There’s much to be said for the minimalist kitchen. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to pare down my kitchen the the absolute essentials. In this time, I’ve learned that I can live without a garlic press, bread machine and mandolin grater. I cannot, however, live without sharp knives, good cutting boards and a vegetable peeler.
When it comes to “kitchen essentials”, I’ve been trying to invest in high quality tools that won’t die/melt/rust after a couple of years. My latest investment is a Gefu “Flotte Lotte” Food Mill.
A food mill? Is this really essential? Come on!
Such was my eternal debate for weeks before I took the plunge (life is hard, isn’t it?). But throughout those weeks, I kept finding myself wishing I had one. I had a big bag of apples from the orchard stored in the fridge that needed to be turned into applesauce. But what really pushed me over the edge was this minted pea and watercress soup that was delicious but a huge faff to prepare. This step was the culprit:
Set a sieve over a heatproof bowl and drain the soup through it. Put the solids caught in the sieve into a blender with a little of the soup liquid and purée. Push this mixture through the sieve into the bowl with the back of a ladle and repeat with any solids left in the sieve. Discard any bits that won’t pass through.
Straining and sieving and blending – why did I even make this soup? Oh right, cuz it sounded good and we had a big bag of watercress to use up from the orgasmic box and I don’t really like raw watercress.
So throughout those 20 minutes of pushing peas and soup matter through a sieve, I kept thinking “this would be a no brainer with a food mill”. Tim convinced me to go the extra mile on the Gefu, a German-made, stainless steal, dishwasher safe food mill whose only discernible flaw I’ve found is that the handle has holes in it which collects water in the dishwasher which then drips out in a somewhat unappetising way.
The food mill is awesome and for me, passes the “kitchen essential” test: namely, it’s enabling. I’m making some tasty food I couldn’t have made without it. For example:
So maybe the latter two items could have been made with a potato masher. The point is: I probably wouldn’t have bothered with either if I didn’t have an easy way to make nice smooth mush.
Why not use a blender?
My reason is lame: my blender broke a couple of weeks ago and I’m biding my time until my next trip to the States to treat myself to a Vitamix. Yes, a Vitamix costs more than my car, but I’m pretty sure it’s got a better engine and should last me a lifetime.
Besides, a blender couldn’t make perfectly creamy mashed potato and swede. This was yesterday’s lunch, made possible by my Gefu food mill and Vegan Dad’s recipe for homemade vegan sausages:
Watching television during meals is a bit of a no-no these days, but can I help it if I find it extremely comforting to, for example, make a big batch of tacos, refried beans, and a massive salad, and curl up with some quality programming like The River Cottage or True Blood? And maybe a couple of Negro Modelos?
This weekend, we decided to stretch our attention span with a couple of movies. On Friday we watched District 9, one of the most original sci-films I’ve seen in a long time. On Saturday, we watched Julie and Julia, a film which intertwines events in the life of chef Julia Child with that of wannabe-writer Julie Powell, who challenges herself to cook all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook during a single years, an effort she chronicles in her blog.
Julie and Julia is a fairly average film, perfect for those nights when you don’t feel like thinking very hard about anything. Though the film itself doesn’t inspire any deep analysis, it did get both Tim and I thinking about a lot of things beyond the film.
Tim noted how blogs have popularised the concept of challenges, for example, doing one thing every day for a year. In fact, some of my favorite blogs about these sorts of life experiments: Living Healthy in the Real World and The Great Fitness Experiment, just to name two. The thing I like about these challenges is that they have a definitive goal, and their tendency to be fairly extreme make them fascinating to read about. But is this trend really the way forward as far as health is concerned? I wonder.
We both agreed that a challenge like “do one thing every day for a year” just isn’t the way real people live. And what if you miss a day? It’s the end of the world! I don’t know. At the same time, maybe a “challenge” is a good way to kick start a good habit, be it walking or cooking or writing. But if there’s anything that the Seinfeldian Chain taught me, it’s that doing one thing every day for a year is really hard to maintain, and to me, feeling like a “failure” doesn’t qualify as healthy.
Julie and Julia also got me thinking about my own blog here at SmarterFitter. Strangely, after all that lamenting about goals and challenges, I started wondering what MY goal was with this blog wishing I had one that was better defined. Is this why I haven’t been blogging for the last two months? Maybe… I fell out of the rhythm after my winter travels and just never got back into it. Is it because I didn’t have a goal to push me forward?
After a bit of soul searching, I decided that I didn’t want SmarterFitter to feel like an obligation – this is supposed to be a labor of love. Its only “goal” is to help me tune my life towards those activities that make me happy and healthy (and here, happiness and healthiness go hand in hand). So what are those things? Well, maybe THAT’s the challenge.
On the surface, it’s very clear that I like cooking and eating. Let’s face it – I’m obsessed with food. But there’s a broader lifestyle thing going on here – living in the country, going freelance, buying “forever things” instead of shopping at Ikea – that I’m still trying to figure out. Who knows – maybe blogging about it will help me get there.
So I’m going to write about things that help me get happy, healthy and free. This will usually involve food, but sometimes it will involve all the things around it, like growing vegetables, climbing mountains, writing for a living and building a clay oven (I hope).
Now I realize that I’m blogging about blogging. Gross. Oh well, it’s good to be back. Now on with it!