I’m still in Santa Barbara where it’s absolutely beautiful. Other than that I’m afraid there isn’t much to list in this report. You’ll notice there continues to be no recipe at the bottom of this post. But I do have a cute little kitchen in the cottage where we’re staying and I have been tinkering about as well as I’m able.
I knew going into this month in Santa Barbara that the kitchen would be basic. I even anticipated and embraced the limitations of a small kitchen and brought along my Staub 6‑quart cast iron soup pot. It’s a seaside town so it can get chilly in the evening and I assumed I’d be making soup. You can make a great soup in a simple kitchen.
Still, it’s easy to take our home kitchens for granted. I brought along a cookbook (just in case) and I have to admit I got a good chuckle from the opening pages. They’re devoted to equipment. I look around the sunny little counter that I’m using to cook these days and I’m immediately struck by it’s lack of a flan ring. Judy Rodgers boasts of multiple uses for a flan ring in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. The food processor is listed just below a chef’s knife in the necessary “sharp things” section of the book. The “dull things” she couldn’t be without include a mortar and pestle as well as a meat pounder. My cute Santa Barbara kitchen has none of these things.
Instead of a food processor I do have a couple of decent knives so it’s not like I’m complaining. There’s also a whisk. A whisk can do more things than a flan ring can any day.
There’s also a set of mixing bowls coupled with some sturdy wooden spoons. So I’m just fine. Let’s face it, most kitchen things are just frills. A lot of the world cooks over live fire with no gadgets at all.
Now, Judy Rodgers may believe that a “complete, heavy-gauge batterie de cuisine — a full range of pot sizes and shapes – will allow you maximum culinary flexibility” but she’s practical enough to realize that you can “get by with a few pots and matching lids.”
I’d hone her list down even more. If I were starting over in life I’d take a look at the jeans I’m wearing and remember most of us have many (many) pairs of jeans but we find ourselves reaching for the same pair time and time again. Still, jeans aren’t the only basics in our wardrobes. Our kitchens should be the same so I thought I’d share my list of the things every kitchen needs.
- Two good knives. On big and broad one small and pointy. They should be carbon steel. Stainless knives can cut butter but little else.
- If you have good knives you should also have a honing steel. Otherwise you won’t have good knives very long.
- A set of mixing bowls. Without them I wouldn’t even call it a kitchen.
- A colander
- Two wooden spoons. One to use for everything and the other to use for everything else.
- Two cast iron skillets preferably slope-sided. One big and one small. Eggs cook best in a small pan. Meat cooks best in a big pan.
- A sauce pan. Sure it’s useful for making sauce but it also big enough to boil a little pasta and small enough to heat up a can of soup.
- A roasting pan. You may doubt me on this one but even if you promise never to roast a turkey, you can’t promise never to roast a chicken. Besides it does double duty with lasagna or a triple batch of brownies.
- A soup pot because it’s always soup season somewhere.
- A lidded low-sided casserole. What Judy Rodgers would call a braiser. One that can handle both the stove top and the oven.
- As many rimmed baking sheets as you have room for.
- A long two-pronged fork, tongs and a spatula, duh…
- A cutting board for every flat surface in the kitchen. You can temporarily lean it up against the back splash if you want more space, but it will always be there when you need it. And you will need it.
- Measuring cups and spoons because even you can’t eyeball it every time.
- An apron will make you look like you know what you’re doing. It will also save you from unforeseen nuisances. No frills, flounces, ruffles, or jokey, smart-ass phrases, please.
You may disagree with me but I think this is a good list.
Still, it reminds me that when I get home I’m going to ask my food processor to marry me – so we’ll never be separated again. GREG