Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Having grown up in a gourmet kitchen store, I have a fabulous collection of kitchen essentials. Unfortunately, I have a mass of non-essentials, too! I need to focus on my kitchen fitness!! Honestly, who really needs six whisks of the same style?

The new year brought a new home with a smaller kitchen and, let me tell you, this kitchenware collector did not adjust well! For a solid month we lived with pans literally stacked on the floor, utensils pouring out of boxes, and a butcher block table so overloaded with stuff I couldn’t even use it! After stubbing my toe on a cast iron skillet for the 27th time, I’d had enough. I painstakingly went through every piece of cookware, bakeware, gadgetry, and appliance and whittled my way down to a manageably fit kitchen.

A few of the more ridiculous things I ousted:

  • Five whisks (kept four!)
  • Three 8” fry pans. THREE!!
  • Two nasty 12” skillets
  • Two garlic presses
  • A brand new ravioli rolling pin (why??)
  • Two identical carrot ribboning tools (why I even had one is beyond me)

A few things I can’t live without:

  • Counter-space-hogging espresso machine
  • Super quality cookware and knives
  • Silicone spatulas (colorful AND functional!)
  • My KitchenAid mixer
  • Quality cutting boards
  • Cake pans (endless uses!)
  • Cheese graters (yes, plural – don’t judge.)

And a few things I WON’T live without:

  • Vita-Mix blender – Don’t use this enough to justify the hefty price tag, but it’s magic!
  • All 22 of my wonderful German knives (seven are steak knives – it’s not that excessive!) –I use about four of them regularly, but they’re all in one block, so getting rid of some won’t save me any space!
  • My 23-year-old gigantic Scanpan “witch’s cauldron.” I have used it exactly two times, but it’s the bee’s knees and holds 9.5 quarts of stew AND 23 years worth of family memories.
  • Absurd (someone said that!) amounts of cookware. After getting rid of about a dozen pans, I still have a full pot rack (excellent addition to a small kitchen, by the way) and then some.

Clearly I have a hard time letting go of things I might possibly-some-day-in-the-distant-future use (looking at you, pasta machine). Getting rid of some of my unnecessities, however, made me appreciate the value behind the pieces I kept. I can do just as much with a simple set of tongs, spatulas, and bamboo spoons as I could with the multiple boxes of utensils I chucked (donated, don’t worry).

before & after

Moral of this story is that investing in quality multi-tasking pieces not only makes sense financially, but will improve your kitchen fitness. Plus you end up with space to keep the occasional frivolous purchase (*cough* individual instant popsicle makers).

You know that feeling when you clean out your closet and it’s like you have a whole new wardrobe with room for new boots? It’s like that. So next time you throw a spatula in frustration because its fat rubber handle won’t fit into your utensil crock, do yourself a favor and get your kitchen fit!

What are your must-haves for the kitchen?

 

Nourish Your Soul in the Heart of Your Home

Nourish Your Soul in the Heart of Your Home

Important things happen in the kitchen, the heart of your home. Sure, it’s where families gather to seek physical nourishment, and that’s not unimportant. But it’s also a good place to nourish our souls by simply sharing the human experience. And the way we humans do this best is by sharing the stories of our days and the dreams of our nights; our failures as well as our successes; and our fears as well as our aspirations.

But it’s not enough merely to listen, or merely to be heard. That’s simply communicating. What’s important is that we understand, and that we be understood.

Once my mother sent me to the grocery store with instructions that were simple, or so I thought: “Please bring home one gallon of milk, and if they have any lemons, get 3.” It turns out they indeed had lemons, so I returned home with 3 gallons of milk, just as instructed. I’m a stickler for details, you see, but too often I get the details right, but I miss the big picture. It was easier for me to execute her literal request than to think through what Mom was really saying, or better, what she meant to say.

Fortunately, it was no big deal. We consumed all 3 gallons of milk before any went bad. But that’s not always the case when we humans prove our fallibility. Consider the case of our neighbors across the street – Mr. and Mrs. McDonald. Growing up, I was a close friend of three of their boys, and I will never forget this story. Mr. McDonald, backing out of the driveway, asked Mrs. McDonald, riding shotgun, for assistance, “Is it ok, or is someone coming?” After a quick look around, she answered both questions, “No, one’s coming,” with an ever-so-slight pause after the comma. You guessed it. Hearing that on one was coming, Mr. M proceeded to back into oncoming traffic and was none too pleased to remember that Mrs. M, like me, is a literal thinker. Who’s to blame? You decide; I know better than to get involved in disputes between neighbors, especially when they happen to be married to each other.

