Tag Archives: cooking

Kitchen technology

In yesterday’s installment of “adventures in remodeling,” we packed up our kitchen.  For the next few weeks, we’ll be camping out in the living room, cooking with a single burner and a microwave.  In other words, the same way we’ve been cooking for the past 20 years, but in the living room.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

This process required us to pack up everything except a small collection of kitchen equipment that we’ll use in our living-room camp-out.  I thought it was telling that our first two must-have choices were a martini glass (Tim) and a colander for pasta (me).  What we’d want on a desert island.

As I packed up the various drawers of random kitchen equipment, I came across a couple of interesting items that I think I tossed in the boxes coming from my Dad’s house in 1997.  I find them funny for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is: my father essentially didn’t cook.  He knew how to make his own standard breakfast (two fried eggs over easy; burned* & buttered toast); a couple of standard dinners (hamburgers;** steak; roast chicken****); and vacation food (lobster*****).  I don’t think he was unable to cook; he just liked those things and didn’t see any reason to expand his food horizons.  When he and I traveled to China in 1981, he survived largely on packaged peanuts.

Anyway, here are some of the tools I inherited from Dad.  First, a snicker for your inner 11-year-old:

Image: scissors-like tool with two scoops at the end, in package that reads "Swedish & Cocktail Meat Baller."

If the meat baller weren’t enough, he also had a melon-baller, though from Spain or Mexico, so we miss the English-language snicker.  I love  “¡¡si!!” on the packaging.  Whatever problem this tool is solving, we are clearly intended to be very happy that it has solved it.
Image:  tool with very small scoop at the end; packaging is in Spanish.
I loved the idea of a culture so into eating sardines that it would develop a single tool for opening the sardine can and eating the contents.
Image:  Tool still in packaging that permits opening a sardine can and eating the sardines using the single tool.
What is this and why did Dad have one?
Image:  unexplained tool with hook at the end.
What is this and why did Dad have two of them?
Imate:  Two identical tools consisting of a handle and an approximately two-inch by four-inch set of parallel blades.
Prehistoric food processor:
Image:  small cylindrical grating blade in a plastic housing with a turn handle.
And finally, just a couple of cool, old, weathered kitchen tools:
Image: old cheese parer with handle and single blade.
Image: weathered bottle opener.
Image:  Old style jar opener.
Image:  close up of old style jar opener showing the words  "jar wrench wizard."
In conclusion, show of hands, how many people think I should (1) learn how to use the white balance****** features of my camera and software; and (2) get some real lighting equipment:
Image:  Camera set up to photograph objects on a table.  Lighting comes from a desk lamp on top of a cardboard box on top of a stool.


* Intentionally.  And when he ordered bacon in a restaurant, he would go to great pains to insist that it be burned as well.

** Classic divorced dad moment:  he wanted to make hamburgers for us; little shits that we were, we*** wanted McDonalds.  Dad: “OK, then, if you want a McDonalds hamburger, I’d be happy to step on your burger before I serve it to you.”

*** And by “we” I mean “Bruce.”

**** IIRC, Dad’s recipe called for dowsing the chicken in butter every five minutes while it roasted.  No question, that was an excellent roast chicken.

*****  Steamed; dipped in butter.

****** This has to do with the temperature of light, not some weird-ass reverse affirmative action.

Cooking with the FoxRobs … or A Christmas Miracle

I can’t cook.  No really.  I’m not being modest:  it’s a fact.  Whenever I say this, my friends — because they are sweet, polite, and largely full of shit — say “Oh no!  No.  No, um, really, you’ve prepared many fine dish . . . . . . . . .es”  (struggling with the plural as they abandon the last thread of honesty).   I love them for this, but they are wrong:  I can’t cook.

There are a number of reasons I’m a bad cook:

Impatience (“It says bake for 15 minutes, but what do those last 5 minutes really DO, chemically speaking?”).

Disorganization-induced substitutions (“Shit, I forgot to put mint on the shopping list.  Well, lettuce, in small enough pieces, looks sort of like mint.”).

Bizarre spousal ingredient negotiations (“I’m OK if you want to double the curry powder if I can double the olive oil”).

And most often, plain cluelessness.   For example, we decided to make a leg of lamb for our Christmas dinner.  The recipe* and other knowledgeable kibitzers recommended we use a meat thermometer.  And the meat thermometer packaging** recommended that we “calibrate it to our oven” or something like that.  Unfortunately, no one provided instructions for this crucial step.  I first tried to put the thermometer directly onto the oven shelf.  After several tries, it became clear that it was too top heavy and would not stay on the grill, so I had to find something to put the thermometer IN to then put in the oven.  And that something of course should be oven safe, right?  So I grabbed a pan from the drawer under the oven, put the thermometer in it, and put it in the oven.

A, um, metal pan:

Very Dali-esque, don’t you think?  Perhaps I should pretend I intended it as art — as sort of comment on the arbitrariness of the experience of temperature, which in our house is indeed very arbitrary, but that’s a whole nother post.

I’m still not sure how one calibrates a meat thermometer, but this isn’t it.  Luckily the good folks at Safeway kept their store open on Christmas, so I biked up and bought a new meat thermometer.  That I did this while wearing a pair of reindeer antlers shows that I am, slowly and proudly, becoming my father.  The rolled up pants legs exposing thermal socks underscored this progression.

Anyway, the rest of the story is all good.  Because Tim was in charge of the actual cooking — with me supplying only a functional pair of arms — it was smooth sailing through the rub, the roasting and the finished product.

We actually did a little touchdown dance when the roast came out of the oven, not really able to believe that we had accomplished this.  We paired it with a recipe that Tim invented and that turned out to be wonderful. It was a sort of spousal-negotiation recipe, involving potatoes, which Tim loves, and a handful of Mediterraneany things (fresh basil, olives, red peppers), that I love, all coated in olive oil (I win!) and stir-fried.  It was AWESOME.  Add raita and a salad and just start grinning!

We had reached a pact with our guests — my in-laws — not to serve dessert, but our talented weekend assistant showed up with something she called pumpkin spice bread (sounds healthy, right?), which turned out to be at least half cream cheese.  But there it was, sitting alluringly on the counter in its GladWare container.  What could we do?  Paired with either black coffee (me, Nora) or scotch (Tim) it was incredible.

All in all, a wonderful Christmas.  But not complete without a gratuitous dog photo.  Chinook, enjoying his present:

Happy Boxing Day!
* Yes, I found the recipe in Esquire.  One of my favorite airplane reads.

** Yes, I’ve reached the age of 50 without learning to use a meat thermometer.  It’s not much help with frozen pasta, though, so the need really hasn’t arisen.