As far as kitchens go, I like to think of them as the room where beverages and snacks are kept. I am aware that there are devices in there which, when used properly by my husband, transform ingredients into delicious meals. I just don’t know how to use them. Yet I love learning about all those kitchen gadgets – I am always in awe of them and their ingenious purposes. But I wonder if they are really worthwhile and effective. So out of curiosity, I turned to Lynn Bowen Walker – author of Queen of the Castle: 52 Weeks of Encouragement for the Uninspired, Domestically Challenged or Just Plain Tired Homemaker and host of the Queen of the Castle Recipes Blog – to find out what a real cooking whiz feels are the simple things no kitchen should be without. That way I’ll know just what to buy my husband for the holidays to ensure he continues to feed me.
1. Sharpie Pen
Well I must confess, this is NOT what I expected to see topping Lynn’s master list for kitchen contents. I was thinking more along the lines of pot holders. But I suppose if even I know enough to buy pot holders, those would be a no brainer. As for the Sharpie? I assume it would be helpful for marking all those Ziploc bags of leftovers to be stored in the freezer. Or to clear the nasal palette with a good sniff. Let’s see Lynn’s explanation…
“One of the most useful items in my kitchen, my sharpie helps me keep track of what I have in the refrigerator and freezer, and how long it’s been there. Use it to write contents and date directly on plastic bags or recycled plastic butter tubs that you’re using to stash leftovers in. Keep another sharpie in the pantry to note the year you purchased that can of French onion soup, so you’ll be sure to cycle through your food, oldest cans first.”
Alright! This one makes sense. An apron. Of course. What kitchen doesn’t have an apron? Uh – wait a minute. Ours doesn’t have an apron. Maybe that’s because my husband feels they are too girly? But I do see men wear those humorous ones while grilling at barbeques. In fact, we recently heard the funniest story about a relative who donned an apron while in a vacation house unaware of the naked man’s image displayed prominently on the front. So there are obviously plenty of styles to choose from. Other than amusing me while I watch my husband wear one while cooking, I suppose the importance of the apron is to have a handy place to wipe your messy fingers without ruining your clothes. Am I right Lynn?
“You thought aprons were just for grandmas. They’re not. Even if your idea of cooking is simply to splash a smidgen of Paul Newman’s Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing on a bag of prewashed spinach, you’re still liable to get the occasional oily splash on your two hundred-dollar cashmere sweater. Wear a full-length apron when you’re prepping food in the kitchen. If you’re a messy eater, leave it on until you’ve finished dessert — and maybe even finished with the dishes. (Grandma also used her apron to carry produce in from the garden.)”
We have scented candles in our kitchen. They match the décor and were a gift. They have never been lit. And since people don’t tend to cook over open fires anymore unless they are camping, I’m curious about the candle’s appearance here. I’m guessing they are essential for hiding the smell of that burnt casserole, or for mood lighting while cooking. Because don’t you know, aprons are so sexy.
“Definitely a must for dinnertime ambiance. Bonus: diners are less likely to see the lumps in the mashed potatoes, or other kitchen mishaps you may not be eager to disclose.”
4. Ice Cream Scoop
This is more like it. My kind of list! I grew up with a father who loves ice cream. And he inherited this love from his father, who had his own set of special ice cream bowls. So you can see that I of course know exactly where to find the ice cream scoop in our kitchen. Even I am capable of serving myself a bowl of that delicious treat while waiting for the next meal. Therefore I can only assume that Lynn is an ice cream addict just like me. Why else would the scoop show up so high on her essential list?
“Use the rounded scoop not just for ice cream, but to portion out perfect little mounds of cookie dough before doing your holiday baking. They’re also handy for scooping perfect little igloos of (perhaps lumpy, yet candle-lit) mashed potatoes.”
5. Pedestal Cake Plate
Yummy – more dessert related items! I believe this is a type of plate on a built in stand that typically holds a big layered cake, or a pie, or perhaps even a quiche. I have no idea why we need one though. I do know how to bake an occasional sweet tasty treat because I love them dearly. And therefore I typically eat them out of the pan they were baked in because I am impatient. I am guessing that this fancy cake pedestal is important because it looks nice and it saves counter space.
