When I was asked to write a post about my favorite kitchen utensils, my immediate response was “but I don’t have any”. This is obviously not true, but my reaction is typical.
I’d say I have a pretty complex relationship to my cooking. I’m either in a state of complete hubris, like when I’m convinced my cinnamon buns are the best ever made and I look at cooking shows on TV thinking “I can do that. Like way better. Move aside, loser”. Or, I’m knee-deep in self-contempt, devastated because everything I make is ugly and flawed. In this state, any “You should be in Masterchef, I’m gonna send in your application!” is answered with a “If you do that, I’ll break up with you! I mean it, I can’t be in Masterchef, I can’t even chop an onion properly.” Which is true (not the break up-part, but the part about chopping onions).
Chopping onions is a sensitive subject for me. Once on one of my favorite cooking shows, there was this really cool, smooth, slick Swedish film director (you know the type) who stated that anyone who doesn’t know how to chop an onion right got no business in the kitchen. It got to me, because I’m a lousy onion chopper. I’m pretty bad at chopping anything, to be honest, I can’t cut even pieces to save my life. I blame bad motor skills, because I had a really hard time learning how to bike and when I swim, I can’t get my left leg to do the same movement as my right.
Normally, I tell myself that taste is king and as long as I get that right, it doesn’t matter if my onions are a little bit off. But then I’ll watch something like Masterchef, and one of the elimination tests is “cut 25 kilos of apples in equally big, perfect heartshapes or you’re out, sucker” and then I’ll be all depressed, thinking I’m not a good cook after all beucause I could never do that.
Anyhow, all this talk about cutting and chopping brings me to my first utensil: the knife. Until recently, I only had real sucky knives. They were horrifyingly blunt, I could barely cut a cucumber. Then for my birthday I got a real sharp, all-purpose knife. It just slides through everything from tomatoes to steak to my fingers (twice). I know this is standard advice, but treat yourself to at least one really good knife, it’ll revolutionize your cooking.
My second utensil is order. As in, keep your shit neat and tidy. I have this image of myself as a structured neat freak, but to be honest it’s only halfway true. While I clean every week and do the dishes every day, the insides of my closets and cupboards are a mess. I live in a small apartment and my kitchen is just one wall, which is no way near what I would want it to be (four walls and the space in-between). Until recently, my solution has been to cram everything in the cupboards and shove the things that don’t fit to one side of the counter. It’s a crap solution. So last weekend I took the time to reorganize until the counters were clutter free and nothing fell out on my head when I opened my pantry. It’s made cooking so much easier and more fun now that I have both an overview of what I’ve got home and the space to work on.
The third utensil is planning ahead. It’s right next to order, and it too simplifies the cooking procedure. Take a minute to read your recipe and think about what you’re going to do, then prepare all the ingredients and tools you’ll need and you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and unpleasant surprises. Number four is pans, pots and plastic bowls. You can never have too many or in too many sizes. The same goes with cutting boards, and make sure to use different ones for meat and vegetables.
Number six: keep a stock. Not as in chicken stock, or yes, that too, but as in a stock of things you might need in your everyday cooking. This means for example flour, sugar(s), eggs, onion, garlic, honey, olive oil, lemons and all kinds of spices. Last one, are you still there? Drumroll: a mixer. Because it’s so much handier to use and to clean a small mixer instead of a big blender or kitchen aid. That’s a good rule to keep in mind for all your utensils, they should make every part of your cooking easier. If they don’t, throw them out.
Malin’s eating is now on Instagram at malinseating and on Facebook at facebook.com/malinseating