Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pandora's Box

Pandora’s Box

If you’re like me, I can’t go into a specialty grocery store without spending double what I would have spent had I gone to Trader Joe’s or Safeway. I love Trader Joes and Safeway, they both fulfill exact shopping goals when I am in my regular routine. This is not to say that both stores don’t have extraordinary selections as well as high end breads and specialty items. But when I’m entertaining or having guests over for the weekend, I feel I must splurge and go to Draegers or Whole Foods.

Both stores were clearly designed by true foodies, people who have an ardent love of cooking and as important, the culinary tools & gadgets that make cooking possible. I always go into Draegers pretending that I am just running in to get a nice cake, (remember? I don’t do cakes) or some fabulous bread or cheeses. But there is a suspicious, ulterior motive to this shopping expedition, cloaked in food shopping- it is a vehicle to get me to the fabulous cookware department up stairs.

I casually look around on the ground floor of the food portion of the store but keep glancing at the escalator going up to the elaborate, heavily stocked cookware department that lies above. I finally take the leap feeling justified that I have entered the store to really do some grocery shopping even though I secretly know this journey to Draegers was so that I could be naughty and splurge on unnecessary but coveted cooking tools.

Does anybody really need an extra grater? I personally think that’s entirely beside the point. The fact is, cooking tools conjure up the possibilities of great cooking. Holding a micro plane grater or stainless steel box grater in my hand immediately instills confidence- I mean I actually feel more sure that I have a fighting chance of cooking something right if I have the right tools.

So, before you think this fluff-ball doesn’t know the first thing about making due, I did live for a year in corporate housing in 1999 in L.A. The accommodations I had were basic at best and very little was provided to make the apartment functional. I do know that it is entirely possible to live without even the most basic cooking tools.

Here’s what I mean:

Need a rolling pin? Wine Bottle
Need a Mallet? Wine Bottle
Cookie Cutter? Wine Bottle
Pitcher? Wine Bottle
Potato Masher? Wine Bottle

You get the idea, pretty amazing how versatile a wine bottle can be. I didn’t even mention that a wine bottle also acts as a decanter for wine : ).

Putting aside this small piece of martyrdom in my life, I completely glory in the abundance of relevant cooking tools and the kitchen equipment I have acquired. But here’s where Pandora’s Box enters the picture. One is not enough. Once you go down the path of acquiring kitchen tools there’s no end in sight.

It starts with upgrading your basic tools to higher end models- maybe small ones that have more comfortable grips like the OXO vegetable peeler so your hands don’t get cut when you’re peeling that potato. Once that’s done, suddenly your old Teflon cookie sheets need to be replaced. Then that 10 piece pots & pans set you got at Woolworth’s in 1976 needs to go- it’s dented and peeling and plus you just plain old want a new set.

From there you graduate to fine knives- cutlery in the cooking world. I could write a poem about my Shun, Santoko knife I love it so much. Or maybe a limerick is better:

There once was a knife by Shun,
Who knew exactly what needed to be done,
It sliced, diced and cut
It did everything but
Put an end to this terrible pun.

I know that was bad, but I think it’s important to be spontaneous and see where things go.

From there, you- like me are wandering into Draeger’s high end territory of exquisite kitchen supplies, china, glassware, cookbooks, and gadgets.

You know what’s next right? Yes, Pandora’s Box is pretty big. You’re now entering the consumer paradise of electrics:

Food Processor
Immersion Blender
Pasta Maker
Bread Machine

The problem I see when you graduate to this level of consumerism is that all those tools you bought earlier aren’t really needed anymore. When you get to the electric tools category, they pretty much do everything for you! Again, entirely beside the point. It is pure fun to use these things and I think everyone would agree that it is okay to have an exception to the rule.

It may seem like all this is a complete digression from where I first started but everything is related. It’s like the chicken and the egg riddle. What comes first? A good recipe? The ingredients? The tools you’ll need to cook with? Let’s assume they all tie together and come in a big shiny box with a nice ribbon wrapped around it. Pandora’s Box.

1 comment:

Marcella-ala-Minneapples said...

Hey Suz! I love, love, love your blog! It sounds just like us hanging out in the kitchen (drinking vino - of course) in the old days on 26th and California. Talk about cooking tools, remember that AWESOME stove we had? OK, so we're lots and lots of years older now and we pretty much still love the same things! As a friend of mine once said, most of us don't change as we getter older, we become ourselves only more so. Love you, me