Tag Archives: favorite kitchen tools

Jeepers Peepers

One of the facts about middle age is that your body changes. You can’t eat as many calories as you once could – unless you want to live at the gym. Staying up all night becomes impossible, even if you could do it with ease and caffeine in your 20s. And if you’re like me your eyesight eventually deteriorates enough so that you need glasses.

I did not grow up wearing glasses, other than the occasional groovy pair of 70s mirrored sunglasses, but I always wanted to. There were three things I desperately wanted when I was younger – curly hair, braces, and glasses. Strike one, strike two, strike three. Sometimes I would mold my gum up over my teeth to pretend to myself that I had braces, which in retrospect was completely lame. For years my mother assured me that if I ate all of my bread crusts my hair would become curly, but it didn’t. Occasionally she would wind my hair up in strips torn from old pillow cases to give me rag curls, probably because she felt guilty for lying to me about the bread crusts. I owned a curling iron for a short period then in my 30s I broke down and got a perm, which was frightful. I went back to straight hair and curly hair envy. Finally in my late 40s one of my dreams came true and I got glasses. I loved them.

The trick was I only needed to wear my glasses sometimes. My husband has worn glasses since he was two and because of his eyesight he wears them from the time he gets up until just before he goes to bed. It’s hard to lose your glasses when they’re always on your face. At first I would have the kids help me find my own glasses, offering cookies as a reward. Often they were on top of my head where I used them like a headband to keep my hair back. Eventually my friend Rick told me that his eye doctor had a solution for people like us who only need glasses for certain tasks. His doctor recommended having a pair of glasses everywhere you might need them. So now I have a pair next to the computer, by the side of my bed, in my car, in my purse, in my food styling kit, and most importantly in my cupboard next to the vanilla.

chocolate, vanilla and reading glasses

Yup, I’ve got them in the kitchen because while I can cook without my glasses on, I can no longer read recipes without them. Turns out I can’t even go to the grocery store without glasses because while I can tell the difference between an apple and a tomato I can’t read the ingredient list on most boxes or discern the code numbers you’re supposed to write when you’re bagging up bulk items. One time, before I succumbed to the glasses-in-every-nook-and-crany school I forgot to bring my glasses to a photo shoot. I could not see the food I was styling well enough to work. The photographer loaned me a magnifying glass from his prop room just so I could see to put all the nuts in place with my tweezers on the hot fudge sundae we were shooting. Talk about embarrassing.

reading glasses

Looks like I got one of my childhood wishes in multiples.

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Favorite Tool #7 My Wooden Stirring Stick

It’s curves are perfect. It is narrow enough at the tip to fit into the edges of pots and the handle flairs out to just-the-right size for my hand to grasp. This stirring stick has been in my kitchen tool pot forever. If I ever pare down my all the items in my kitchen (which, if I’m being honest, will probably never happen) this tool would always stay. I can’t remember where I picked it up or if someone gave it to me. Perhaps I’ve had it since the cradle or since I first started collecting kitchen gadgets.

"Favorite wooden spoon"

Wooden spoons and stirrers can be so personal. If you want to see some amazing ones click here, they’re pricey but delicious. I look forward to seeing Herriott Grace’s new inventory every few months just so I can drool. You can often find a nice selection of wooden spoons at your local craft fair. My suggestion is to pick up one that catches your eye. See how it feels in your hand. Close your eyes and stir it in an imaginary pot. Is it a keeper or should you try others? You’ll know when you’ve found the one.

I would love to know what your favorite wooden spoon or stirring stick is. Send me an email 50recipes@gmail.com* with a picture attached and I’ll feature them all in a future post.

*Wordpress is trying to protect me from spammers by not making my email clickable. You’ll need to copy and paste it into your mail program if I’m not in your address book.

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Round and Round

"nutmeg grinder

I know very little about this piece, other than the fact it has a paten mark from Sept. 3,  1867. If I were a cook 140+ years ago I would have been charmed to own this nutmeg grater. Truth be told I’ve been charmed to have owned this great tool for the last twenty years.

Nutmeg trees actually produce two spices – nutmeg and mace. Mace isn’t a spice I use very often but there is a great sounding vegetable soup recipe at Béatrice Peltre’s blog which calls for it. While mace isn’t a frequently used spice, nutmeg is one that I often reach for. I used to buy pre-ground nutmeg in a jar, which has a deliciously powerful scent that wafts up to you the moment the jar is opened. The problem is once the jar has been opened the scent and some of the flavor fade. Which is why I’m a proponent of grating your own nutmeg. It’s fun to take a look at the variety of nutmeg grinders pictured on the internet.

"Nutmeg and Mace"

Illustration of nutmeg and mace from Alan Davidson's The Oxford Companion to Food

Grating nutmeg is incredibly satisfying. Whether it’s the zing I add to a bowl of creamy steamy mashed potatoes (a great tip from Alan Pirie), a whisper of nutmeg on top of  a cold glass of eggnog and rum, or that titillating taste that will have people wondering what did you put into that peach blueberry cobbler–this is the tool you need.

If you’re lucky enough to own a grater like this you’ll also need another handy kitchen tool – a toothpick. The punched holes need to be cleaned out every so often as bits of the grated nutmeg tend to plug them up.

"back of nutmeg grater"

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Whip It Good

Many  years ago we invited a Smith College Thanksgiving orphan to share our turkey day with us. The college does not serve Thanksgiving dinner to the small number of students who stay on campus over the holiday weekend, instead offering them vouchers to local restaurants. Hearing that students weren’t getting a homemade dinner, local alumnae began inviting the Thanksgiving orphans to their homes for a family meal. Continue reading

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Favorite Tools #1

I have more kitchen stuff than any normal person has a need for. I tell myself that the vast horde of pots, pans, obscure devices, and hundreds of cookie cutters are necessary because of my food styling work, but the truth is I have a bit of a collecting problem. So when I read Jane Lear’s post on her favorite pot it got me to thinking about Continue reading

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