Friday, 31 May 2013

Preserving One's Sanity - Some Essential Items

So, May was Cakegeddon.  It was cake-tastic, cake-splosive, cake-apocolyptic, even.

So. Many. Damn. Cakes.

I logged some serious hours in the kitchen.  My kitchen is small and not considered to be a "fun" place to hang out in.  Productive, yes, rewarding, yes, enjoyable in a soul-fulfilling and satisfying manner - yes!  But not "fun".  While my house is old and pretty (fancy folks call it 'vintage'), it means that it's not built on an open plan, so the kitchen is a completely separate space.  In modern kitchens, kids do their homework at the breakfast nook while Dad cooks bacon and watches football simultaneously.
My house ain't built like that.  At my house, if you're in the kitchen, you're cooking.

It can get a little crazy-making in there, especially if you're baking what feels like a thousand cakes (okay, four).  So here are a few things I use to make kitchen life a little more streamlined and (I hate to say it) "fun".

Oven Thermometer
Even the best oven can lie, or tell fibs that throw you off.  If you've done all the hard work of measuring, separating, mixing and other arm-busting activities, you don't want betrayal on the home stretch.
Get an oven thermometer and (I learned this the hard way!) and put it in the same spot where you'll be putting your baked goods.  Then simply move it using mitts or tongs and replace it with the item-to-be-baked.
The bottom of my oven is an insanely different temperature than the middle.  It took a Black Forest cake developing a ski slope-like  protrusion to figure that one out.  You could put a Matchbox car at the top and it would have rolled off with enough velocity to make a child giggle.  I laugh about it now, but at the time...

Happy Sounds - Music and Podcasts
Dishes feel like drudgery, don't you think?  Music and other pleasing noises makes it less so.  Quality speakers are important here, especially now that music, especially in it's now-common digital form, regularly loses it's dynamic range.  An X-Mini lives in my kitchen, which I plug my smartphone into for both tunes and podcasts.  It is superb.  The Boyfriend accidentally threw out my previous X-Mini (R.I.P little fella) during a merciless cleanout and I was aghast for weeks until a new one was procured.  During that time I opted for no sound over bad sound - one just cannot go back.  Plus, it is a Singaporean invention and in matters of engineering and excellence the Singaporeans are trustworthy bunch, nearly on par with the Germans.
Moving along; podcasts I'd recommend are The Moth and Food Is The New Rock.  The Moth is wonderful - the basis of it is "True Stories Told Live".  Some stories really do make you laugh out loud (like Ernesto Quiñonez's tale of "borrowing" people's dogs to make some extra cash), others are scarily relatable (like Adam Gopnik's "Rare Romance, Well-Done Marriage") and others are so sad, you almost can't stand it and want to hit Pause, except you cannot because if you did you would be committing the unsaintly crime of interrupting (Damien Echols' "Life After Death" will either make you cry or get angry.  Or both).  And I hate interrupters, don't you?  Anyhow, the Moth is compelling, do check it out especially if you consider yourself a worldly and literary sort.
Food Is The New Rock is great, BUT can be a little hit-or-miss.  It is best if you are either a huge music or food nerd to get quality bang for your auditory buck.  It has some real gems, however.  Did you know that Cheech Marin's nickname is an abbreviation of "chicharrón"? Or that he was taught how to make matzoh ball soup from the late, great and golden Estelle Getty?  He is also a comfortable conversationalist and an immensely likeable, well-mannered chap.  Marvellous.
Anyway, playing something enjoyable while you cook or clean makes your culinary stronghold a merrier place.  It is an undertaking of very little effort in return for much soul-pleasing reward.
Music-wise, I have a bracing fondness for the Judgement Night soundtrack, one of the first albums in the 90's to feature a mashup of rap and metal.  Sonic Youth, Run DMC and Living Colour are just some of the great artists on there - this album is always on the playlist.

Something To Hold Your Cookbook Up
The PageBoy bookrest is small, cheap and good.  It can take a tome like Ruhlman's Twenty, or a little guy like Lucky Peach.  There are some fancier ones out there, but I've tried a number of them with no luck.
This one works.

Comfortable Shoes
I have a pair of basic, ancient Crocs.  They are embarrassing to clap eyes on, but again, they just work.  They provide support to my weary arches and my legs don't feel like one of Dante's circles after hours of  standing.  If not Crocs, then my trusty black Converse which I wear everywhere.  On a side note: I always wear shoes in the kitchen.  Sharp knives, toffee-making, meandering pets, you can't navigate all that potential for bloodshed without shoes.

An Apron and Something To Control That Hair
An apron is necessary because, well, what else am I going to wipe my flour-encrusted hands on?  If the apron has a pocket it gives you extra style points, as it means you can clip a timer straight onto yourself like a kitchen McGyver, like You Mean Business.  Which is really cool.
Oh, and The Hair.  For the love of all that's holy, restrain the hair.  Shannon Bennett seems like a lovely chap and astounding chef, but his hair drives me nuts.  Nathan from "Masterchef: The Professionals" also seemed like a great guy, but my God the hair.  There was always just this one lock that would hang down  and it was... unsettling.

There you have it - the items which I require in my kitchen which are not food and are not in the direct business of making food.

Rather, they have the combined purpose of pulling me back from the brink of chaos.

They provide order, comfort and reliability - just a few little things that no cook should be without.

No comments:

Post a Comment