers - a White Mountain one with a 1 HP motor and wooden bucket - it is wayyyy better than any of the plastic ones.


claire said...

I saw a recipe for ice cream recently where you put the cream and sugar in a ziploc bag and then put the bag inside a larger bag full of ice and salt, and shake it! Easy and you don't need a fancy gadget. I can't wait to try it myself.

Caleb said...

The ziplock bag trick is pretty simple and works pretty well. Lots of fun for kids too. Not to mention it's a good arm workout

Calico Cali said...

I like the caveman method myself.. it's just more practical and cheaper, maybe not as fast but you get more personal with your food when you pound it with your fist!

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Trevor said...

My wife and I just recently got married, and I can't tell you how many of those "essentials" we ended up with.

Oh well...

Zombie Money said...

I think I need to actually use my kitchen more :)

Icey said...

Agreed! The BEST cooking magazine I have found that is truly for the home cook but has delicious gourmet recipes, tips, etc...Cuisine at Home. I keep my subscription current. I have never been disappoointed.

Jerry said...

Wait a minute... I can lead my own way around our kitchen, and I can cook more than spaghetti. What the bleep are "pie weights?" Seriously, until I read this post I had never even seen the term. Having baked pies without them, apparently they are not iron-clad insurance for a decent pie.

Christine said...

All Hail to erradicating the need for kitchen gadgets! (It's kind of colonial). But, you know... back in the days people had to cook without "essential" cooking gadgets. So, you're right...not really essential.

BTW: ice cream can be tossed back and forth across your kitchen floor in 2 coffee cans. A small one to hold the ice cream mixture and a bigger one to fill with ice & salt. Or... you can even use a ziploc back and mush it with your hands until it's creamy ice cream. My son proved that one in his science class. ;)

Great letter! -from someone who would rather cook with my hands then to cook by gadget.

Milena said...

Gah! Basters are so much easier than other methods!

Double Gah! The meat pounder with varying-sized prongs? Wonderful!

Of course, I don't have one in my own kitchen - that's what mothers are for..."Mom, I need you to bring that flour sifter too..."

Anonymous said...

EM, where have you been?!

Anonymous said...

Are you quitting this blog without even a farewell?

Taylor said...

Please, may we have just one tiny post? It doesn't even have to be financially related! Are you okay?

sara l said...


Nil Zed said...

The list is more than reasonable to me, but then, I've been cooking family meals for 25 years.

When cooking small meals for yourself/ couple / + few friends in a small kitchen, double duty items are essential. But as the years go by, you find yourself cooking both larger numbers of items at once as well as larger quantities. Eventually, you need to roast something that won't fit in the small foil covered pan. Eventually, you want to drain something & can't becuase the colander is currently being used as a steamer. (Get a 2nd colander in that case, not a silly steamer insert!)

I lack only 9 of the items after 25 years of gradual accumulation, mostly through thrifts & gifts, but the occaisional splurge. Many of the remaining items, I could make or find cheaply if I wanted. For example: cake rounds = circle cut from cardboard box & covered in foil. For home, I'd use a plate. But for taking elsewhere, I'd do this & not have to worry about getting the plate back. Others I've never needed: pie weights. (I don't use beans either. I use an exact same size pie pan. No puffy crust ever, plus no browning.)

I am back to square one regarding electrical equipment since I moved overseas. Mum-in-law gave us an electric kettle because no UK kitchen functions without one! But in almost 2 years the only other items I've justified are a stick blender to puree soup and baby food & a toaster b/c my husband's day cannot begin without toast & marmalade. He was using the oven grill/broiler, but I was fed up with the crumb production & distributions that caused. Then when the baby began walking around there were safety issues easily solved with a cheap toaster. Everything else I chop, slice, mix or blend by hand.

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