Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Cutting Back on Knives, Etc.

May 9

An article in today's New York Times suggests that too many pots, pans, knifes and gadgets do not a better cook make.

The writer is Mark Bittman, a Times columnist, food writer, and author of one of my favorite cookbooks, How To Cook Everything, so he must be right. I myself have been poking through the pantry paring down everything, putting it into yard sales, as part of my general cleaning-out-life process for months.

Among the excess baggage in my pantry were a stock pot the size of Lake Michigan, a fancy whisk with about 90 tines, duplicate mixing spoons of every size, a colander with a handle on it, better to scoop the pasta from the water. Before my last yard sale I had to ask myself if I actually need two basic colanders, and decided I did. Never mind that one of them had been given to me by my daughter for a long-forgotten birthday or Mother's Day -- sentiment has to be put aside in this process -- but I frequently have to use two colanders at pretty much the same time.

How many knives does one need? Got to have a serrated one (I often bake my own bread), a paring knife for vegetables, a good medium-sized "chef's" knife. I also have a boning knife and another one which is long and narrow and I never quite know what to do with. I use the boning knife for chicken, and often for vegetable, but not as much as I used to. I have a block to keep them in, so the set doesn't take up much space. Also, as instructed by the many chef's on Food TV, I hone each knife after every use, and have it professionally sharpened once a year.

More to the point, what big, heavy appliances are absolutely indispensable? I use my stand mixer for bread, cakes and cookies. I have a big food processor that almost never gets used. I use the blender often -- for gazpacho, smoothies, hollandaise sauce and bread crumbs. I use the little food processor that lives in a drawer for pesto, and to chop vegetables or make mayonnaise when I choose to do it (not that often). I love the little hand blender for soups.

Every once in awhile, it's time to go through the drawers and ruthlessly rid yourself of those catalog items or those you saw on television that looked so appealing but didn't fit into daily life. I have apple corers, ginger graters, melon ballers, and all sorts of measures and probably about 50 mixing bowls of all sizes. Don't tell me which ones to pitch! I'll have to decide for myself. Just not today.

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