In this example there was a lot more to lose than a few bucks at risk should milk spoil. Fortunately, neither Mr. or Mrs. M suffered injury beyond a bruised ego. Nonetheless, this story is a good reminder that we must take the time and exert the effort necessary to ensure that our intended message is heard and understood, and if on the receiving end, that our interpretation is accurate. When in doubt, remember these simple words of clarification, “So let me get this straight.”

Here’s one more equally humorous, inconsequential story of miscommunication that could have easily turned out otherwise. J. Edgar Hoover, the long-time head of the FBI, was a stickler for well constructed inter-office memos. Among other things, he appreciated wide margins that could easily accommodate his responses to authors and notes to follow-on readers. One day, in receipt of a memo concerning national security that crammed so many words onto each page that he barely had room to pencil his comments, Hoover expressed his disdain by noting on the memo, “Watch the borders,” and returning it to its sender. Upon reading this warning from the famed and feared Director of the FBI, the memo’s author proceeded to clamp down security at all U.S. borders.

We’re all confident communicators, certain that our messages are clear and well understood. But all too often they are not. The next time you find yourself in the heart of your home telling and listening to stories of the day, make extra effort to ensure that you have conveyed or received the intended message. A small measure of clarifying or paraphrasing can help avoid simple misunderstandings that could lead to milk going rotten, dented fenders and bruised egos, and maybe even unnecessary border actions. Happy story telling.

A Remarkable Story Heard at the Kitchen Table

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Here at the Butcher Block Company we love all things kitchen. So much happens in the kitchen – the Heart of the Home – where families and friends, sometimes joined by strangers, come together not just to share food and drink, but more broadly, to share the human experience.

The range of our interactions with one another in the kitchen run the gamut. We gather together there to pray collectively before partaking of food and drink; to celebrate momentous occasions and achievements and to comfort one another in times of distress. Over the dinner table parents upbraid as well as praise their children; and in some families, vice versa. Lovers and friends alike share with each other their most intimate thoughts, including feedback ranging from adulation to criticism. We update one another on the details of our days – whether significant or mundane, meaningful or inane. And we pass along stories from person to person, from family to family and from generation to generation.

The kitchen is where humans bond; where we laugh and dream together, and unfortunately on occasion, where we fret and mourn together. In short, the kitchen is where we come together and share the full spectrum of human emotions.

So here is the first of what we hope will be endless, memorable and moving Stories from the Kitchen.

A few years back, my wife, our two daughters and I were visiting my mother’s cousin, who happens also to be my Godfather, and his wife. Seated at their kitchen table, nibbling crackers and cheese, my Godfather recounted, for the benefit of my teenage daughters, a story that I had heard many times before, but that moves me more with every retelling.

Serving in the Greek Merchant Marines in World War II, “Uncle” George’s ship was torpedoed, but he had the good fortune to be rescued by another ship nearby. But as fate would have it, only 36 hours later that ship too was torpedoed by the Germans. Clinging to a life raft, he and four shipmates managed to hang on for dear life.

There, in those frigid waters, Uncle George prayed with all his heart and soul. He made a promise to God that changed his life forever. All he wanted was to live to see his mother and father once more. In exchange, he committed to devote what time and effort he could to serving God.

As it happened, a Canadian ship was not far away, but its current course would not bring it near the stranded Greek seamen. At least that was the case until the captain of the Canadian liner awoke from his sleep and on a hunch, changed his ship’s course by a mere 15 degrees. Lo and behold, the Greek sailors were discovered and rescued a second time, all within the span of 48 hours.

George K. Chimples emigrated to the U.S. after the war, where he became a successful businessman and philanthropist. Throughout his life, he more than fulfilled the bargain he struck that fateful night. Among his many acts of devotion and charity, Uncle George served as Chairman of United Greek Charities, founded an international Greek Orthodox fund-raising organization and served his faith at the highest level of lay leadership.

Now do you believe in miracles? Uncle George sure did. So do I. And now, my daughters do too.

The next time you gather with family or friends in the Heart of Your Home, don’t pass up the opportunity to share a story. They’re an important part of the human experience that we all share.