Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Inventory

One of the cool things about being me is that my professional development opportunities are fun. For example, last week, I went to an academic conference that focuses on popular culture. At conferences like that, people are apt to present on just about anything: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lady Gaga, and a whole boatload of other fantastic topics. Being the good food blogger that I am, I managed to attend a panel that focused on food; two out of the three papers I heard in this session dealt directly with Food Network chefs and some of their shortcomings.

One gentleman brought up the issue of the perhaps excessive branding that comes with being a Food Network chef. For example, Emeril, Rachel Ray, and Paula Deen each have their own lines of cookware/kitchen tools/cookbooks/products, the most expansive of which belongs to Deen. (I have to say up front that I'm a little bit terrified of Deen--that creepy smile! so much butter!--but have a new-found respect for her after learning about this.) One of the underlying questions the presenter raised was, What do you really need in your kitchen to be a successful home cook?

I have opinions about this. Right now, my kitchen contains the following implements:

- Small saucepot
- Medium saucepot
- Small stock pot
- Steamer (which, if you get one like mine, can double as a stock pot when the steaming pot is removed)
- Small cast-iron frying pan
- Medium cast-iron frying pan
- Cookie sheet
- Muffin tin
- 9" round cake pan
- Baker's quarter sheet (a shallow 9"x13" cake pan)
- 9"x13" cake pan
- Set of six mixing bowls (like these--probably the best kitchen purchase I ever made, since they double as storage)
- Small wet measuring cup
- Set of dry measuring cups
- Set of measuring spoons
- Small serrated knife
- Large straight-blade knife
- Flat turner
- Slotted turner
- Metal flat turner
- Slotted spoon
- Regular spoon
- Perforated strainer (which can double as a skimmer if absolutely necessary)
- Set of wooden spoons
- Spatula
- Ladle
- Set of whisks
- Icing knife
- Can opener
- Bottle opener
- Corkscrew
- Colander
- Set of small glass bowls
- Set of microwave-only ramekins
- Set of storage containers (various sizes)
- Pitcher
- Cookie press
- Hand mixer (I bought it for about $7.00, and it's scary fast--I mean really scary--but does the job)
- Microwave
- Small coffee maker
- 3-burner stovetop
- Half-size oven
- Refrigerator with freezer

I've been able to make all of my recipes so far with only these implements. And that just goes to show you that you don't need all sorts of fancy tools to make good, satisfying meals. Of course, there are many things I would like to have in my kitchen. At the top of my list? A blender (word on the street is that I'm getting one for Christmas!), a multipurpose grater/zester, a small crock pot, and stainless steel frying pans. Also, I have two casserole dishes waiting for me at my parents' house, and I'm very excited about having them at my disposal, although in a pinch, I have been able to make casseroles in my round cake pan, but they don't turn out as well.

I do admire television chefs; their ambition and creativity is fantastic. But home chefs don't have the same luxuries (space, budget, etc.), and our creativity--making do with what we have--is, I think, just as worthy.

How do you cook?


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