Every houseguest who visits my mother is given a tour of the house, shown their room, presented with towels and, once installed, asked to come down to the kitchen for the “tour.” It seems that each person has their own coping mechanism when it comes to houseguests, for my mother, it is that they know their way around the kitchen, thus saving the host countless questions of “where do I find.” Questions asked because the guest is trying to be helpful. She, therefore, starts every stay with the kitchen tour followed by the kitchen quiz. Her kitchen is logically broken down into categories; vessels, (pots and pans); things with holes (colanders, strainers); handles (spoons, ladles, etc.); no handles (cookie cutters, egg slicers etc.); and things that are flat (cutting boards, trays, cookie sheets). There could be an argument that an egg slicer has holes but you get the drift. My sister’s stepsons were terrified by the idea of a quiz but in general I don’t think it’s a bad idea.
We were recently in France for my father’s 70th birthday and we rented a lovely farmhouse in the hills above St Tropez. The kitchen, it turns out, was organized exactly as my mother would have done it. As the head chef for the week, it made explaining the kitchen a lot easier. Kudos to my mother as the owner of the house is a well-accomplished chef. My kitchen is short on storage so I have only one drawer in my kitchen, named the “drawer of death” as haphazardly reaching in could cause bodily harm, but if you are lucky enough to have many drawers this is a pretty great way of dividing them up.
After my knives, there are a few items that I view as highly important. After rummaging around the aforementioned drawer of death, this is what I have come up with in the handles category.
- Microplane: This item has changed everything for me. Originally, designed as a woodworking tool, the guys behind Microplane have adapted it for kitchen use. I use it for garlic, ginger, nutmeg and, perhaps most importantly, Parmesan cheese. It creates tiny curls of Parmesan that are far superior to anything a box grater can do.
- Whisk: A kitchen workhorse. A reminder that you can beat egg whites by hand.
- Spider: A Chinese tool for rescuing dumplings from either water or oil, I use it to fish out blanched vegetables or pasta while conserving the water.
- Fish turner: Really it’s just a great spatula. Gentle enough for delicate fish, strong enough for anything smaller than a rib eye.
- Wine key: Also called a waiter’s friend. The world is filled with expensive and awful wine openers. If you find a good simple one, buy 5.
- Vegetable peeler: There was a reason peeling potatoes was a punishment in the army. It doesn’t have to be that way. A good peeler will improve your life. Plus you can use it to shave strips of vegetables for salads or pickling.
- Ice cream scoop: How many bent spoons are you willing to endure? Also great for portioning muffins or cupcakes.
- Tongs: Probably the number one most useful. Rubber tips don’t damage pans and they will turn that rib eye for you. For me they also stir in place of a wooden spoon, of which I have many, but if we are talking desert island picks, I will always go for tongs over wooden spoon.
I have tried to find as many of the above items on Amazon and create a little shop, so if you are interested in getting the ones I like, check out the below.
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