I’m having to replace all my kitchen things and why is a long story I’d rather forget. But I spent decades collecting and assembling the perfect tools for me and my cooking methods. All are gone. Even the awesome iron cookware rack that hung from the ceiling…gone.
But that isn’t a reason to be sad, other than financially, sentimentally, productively and morally, since everything was taken. I’ve realized the risk to having nice things in life is that there are many others who envy them to the point they will take them from you. Steal them, in other words, and what their meaning and value may be to you, even above their market value, means nothing to them.
On the bright side, it’s an opportunity to see what’s out on the market these days and try some new brands and models and makes of things, which everyone loves to do. Especially me, and kitchen things. There isn’t a kitchen apparatus I haven’t had pass through my kitchen in fact. Within reason.
Some are great and revolutionary. Some do the job better than the predecessor, and some are duds. I’ve been cooking for around 45 years and have been given and bought and found everything out there in some way. I often feel like Consumer Reports or America’s Test Kitchen.
So I went to Wal-Mart because I was generously given a Wal-Mart gift card, and when that happens, you HAVE to spend that at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart certainly has a lot of items for sale, but it’s still Wal-Mart, and the one you go into is never like the last one you went in. In many ways.
Wal-Mart generally sells lots of average products that are sometimes hyper-marketed and sold at razor-thin margins, to the point Wal-Mart pressures the seller/distributor to renegotiate their selling prices to what Wal-Mart wants. Don’t like it? Don’t sell your stuff in Wal-Mart. Often because of the scalability Wal-Mart provides small businesses, they’re making you an offer you can’t refuse.
So what’d I get? I needed the basics because I’m starting from scratch mostly. I have a Henkels knife and a few pans and flatware but that’s about it. And the zillion giant stainless steel spoons, skewers, silicone spatulas, cheap wooden spoons and stuff I never use.
I needed something I could get a lot of mileage from in a small kitchen. I haven’t had a spacious kitchen in a long time, which is not fun. But it’s how real cooks have to work, so I can’t complain. Restaurant owners give all the space to customers and cram the staff in a hot crowded room in the back usually. With fire, searing heat, lots of razor-sharp knives and tools, and oils, electricity and water, and high-pressure steam. What could go wrong?
This type of pot should be a standard. Large enameled cast-iron pot. You can sear in it, make soups, stews, chili, boil water and make sauces in it. It’s heavy and the cast iron holds the heat around the food evenly even if external temps change or you drop ice in it, it is slow to react. Put enamel on it for better non-stick and cleanability, and looks, with the red, and you’re in business. I’ve already used this guy every day.
This is the type of thing that annoys me to no end. I JUST replaced my old OXO can opener with an upgraded model. An all-stainless OXO can opener with cushion grips. It rocked. It was expensive. And now I had to buy another. These little things add up, $20 here, $15 there, and it’s hundreds and soon thousands of dollars. That’s why it bugs me.
So this time, I thought I’d be Gonzo! and get a can opener that opens from the side and leaves no sharp edges. Sounds pretty good. These types of things have been out forever, but I’d never used one. And there’s nothing funnier than watching a man try to get into a can with an opener he doesn’t know how to use. Sylvester had the same problem on Saturdays when I was growing up with his tuna cans.
My grandfather was named Sylvester, and I almost was tagged with it, incidentally. He went by “S.K. Musgrove,” understandably. The “k” was for Kenneth, which my belated uncle was saddled with. We lost him to suicide a couple of years ago around this exact same time. There’s something about white men committing suicide that’s a current trend in a recognizable pattern in the US which no one seems concerned about. I have a too long, and growing, list of friends, close ones in fact, and family that have fallen prey to such a dire decision. You can’t stop someone who’s committed to doing it, as some people tend to believe. I believe the understanding of its permanence is part of the appeal.
I’m not sure how my can-opener review went into a suicide talk like that but back to the topic.
This can opener at first gave me fits. Because I didn’t know how to use it correctly. Go figure. So after several days of research, (just kidding – a YouTube video popped right up) I saw how to properly use the device. I tried it out on a can of tomato sauce, and I’m sold. It is indeed better than the old-fashioned sidewinders. Using it correctly, of course, helps.
I’ve never had a wok because I haven’t had what I consider to be the correct amount of heat to use one properly. I’m sure you’ve seen the cooks flipping and throwing food and woks everywhere in some Chinatown like a food juggler.
The red-handled spider was a gift from someone long ago whose name I now cannot recall, possibly Jay Beck, but I’ve faithfully carried it around with me since then. And now I have a use for it.
I was intrigued by the idea of a cast iron wok. The weight seems great for enabling two-handed handling of food and the cast iron holds heat all the way up the sides of the wok, so that seems perfect.
