The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Set Up

I live in an apartment built in the 30's. While dripping with quaint charm and sporting a breathtaking view from downtown San Diego to the Point, its kitchen leaves much to be desired. Apparently in the 30's, women didn't need the space and gear in the kitchen we have now. Though I occupy this small space as queen of my culinary kingdom, I have the all too (post?)-modern love for appliances and tools of all kinds. If it is shiny metal, I'll buy it. Cast iron, that too. Silicone, so there. Has a motor and infinite attachments, oh yes, baby.

Now some tools are indispensable (like a wooden spoon); I'm pretty sure these types of tools have been around since cooking became more than tossing a carcass on the fire. Others are just nice to have (like a Cuisinart); they save time; slice, dice, puree, and chop so much better than I ever could; and make this era of electricity so fun to live in. While still others are just for the sake of having a cool new toy (like a bread baking machine that mixes, kneads, and bakes the bread all in one place); we don't need these things--they probably aren't even used daily--but they are sure fun. I own all of these tools and many more. Finding a place to put all of them in my kitchen proved impossible, so they are scattered about the apartment in various hiding places. Wooden spoon: ceramic vase on counter. Cuisinart: back storage room behind bikes and cat box (it's on a shelf). Bread maker: vacuum cleaner closet. My "pantry" is also scattered around the house. Pots hang above the stove; spices share a cabinet with the coffee cups--well, you get the idea. Finally, counter space is severely limited and we don't have a dishwasher, so the orchestration of cooking and cleaning becomes a delicate ballet that rivals anything Tchaikovsky ever wrote.

Because I love lists, here are some tools I use everyday in my kitchen:
bamboo cutting board that is flat on one side and concave on the other
chef's knife
mincing knife
paring knife

garlic press
Parmesan cheese grater
coffee bean grinder turned spice grinder
salad spinner
various wooden spoons and a wooden spatula
heavy bottom, large, flat skillet
heavy bottom pots (small to large)
glass measuring cups
wooden bowl
stool (I'm short)
cd player

Things I don't use everyday but bear mentioning because I use them a lot:
small Cuisinart
food mill

cheese grater
glass baking dishes
glass bowls

Ingredients that I find to be essential to have in kitchen all the time:
chicken stock (or vegetable)
fresh ginger
fresh garlic
fresh parsley
olive oil (good quality)
frying oil (canola or vegetable)
toasted sesame seed oil

wine (white and red)
vinegar (various varieties)
soy sauce
coconut milk
curry paste
curry powder
hot pepper flakes
cayenne pepper
bay leaves
lemons or limes

Parmesan cheese
cheddar and jack cheese

I could go on forever about spices, but this list is too long. I have a friend who brought me some spices from the Dubai spice market, and these have been an amazing asset in my forced habitation of the kitchen.

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