A Contrary View to "10 Kitchen Tools You Can't Live Without"

Long term readers of the L&TM5K will remember Phineas, one-time frequent commenter who even today stops by to dominate the occasional Wednesday Quiz. Among his other mad skillz, Phineas is a serious amateur chef, and has been keeping a, a -- what? a blog? a weekly newsletter? -- on fancy home cookin'. It's called Be a Better Cook - I'll Help -- Cooking Advice from a Passionate Home Cook. Much of what he writes goes a little over my head, frankly, since I am of simple peasant stock and prefer foods that can be prepared, consumed, and, if necessary, cleaned up after in less than a quarter of an hour. But it is well-written stuff, and is getting some critical acclaim out there, so I do recommend it for those of you burdened with sophisticated palates.

Recently, though, he happened to write a post about something which I just happen to have a rare expertise in. It was called "10 Kitchen Tools You Can't Live Without." Now it so happens that, many years ago, I found myself marooned on an island -- Great Britain -- for the better part of a year, and was forced to assemble the kitchen tools that would see me through this time period. So I know, from cruel experience, exactly what Kitchen Tools You Can't Live Without. Let's take a look at the list that Phineas -- who, probably to protect his privacy, is calling himself "Tom McGuffey" on this new project -- came up with, and see how well he did.

Here's his list:
1: Chef's Knife 8"

2: Cutting Board

3: Peeler

4: 10" and 12" Non-stick Saute Pans

5: 8 Quart Stock Pot

6: Largish sauce pan

7: Paring Knife

8: Strainer / Colander

9: Microplane Grater

10 Dutch Oven

Now, here's the actual list -- as I say, forged from real, cruel experience:

#1: A pot. This is very useful for heating up anything liquid, from boiling water for noodles to preparing a nice can of soup. It is also good for heating up refried beans -- now generally available in the UK, but at the time something I had to special-order by the case from a specialty shop -- or dahl, much more widely available in the UK than here.

#2: A pan. This is good for frying things, such as eggs or pancakes. If you are doing fancy cookin', you can "saute" in it.

#3: A spatula. A necessary companion for the pan.

#4: A spoon. Useful for transferring liquid, runny, or granular foods to the mouth. Also useful for stirring things cooking in the pot.

#5: A fork. Useful for transferring foods that need some kind of stabbing to the mouth.

#6: A knife. In addition to a serrated knife capable of getting through a block of cheese, I also splurged on a table knife. This latter is a rarely used appliance, but it's generally considered part of a culturally appropriate trio with the fork and knife.

#7: A bowl. Good for containing most foods made in the pot while consuming them. Not a strict necessity, as it is perfectly workable to eat out of the pot, but a nicety.

#8: A plate. Much like the bowl, for foods made in the pan. Plates are more important than bowls, as pans can be difficult to eat out of.

#9: A cup. For containing liquids, such as tea or water. This was eventually supplemented with some of the pint glasses that one can find for free in the neighborhoods around British "pubs," or bars, if one is out and about early on weekend mornings.

#10: A cheese grater.

So, we see that although Phineas didn't do a BAD job -- he realizes, for instance, that it's tough to run a kitchen without a pan, a pot, a knife, and some sort of way to grate your cheese -- he perhaps forgotten to think through the final stages of the dining process. As far as I can tell, he's going to be transferring food directly from the pot or pan to his mouth using either a chef's knife or a paring knife, which is not only inelegant, but raises significant safety concerns.

He also includes on his list one item that I can not only live without, but that I can live without knowing what it is: a "Dutch Oven." I was initially baffled by "Microplane Grater" as well, but I'm thinking that's a cheese grater, and having a cheese grater on the list shows Phineas to be a man of good sense who will be able to deliver the nachos when the chips are down. Which is especially good for him, because with nachos you don't need a fork or spoon.

Mind you, the above list cuts close to the bone. I do not recommend living without the following supplementary tools:


#11: A blender. Used to make the banana/orange juice/fruit concoctions that one has for breakfast, and the carrot/orange juice/spinach concoctions that one sometimes has for lunch.

#12: An air popper.

#13: A baking sheet. Cookies!

#14: A cooling rack. Cookies!

Be a Better Cook - I'll Help -- recommended for you foodies out there!

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