Friday, June 4, 2010

My Tools

Cookbooks depressed me for a while. Right after moving out of my Brooklyn apartment and before I started equipping our bathroom with appliances, the cooking section of a bookstore was just a big reminder of all the things I couldn't do. What in the world would be the point of buying a $50 Thomas Keller cookbook if all I could do was steam rice and a few vegetables, food porn? No way, the internet has plenty.

Sometimes I'd fantasize about the kitchen I would one day have, and lost in a Dwell Magazine delusion, start carrying a stack of cookbooks to the register only to remember I'd forgotten to file my unemployment for that week, set them down in the fiction section, and find the nearest exit. I even caught myself wandering past all the kitchen design shops in SoHo wondering if maybe I should just go in, and see if there was a banged up floor sample in the Henry Built showroom on sale for say, $5? 

I couldn't go on like this. I needed to be able to brown a piece of chicken, damnit. I needed to cook. I started small, a cheese grater here, a vegetable peeler there, which led to a toaster oven (purchased with credit card points), a second rice cooker and finally my skillet. Then one day, I stumbled upon a used copy of Deborah Madison's, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, for $14, and thus began Cook Without a Kitchen.

While I do use a handful of electrical appliances for the actual cooking, I rely on my tools for prep work and all the mixing, stirring and flipping that goes on later. I believe that there are people out there who think they can't cook simply because their knives are too dull and they don't realize what a difference it would make to just sharpen them up. Call your local kitchen supply store, not the nearest Bed Bath and Beyond, and ask for help. The actual heating and cooking of food is a science all it's own and something you learn with time, but having the right tools and learning some basic techniques is essential to getting food to taste the way you want it to. And if you own a slap chop, contact NASA to see when the next shuttle launch is, I'm sure they'd be happy to flush it down one of their space toilets, never to be seen again.

I have far fewer tools now than I did when I had a real kitchen, but I'm finding you don't need much more than this. No, the nutmeg grater is not essential, but have you ever had fresh grated nutmeg? 

Browsing the cookbook aisles is filled with possibility now. Rack of lamb? No problem. Chocolate cake? Let me just plug in my rice cooker and blow your mind.

serrated knife, paring knife, fine cheese grater, nutmeg grater, vegetable peeler, kitchen shears, can opener, cork screw
strainer/sieve, rice paddle, wooden spoon, tongs, spatula
pastry cutter, dry measuring cups, pastry brush, whisk, measuring spoons, liquid measuring cup, rolling pin
stainless steel bowl
mortar and pestle, ginger grater
immersion blender

oven safe casserole dish with lid
Bread loaf pan, muffin tin
glass pie plate
glass containers
pot holders, pastry cloth and rolling pin cover, dish towel


  1. Haha! I work at NASA, maybe I can help out with that ;) Only 2 Shuttle flights left though, better hurry!

  2. That's right! So funny. Maybe someone could take the infomercial guy along and get rid of him too. He's so annoying.

  3. I think many good things will be (and have been) born out of your restrictions!

  4. This is so great..I need to outfit my kitchen in my new apartment and this will definitely help me so much! Thanks.