We don't pick our passions. They pick us. Mine is kitchen hacks.
Maybe it's because I really don't like being 1) on my feet in the kitchen for hours, 2) struggling with manual dexterity and 3) fighting with the damn physical world (which is definitely out to get me). Kitchen hacks help me work smarter, not harder and the food is better for it.
But, as we all know, the cooking's not done 'til the dishes are done. As I'm fond of telling my step-daughters: "Screw diamonds! It's Lysol wipes and dishwands that are a girl's best friends."
1. Delightful, Delicious, DeLovely Dishwands
Where has this been all my life!?! And why do dishes figure so centrally in so many of my articles for Narcissism Meets Normalcy and now this blog?
Well, nobody (except my Grandmother, of course) enjoys washing the dishes.
My father insulting me about not having a dishwasher ("How's that workin' out for ya!?! Ha, ha, ha) was the seminal moment. It was one insult, one "tease" too many after a lifetime of constant, "I'm just teasing." I went No Contact with him five months after that.
Yeah, dishes are obviously a real issue for me.
As a little girl, I was taught to fill a dishpan with hot soapy water, wash each dish with a washcloth and turn the faucet off-and-on to rinse each dish. And I objected to it from the start. That's, oh, let me see, hmmmm. Conservatively, twenty-five dishes per load. Two loads per day. Fifty on's and fifty off's. That's 100 plyings of the faucet per day, 36,500 per year and 1,460,000 times in a forty year marriage.
Ain't happenin'! As soon as we moved to this cottage, I asked Michael if it was okay for me to drizzle the cold water for rinsing and he was fine with it. Washing dishes went 50X faster and it's not a waste. The rinse water goes right back down into the water table to be drawn up and used again and again.
That helped speed up the process. But I still wasn't a happy camper.
Then it happened! Michael was caught up in an Aren't-Tiny-Houses-Cool eddy on YouTube and in one video, the lady of the tiny house used a dishwand to clean her 1 bowl, 1 cup, 1 fork.
I thought I'd discovered fire!
That was it! I was hooked! But some refinements were needed. For starters, the instructions for using dishwands are all wrong. Don't fill the handle with dishsoap. Too much will come out in a foamy, slimy mess it's impossible to rinse off the dishes.
Fill the handle with hot water and a healthy squeeze of dishsoap. It's plenty for your purposes.
Secondly, the sponge needs to be cleaned daily. I've tried hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol but by far the best method is what 1950s housewives were taught to do: scalding. Simply pour boiling hot water over the dishwand sponge once a day and Bob's your uncle. The bacteria is killed deader than a doornail.
Thirdly, and thanks to my friend Marla for reminding me of this, always store the dishwand sponge-upwards...or all the soapy water will drain out! I wedge mine in the corner of a plastic box hanging over the kitchen sink.
2. Falling for Fungus
Michael and I are discovering the glories of a well cooked mushroom. Grilled over hot coals on my makeshift yakatori grill, they are delicious!
But how do you know if your mushrooms are fresh? Ah, there's a trick!
Turn it over and, begging its pardon, look at its bottom. See where it's stamped "Made in China"? I'm kidding! What you're looking for is the area around the stem where the cap curves downwards to meet it.
Are the gills under the cap exposed? It's an old mushroom.
Does the cap curve under, all the way to the stem, protecting the gills from sight? That's a fresh mushroom. Go for it!
3. Keeping Cool
Any French chef of a certain age will tell you horror stories of how crazy the head chef was during their apprentice days. And these tales come after Escoffier brought order to professional kitchens and banned alcohol! Imagine how nuts it was before!?!
One thing many a-chef insisted upon was meat being flipped by hand. No utensils allowed lest the meat or fish be damaged.
Even now, you'll notice chefs on TV cooking shows being very handsy with the food. Instead of plunging a meat thermometer into a steak, they press it gently to test the doneness. Oh! How I aspire to this! No losing juices through the hole left by the thermometer.
But with hands as soft as veal and the manual dexterity of a five-year-old, I hate getting burned. This kitchen hack comes courtesy of Jacques Pépin. Keep a bowl of ice water next to the stove. If you touch hot food, instantly plunge your fingers into the ice water and dry them on your apron or the towel slung over your shoulder. Voilà!
4. No Sliding Allowed
Cutting boards are a problem! They just are!
When you need it, it's still in the wash because you didn't feel like plying your dishwand just yet.
If it's clean, it's slipping and sliding all over the countertop.
For a long time, I used wax paper instead of a cutting board, but that comes with its own set of problems. It curls. It tears. It gets mushy if the vegetables are wet.
To add insult to injury, cutting boards are so expensive! I finally found cheap plastic ones at our local dollar store for like $2...but they're slippery as heck!
That's when I noticed what cooking students do when setting up their workstations. They place a folded kitchen towel under their cutting board, giving it traction on the slippery countertop.
But I went them one better! Rolls of non-skid rubber are... what? Two bucks, tops, at Family Dollar (near the laundry detergent and Ziploc bags). Just place a piece under your cutting board and you're in business! No more slipping!
If it gets yucky, just rinse it under the faucet, in your dishpan or throw it in the washing machine. Problem solved!
There are lots more kitchen hacks buzzing around in my brain but these four rose to the top...which either means that they're bad eggs (yes, bad eggs float; fresh eggs sink) or that they're the best and brightest.
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