“Even if you’re not a cake fan, these plates are perfect for presenting food for a party or special buffet. Food at different heights adds interest to the table. Caterers often use the higher plates to present their most impressive dishes, such as oysters on the half shell, shrimp with cocktail sauce, or chocolate-covered strawberries. Makes less look like more.”
6. Small Throw Rug
Ooo-ooo-ooo! I know! I know! This rug is for keeping your feet from getting sore after standing on them all afternoon in the kitchen whipping up a meal. The one in our kitchen however is a favorite spot for the cats to curl up and take a nap while waiting for crumbs to fall their way. I wonder how Lynn keeps her pets off of her rug and out of her way?
“Put one by the sink to make working in the kitchen easier on your legs. It’ll also soak up wayward water splashes, keeping your floor a bit cleaner.”
7. Kitchen Scissors
We’ve got several pairs of scissors located in our kitchen. Does that mean they qualify as kitchen scissors? Because we don’t use them exclusively in the kitchen. Sometimes we use them to open that frustrating packaging that DVD’s and CD’s come in. Other times they are handy for splitting open a cardboard box. They work well on cutting open re-sealable packages of food. And they help to cut the wrapping off of those scented candles we were talking about before. Something tells me Lynn means scissors designed specifically for cutting raw meat or some other such disgusting idea that I leave for my husband to handle while I eat my bowl of ice cream.
“In your kitchen knickknack drawer, keep a pair that you use solely for kitchen jobs. You’ll be surprised at how often you reach for them as you’re chopping fresh basil or cutting open particularly stubborn food packaging.”
8. Extra Ice Cube Trays
Well, we have an icemaker in our fridge so I’m not sure if we even have ice cube trays anymore. I had a bad habit as a kid of never re-filling them when I used the last cube. From an early age I shunned all kitchen related duties. So the icemaker dispenser solved this problem in my life. In college I remember ice cube trays were handy for making jello shots. What other use could they possibly serve? Some clever spice tray? I’m willing to bet that isn’t what Lynn has in mind.
“These are great for freezing milk that’s about to expire, which you can add to blended fruit smoothies. You can also freeze small portions of extra tomato sauce or fresh herbs covered with water. When you need just a bit of flavoring for soup or stew, pop out a cube and throw ‘er in.”
9. Coarse Sea Salt
If we have this in our kitchen I don’t want to know about it. Sounds like a description of an accidental gulp of the ocean while being knocked over by a wave. Though I do love the beach I am not a fan of the taste of salt water. However, based upon the few cooking shows that I have seen in passing at my in-laws’ I am taking a stab in the dark here that coarse sea salt is something used as a rub for flavoring or to act as a spice in mixtures you brush onto food. My husband loves to create marinades – maybe this ingredient will kick those up a notch?
“Substitute this for regular salt in baking or vegetable dishes. It gives a nice little bite that may convince you to never go back to regular salt again.”
10. Parchment Paper
OK. Isn’t parchment paper that old timey material the kings and queens used to write on with feather quills dipped in ink? Though I do recall making a pastry wrapped appetizer for a football party last year and being instructed to use this really thin type of wax paper. I’m guessing that is also called parchment paper even though I didn’t buy it at a stationery store. It came from the grocery store – a place I am annoyed by and avoid at all costs – except for ice cream. It worked like a charm since none of the flaky pastry stuck to the paper. Just as any essential kitchen item should behave. Unless of course Lynn truly is talking about ancient writing paper and has an odd habit of writing out all of her recipes with quill pens. Seems to me it would be a lot easier to just post it on her blog.
“No, Molly, this isn’t in case you have a hankering to write out the Declaration of Independence. It’s smooth, thin paper, sold by the sheet or by the roll, that spares you from ever having to grease a cookie sheet again. Just lay out the paper on the pan, use your handy dandy kitchen scissors to cut to size, and bake cookies to your heart’s content; they will slide right off the pan, leaving you virtually no clean-up. And that much more time to watch Thanksgiving Day parades, football or holiday movies.”
So there you have it. Lynn’s Top 10 items for your kitchen that you really should have but probably don’t. How well stocked are you? Do you have any other essential items to add to the list? I for one am making my husband a gift basket of all these items we don’t already have and giving it to him for the holidays – along with some of Lynn’s recipes I’ve been dying to try. And then I’m going to take him out to dinner.
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF SXC.HU WITH THE EXCEPTION OF BOOK COVER, COURTESY OF LYNN BOWEN WALKER