Tuesday, March 11, 2008

gearing up

When we first moved out here, I was totally prepared for this house-playing venture of ours. I brought three whole milk crates of kitchen supplies, in anticipation of my own, tiny, adorable, utterly-my-own kitchen.

Some of that consisted of starter food, but I also had:

  • Two mixing bowls, one large and one small
  • One large skillet, and one small cast-iron skillet
  • One big, one medium, and one small pot -- plus my beloved double boiler
  • A wok
  • A steamer
  • Wooden spoons, a soup ladle, a plastic spatula and a slotted spoon
  • Two large, shitty knives, a decent serrated knife, and a small shitty knife
  • A knife sharpener -- I figured if I had shitty knives, I might as well keep them sharp. You can probably guess how well that worked
  • A cutting board
  • A cheese grater
  • A peeler
  • A can opener
  • A colander
  • A very small collection of baking equipment -- a baking sheet, a pie pan, a 9x12 pan
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • A toaster
  • plates, cups, mugs utensils.

And that was about it. I was all set. Totally. Everything I needed -- I knew we'd buy a microwave, but that was about it. Yup. I had it all.

Until I actually started cooking, and realized that I was living in an abandoned wasteland when it came to kitchen equipment. I had nothing!

You have to understand that I am totally cheap. I am not about buying fancy, unnecessary things. I don't go shopping for fun. But something has happened. Something has changed. Now, I go to Home Depot and ogle the appliances for fun. (Oh my goodness. They have this oven with two convection ovens, a little one and a big one, and the bottom drawer can be storage OR a broiler, and the gas stovetop has one of those griddles in the middle that can be flat or grill-like and it has five burners, I can't find it online but it is BEAUTIFUL.)

And I check all the thrift stores for baking equipment, and if they don't have any? I buy it new. Really! I don't just sigh and do without, I actually spring for new stuff. It is cah-razy.

So I have already -- despite my best self-controlling efforts! -- purchased, or else requested and been given:

  • an ice cream scoop
  • a corkscrew
  • another can opener. For a good reason, I swear. It had more features!
  • a whisk
  • rubber spatulas
  • another cheese grater. For a good reason, I swear. It had more features!
  • a potato masher
  • a pastry knife
  • a blender
  • a mini food processor
  • a mixer
  • tongs
  • a metal spatula
  • a good set of knives -- two big, two medium, lots of little ones and another sharpener
  • A marinade injector. I bought it to inject stuff into strawberries -- didn't work. I'm sure it will come in handy again sometime... really!
  • 2 more mixing bowls
  • A large cast-iron skillet
  • A smaller skillet-y thing
  • A very large pot
  • A muffin pan
  • Another pie pan
  • A cheese slicer
  • Two loaf pans
  • Another baking sheet
  • Mini pie pans
  • A little mortar and pestle
  • A kettle
  • A garlic press
  • A rolling pin
  • And even more bowls, glasses and utensils.

That is a lot for a short period of time. Written out like that, it looks a little excessive. At the same time, I know it's hardly anything at all... I am still dying out here! For starters, I broke my garlic press ! Helpful hint: Ginger is harder than garlic. Don't try to press a great big chunk of it in your garlic press.

So I absolutely need another garlic press. Also? I'm pretty sure I need a pizza stone. And one of those cool baker's wooden paddle thingies. Okay, I only want one of those because they're awesome, so I guess that doesn't count. But I do definitely need some springform pans. How can I be expected to make cheesecake without them? And how can I be expected to live without making cheesecake?

Also? I really want some ramekins. I didn't even know what ramekins were until I saw a recipe for molten chocolate that made me want to die just by looking at the pictures. And I could make creme brulee in it! I definitely need some ramekins.

And, of course, one of those cool bench knives JoyTheBaker was raving about. I saw a picture of a dude making bread in the newspaper yesterday, and he had one, and I thought, "Dude! I know what that is!" and then I thought, "And I need one!"

I don't think I can be expected to live much longer without a stand mixer. I never understood the attraction until I went home for Christmas, and my parents had suddenly acquired one, and I used it and it pretty much changed my life. That thing is a beast. It isn't just an appliance: it is a TOOL. It was miraculous. I want it.

I want an ice cream maker. We live in the desert! It will be very hot! We will need much ice cream. My parents have an ice cream maker, and it is only now that I do not have one that I am realizing how much better my life was with that appliance within arm's reach.

Also on the needed list: a ravioli cutter, cookie cutters, food-prep bags, a dutch oven, a potato ricer (thanks, Katie!), an even BIGGER skillet, a sprouter, a bundt pan, cheesecloth, a sifter, a pastry brush, a squirt bottle, a sieve, a candy/frying thermometer, a baking thermometer, a gnocchi board, a juicer, a zester, an icing spatula, a waffle maker...

I understand that I am blurring the line between needs and wants here. Home Economics 101, thanks very much, but all the same... there are some things that I just can't fake. I know that I need better cooking skills before I need better cooking equipment, just like how in dancing, I need to improve my technique before I work on a flashier style, but all the same. It would be so nice to have fun toys to play with.

Truthfully, I think my first list of essentials was pretty accurate. Good knives were vital -- one good butcher's knive and one good paring knife are really all that I need, but it is fantastic to have a solid, heavy, reliable butcher's knife. For butchering all my vegetables, of course. I brought with me everything I needed... but nowhere near everything I discovered I want.

With a few exceptions, the things I have bought have helped make my life easier, but they haven't enabled me to make anything I couldn't make before. On the other hand, having the right tool for the job does make that job much more enjoyable. Ah well. Really, I've been relatively frugal about my kitchen purchases, haven't bought anything super-expensive, I've used everything I bought... I regret nothing!

Anyway. My advice for anybody building a supercheap starter kitchen is:

-Invest in a good butcher/chef's knive and a decent nonstick skillet. For everything else, you can manage with cheap stuff, but those are hard to fake. And I tried.
-Two mixing bowls and two saucepans: one biggish, one littlish.
-A cutting board, a paring knife, a serrated knive, a cheese grater and a peeler
-Wooden spoons, a ladle, a whisk, one metal spatula/turner and one rubber spatula/scraper
-A baking sheet, a baking pan (9x12), and 2 pie/cake pans
-A colander for pasta
-A can opener
-Stuff to eat off of.

And then be prepared to buy lots and lots of toys.

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