Friday, July 07, 2006

why i like to cook

I can't cook in my kitchen right now. The countertops were removed about a week ago, and along with them went the sink and garbage disposal. The dishwasher is in place but disconnected. The stove and fridge are hooked up and useable, but when you have to wash every dish in the bathroom, you tend to not cook at lot. Washing greasy pans in the bathroom sink is just plain gross! And paper towels have become the plate of choice.

I confess, I've had a Happy Meal every day we've been in town since the kitchen was torn up. I love being able to get the tiny serving of french fries with my small hamburger and diet coke, not to mention the toys which I plan to give to some little friends soon. But how many calories am I consuming, really? I'll let you know when I find out. As I type this, I've got the McDonald's nutrition info site loading. [Note: the McDonald's site is the most incredibly bloated thing. On a modem, it took nearly two minutes to load the home page! Tsk, tsk. So they're getting no link love from me.]

Meantime, I was thinking about my evolution as a cook. I didn't always find it so much fun. I remember taking Home Ec in 8th grade and enjoying the process, but it just barely achieved its lowest goal (in my imagination, they had many lofty goals as well) of giving me a certain base competency in the kitchen. And, come to think of it, on the sewing machine too, which I actually took to much more strongly since it tied into my teenage desire to have more clothes than I could afford to buy, in the days when having a visible label on your clothing was extremely bad taste. But I digress!

Anyway, Home Ec class certainly didn't motivate me to learn more about cooking or go on to cooking creativity.

Segue to today. I love to cook! And I'm having withdrawal pangs. So many recipes to try! No kitchen to try them in. Ah, well. Patience is a virtue, I'm told.

Today as I was reading my regular email from King Arthur Flour, I realized one thing that's changed since 8th grade Home Ec: I have good tools now. It makes such a huge difference in my enjoyment!

My "if I didn't have these, I wouldn't like cooking nearly as much" list includes:
  1. Good knives. To have knives that can be honed when they go dull, that feel good in the hand, and that are versatile and competent is just simply heaven. I have only three knives that I use a lot: a medium-sized butcher knife, a boning knife, and a serrated bread knife. That's it.

    Of the three, I'd have to say the boning knife is the superstar. It peels veggies, chops onions, slices meat and chicken, does just about everything. I even use it for cutting watermelons, even though its blade isn't as long as the butcher knife, because the blade is slimmer and gets less resistance. I take my knives with me when I do large-scale cooking events, and my helpers and I are always reaching for this one.

  2. Whisks. I'm a total whisk geek! I don't know if my mother ever had one in her house, but if she did, I never used it. Now I practically can't cook without them. The aforementioned helpers know they have to wash whisks immediately, because I'm always reaching for one. The King Arthur's email alerted me to this cool whisk, which is safe for non-stick pans. I think I found another must-have whisk! I already have 3 normal-sized ones, one tiny one, and one very long one. How many whisks do you have?

  3. Cookie scoops. I'm hopeless with making drop cookies without them. I am always in awe of people who can make consistently round, equal-sized cookies just using a spoon. My hat's off to you people, but as for me, give me a good scoop or don't ask me for drop cookies! A muffin-sized scoop is on my wish list now.
There are probably many more (like my food processor; how did I live without it?) but those are the ones that come to mind right now. What's on your "if I didn't have these, I wouldn't like cooking nearly as much" list?

P.S. A Happy Meal apparently has about 500 calories. Not as bad as I feared! But the bun does have high fructose corn syrup. Boooo.

P.P.S. Nope, I'm not shilling for King Arthur, but since they got me thinking they're getting my link love. You probably can get these products cheaper elsewhere, but I do really respect this company. They win "best place to work" awards regularly, and I think we're so lucky to have them nearby.


Paz said...

Thank goodness for Happy Meals, huh? ;-)

Good kitchen tools definitely make life easier!


mari said...

Pat, I am also a big fan of the King Arthur/Baker's Catalogue people. This sounds crazy, but I actually like to call them before ordering online. They're very friendly and knowledgeable, and they charge shipping by weight, not by the amount you purchase. The item I would jump through a blazing fire to save in my kitchen: my massive KitchenAid mixer.
have an excellent weekend, m

PatL said...

I knew you'd agree, Paz!

Mari, LOL! You've certainly upped the ante ... from "I wouldn't cook as much without ... " to "I'd risk my life for ... !" Thanks for the good info about KA. Of course, shipping isn't an issue for us, they're so nearby, but I hope there are others who are inspired to get better acquainted with them. Thanks!