Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Perfect Kitchen

....Will never be. Because, let's face it, most of us are poor college students, or poor newlyweds, or poor 30somethings. Or maybe you bought a really cute set of plates from Target and somehow managed to break every bowl that went with the set over the last year (seriously, how did I do that?). Or you might have inherited this really great house to live in, and you're wondering WHY ARE THE ONLY ELECTRICAL OUTLETS IN THE KITCHEN ON THE SAME WALL WITH APPROXIMATELY ONE FOOT OF COUNTER SPACE IN FRONT OF THEM.

Pant.Pant.Pant. Serenity now.
Thank God one of us in that house is relatively sane.
I have lived in the following places over the last holycrap eight years: a college dorm with a mini fridge (beer!), a sorority house with a full kitchen (brownies!), Italy (pasta! And hey, nice to meet you, what's your name? NUTELLA? YOU ARE DELICIOUS), a college apartment (kegs for furniture!), my first Philadelphia apartment (tofu! seitan!), my second apartment (flooded kitchen drain!), third apartment (life collapse!), fourth apartment (scarily intelligent mouse friend!), and finally...drumrolll...THE HOUSE.

For the record, I think I just wrote the chapter titles for my memoirs, at least up til now. I want to write a lot more about the house - a lot more in general. It's surprisingly hard, as most of my blogger friends will know, to write when things are going pretty well. The words come quickly during adversity when you're a writer, and I've seen a lot of bad shit happen to people around me over the last few months. Which means I sometimes feel bad about saying wow, the two year shit storm that began in September of 2008 for me actually peaced outta town last year, I spent some months cleaning up the rubble and reconstructing my life, and I Am Very Happy right now. This is a beautiful thing.

SO. Not too much adversity here, but a lot of humor and a quirky house that needs a lot of work in a crazy neighborhood.. As always, trying to live the way my body wants when you're smack in the middle of the most modern and oppressive of human creations - the city. Bright lights, noise all night. Cubicle dweller by day in a slightly prison yard style office in the Most Dangerous City In The World (hi, Mom!). Car commuter (blech!). Crossfitter. Paleoish eater. New, big fan of cooking. These are my stories and the rest, as they say, is history.


OH RIGHT. This is supposed to be a post about the perfect kitchen. Funny. It was going to be short. I'm blessed now to have some kitchen space. It's not terribly beautiful or well designed, but dammit I have ROOM (except for the above mentioned outlet idiocy). As I've moved from shoebox to shoebox over the last few years, I've had to keep my utensils and cooking gadgets to a minimum. Now that we have Space, I can have fun things like a paella pan and multiple pots! Just...multiple pots of the same size for no reason! I love this, and anyone who's ever lived in a studio apartment will appreciate why it's singularly awesome to have more than one of something just because. But this isn't an ode to the crap I own, it's supposed to be helpful, so here we go. A list of the things I am currently using most in the kitchen right now. I've starred next to the things that I think are essential no matter how big or small your kitchen may be.

A big-ass crockpot. Preferably with a meat thermometer.

Gigantic frying pan with a lid (13 inches or more). I only have nonstick, but plan to upgrade to cast iron soon. This is for all those awesome things like sauteed vegetables and bacon.

Teeny frying pan (eggs for one?)

A big ass saucepan with a lid (I stole/borrowed mine from my Grammy. Just kidding, she was downsizing and getting rid of it)
Spatulas that can withstand heat and won't melt.

Wooden spoons. Dear God, I love wooden spoons.

A Really Cute Apron. Because splattering sauce on your hot little office outfit? That shit is not cute. 

A 9x13 casserole dish and a 9x13 or larger roasting pan

All together now, a GARBAGE DISPOSAL. I am currently in a love affair with mine. I haven't had one for YEARS, ours was broken when we moved in, and now it is fixed. All is right with the world.

A dishwasher. Oh wait. That's still on my wish list. 

French Press coffee maker. Giant. And a bean grinder. Yes, I will totally advocate getting the grinder. It makes a huge difference in coffee yumminess. Although, full disclosure, we still have a regular Mr. Coffee because, let's face it, sometimes I don't have the energy to be that cool.

Knife block. Any decently priced one from Target will do just fine, although you might want to supplement with super duper expensive ones one at a time as you get room for Stuff. I am currently craving Rachel and Dan's knives, and since one of them costs approximately $12,000, I'll be saving up. Consensus is that if you have to buy one, an 8 inch chef's knife is it!

A few mixing bowls. Plastic is okay....metal is just as cheap (IKEA) and looks really cool in your cabinets.
A meat thermometer. Because I hate guesswork, and I hate salmonella more. 
Tupperware. So much tupperware. As I've become more into cooking for 1 or 2, I've become aware of the beauty of big batch cooking. This, in my opinion, is key to being a successful healthy eater - cooking in a way that doesn't sacrifice your entire night, every day of the week. My upgrade would definitely be Pyrex containers to avoid nasty microwaving-in-tupperware-plastic-in-your-food.

A vacuum wine stopper. Because finishing the entire bottle of wine* while you're cooking on the stove can result in unpredictable outcomes. And a good wine stopper makes that wine last forever. Or three days. You know.  *Please note that I don't think wine glasses are necessary. 

My water carbonater-er
courtesy of Rachel and Dan. This is, without a doubt, the Crazy Wedding Gift Kitchen Gadget that I NEVER EVER would have bought for myself, but now that I have it, I am obsessed with it. OBSESSED. Sparkling water for free! Anytime I want! And it makes a funny noise, and humor in the kitchen is always a good thing.
So this is my essentials list - and the rest is just gravy. What's in YOUR kitchen, and what crucial things have I forgotten? 

 Some suggestions for spicing up your cooking, courtesy of Shakira.


  1. Do a magnetic knife block over a standing knife block. Much cleaner (literally) and uses space that's otherwise underutilized. And there are three essential knives: an 8" chefs (santoku or normal), a small paring knife and a bread knife. Anything else is a bonus!

    And I couldn't live without my stand mixer or my food processor.


    Hah! My thoughts exactly!

    Slow cooker = awesomeness. Probably the greatest kitchen invention ever.