Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Kitchen Nazi

Over the last year, I've cooked in how many kitchens? LA condo, Tokyo residential hotel, Tokyo friend's house, my mom's house, Paris apartment, Montreux apartment, The Ranch, Eureka house-sit, Waikiki condo 1, Waikiki condo 2, the DogFather's… Furnished rentals rarely have decent knives and many Americans use serrated knives which I have trouble with, so I've gotten in the habit of traveling with one decent kitchen knife and a pair of cooking chopsticks. The chopsticks work as a fork, spatula, tongs, egg beater…sort of a "zen" Swiss Army knife!

The DogFather's has all these great appliances from the late 40's. We were just commenting on his beautiful gas range yesterday. It's totally Post-War Modern and designed so beautifully, it makes me drool.

"Plus, I think your electric beater is the best I've ever used!"
"I think we got that not too long after the stove."
"Well, it beats the heck out of those expensive KitchenAid things! I think the only people who have them are those who don't really cook."

I do. I have a terrible phobia of chemicals (and pharmaceuticals!) so I usually make everything from scratch.

"The supermarkets in the US are giant," I tell people back in Japan. "They're the size of warehouses. But I rarely go down the aisles. Nearly everything I need is along the walls -- produce, meat, fish, dairy."

"My grandmother was a great cook." Big Dog's told me that for decades, but it wasn't until we were in the Delta last year that I found out that she cooked professionally. His grandparents had a little eatery in Greenville, Mississippi, and then another one in Bakersfield when they moved out west after The Great Flood and The Grandmother made all the food for the eateries. Maybe that's why the DogFather is more interested in food than the rest of his family. Unfortunately, he lives on mostly packaged food these days and the family members who live nearby have long ago gotten used to the conveniences of processed/instant/packaged foods. It’s been fulfilling for me to make soups (which the DogFather loves) and pies (favorites of both DogFather and Big Dog) and Southern food with an Asian twist (collard green cooked with a little soy, fried steaks with panko breading, etc.) during the last two weeks.

I realize that I've been a bit holed up in the kitchen, using it as some kind of psychological refuge. Big Dog calls me a "Kitchen Nazi" because I'm so particular about my kitchen utensils (I think) but I think I'm more the "Kitchen Hermit."

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