However, I wouldn’t recommend getting a cast-iron one now that I’ve used it. It’s quite shallow, actually, if you look at it from the side, and the ability to move what’s in it around in any way, especially if you’re cooking something like a whole head of cabbage, is messy and nearly impossible.
As usual, there’s a reason the Chinese use what they do and have for thousands of years. Not only does it work, but they’ve perfected steaming rice, wokkery, and all types of cooking methods I’ve never fiddled with. But I love a lot of Asian food. Not all of it by a mile, though. And one of the reasons I wanted a wok is that you can cook a lot of healthy food in it fast. You don’t see a lot of obese Chinese dying from diabetes and all the food-related diseases we Americans obligingly present ourselves with. (Yes, they eat bat soup, but that is more of a personal disaster that plagued the entire world than anything. China gets free passes because they have so much US money) Too much of anything is bad, and too much of a bad thing is the worst thing there is. And that’s where we’ve arrived.
Unless you’re going to make some tiny stir-fry meals or flash-fry something, skip the cast iron wok and get one that you can maneuver your food around in easily. Cast Iron is too heavy. And there’s no handle. If I ever get one and use it I’ll let you know.
I just had about $1500 worth of cutlery vanish, including my honing steel, although I managed to save one of the Henckels knives I’ve become accustomed to using as seen in the back. And JUST HAD ALL SHARPENED. Even the block the knives were in was taken. Nothing left behind.
I’ve written about knives here before. They’re some of the oldest tools man has, and for good reason. And with tools, as with many other things, I’m a proponent of having the best tool for the job, taking care of your gear, etc… Plus as a Boy Scout, having a pocket knife handy is always a good idea. Unless you’re going through security. I had a 1-1/2″ knife on a mini-Leatherman on my keychain, and the security at the courthouse wouldn’t allow it to go. I had to give it up and pick it up when I left. Ridiculous. To me, at least.
Here’s a photo of it:
Anyway, that all-stainless Cuisinart knife up there by the fancy sheath is a piece of junk. It was the “best” single chef’s knife you could buy at Wal-Mart. Fail. Do not buy this knife. It has numbers laser-etched all over the blade, but I guess the model # is: C77SS-8CFW, which seems to be internal nomenclature with the company. It’s a nice-looking knife, and it even has a good balance to it. But there’s no full tang and the knife is made from 1 single piece of stainless steel. The handle is hollow. It should have been made solid. That would have cost more of course, but you’d have a much better knife. But Wal-Mart has its target market nailed for this type of stuff.
There’s no heft to it. There’s no weight to help build momentum for slicing through a million tomatoes. It’s like trying to cut something with a feather. I can’t take it back. I’m seriously tempted to just toss it out but I don’t want a knife blade in public circulation like that in the trash. You never know. So I’ll have to now destroy it so it’s not so dangerous, THEN dispose of it.
Victorinox makes great knives as well, and I’ll get some filet/boning knives from them. I had a bread knife that was excellent and I don’t remember the manufacturer now. And I’ve bought a Misen chef’s knife off Kickstarter many years ago that I was very happy with. Someone else is enjoying them now.
I intend to replace my kitchen one piece at a time again. But this time I know precisely what is best and needed. AND I saw a restaurant supply store down the road.
I’ve had all sorts of mashers and ricers. Ricers are excellent for mashed potatoes. And that’s about it.
The last masher I had was a plate with holes in it and you pressed downwards by grabbing the handle above with your fist pointing into the mashaquarium of whatever you’re smooshing. It was really easy to use. However, the plate part of it turned the ingredients into a paste. Which is different than mush. Trust me. It got rid of the air in the food instead of breaking it down more subtly as with an old-fashioned masher.
The old ones like my mother used aren’t even sold anymore they were so abominable. But the idea was sound. OXO makes one you can control the refinement of your glop you’re mushing. It has a handle that causes you to turn your wrist, but that provides control. The handle is large and comfortable. The post is strong. The biggest problem I’ve had with mashers is that I simply break them. The handle breaks off somewhere. That’s the weak link.
I use them for potatoes of course, but not just mashed (which I use Golden Yukon for. And it mashes cloves of roasted garlic. There are only specific reasons I buy Idaho potatoes, which are starch bombs.) Sweet potatoes, bananas, for chocolate-chip- walnut banana nut bread I’m about to make using ginger ale. (Cecelia loves it, as do I.)
The cast iron I bought is Lodge, which is made in nearby Tennessee, so I support them. It’s a family business, and they make good stuff and stand behind their products. Calphalon is another great company that has a lifetime guarantee. Send them anything, and they’ll send you a new pot. It’s unbelievable.
As is the theme with so many of my nice and favorite things I’ve owned in life, I once had a large collection of Lodge and Griswold cast iron, that once belonged to my grandmother and mother. It was stolen, of course. (My ex-wife “hired” a “friend” of hers to clean our house once, and clean it she did. Including ridding it of all my cast iron cookware. Birds of a feather.)