"A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift."

Laurie Colwin

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vibey's Gallery of Not Altogether Useless and Rather Fun Kitchen Gadgetry

I do love me a gadget, whether electric, mechanical, or just hand-pushed.  Gadgets aren't necessary - they're not equipment, not batterie de cuisine - but there are times when you could weep with gratitude that you have them.  That olive pitter you only use once a year?  Tell me you won't want to kiss it when you have to pip 10 kilos of cherries.

But there are other gadgets.  Silly gadgets.  Gadgets that are the equivalent of toys for a person whose favourite playground is the kitchen.  When I've had a hard week, and find myself in a variety store with enough pocket money to have a good time, I will usually migrate to the kitchen section, and when the variety store happens to be Japanese, the playthings are quite something.

Wanna see?

I haven't made onigiri in decades.  But when I do finally make onigiri again, I want them shaped like a heart and a cherry blossom, dammit!

Yes, it's a squirty bottle.  But it's a squirty bottle with class, pumping out not just a single squeeze, but four fine lines with a single stroke.  Mayo on okonomiyaki, melted chocolate on sit-down indoor 'smores… the squiggles make them so much better.

OK so this why the Japanese are engineering geniuses.  We all know that you need both a spoon and a fork or chopsticks when you're having Asian-style noodle soup, right?  So why not combine the two?  Huh?  HUH?  Like I said:  genius.

The fig isn't there for decoration, it's there to show you how small this loose-bottom cake pan is.  In that best-selling book, Why Japanese People (Except Sumo Wrestlers) Aren't Fat Like Us*, one of the reasons put forward is that cakes are made in pans this size, which provide about 30 servings.  I found this size ideal for making my son's sushi birthday cake.  I also bought one that's about 2/3 this size, which also made a great-sized sushi cake to feed about six of us fat Westerners.  Finding loose-bottomed pans this size in ordinary kitchenware suppliers is hard;  when you find them, they cost an arm and a leg.  That's because they're made in Europe and the Europeans want to keep us fat.  This one set me back just a couple bucks.

This thing cuts the crust off a sandwich and encloses the filling.  The heart… the heart is to remind you that it's all worth it.  The end.

OK, so this is not a silly gadget at all.  It's actually quite cool, and I'm quite excited about having this in my arsenal.  The label tells us that "When you cook pasta and retort food, you can boil an egg or vegetables by this colander at the same time."  Yes, yes, but more than that.  If I'm making an Asian-style broth, I can actually put my slices of ginger, garlic cloves, green onion tops and dried anchovies in this thing, and just lift it out when done rather than straining the whole shebang.

Yes, it's another mould.  For rice.  This one-serve mould holds over half as much as the cake mould does, which again tells us Why Japanese People (Except Sumo Wrestlers) Aren't Fat Like Us*:  it's OK to eat half a cake, just as long as the cake is only rice shaped like a cake.

Another rice mould, this one for omurice.  I have no idea how this is going to work, unless I make a completely flat, dry, pancakey omelette, and line the mould with it before spooning in the rice.  But if I did that, then I would miss out on the ritual of splitting the gooey omelette and having it flow over the rice, and… OK, I'm taking this one back to the shop.

Because I like to have wooden spoons for mustard and other tracklements at the table.  Even if they are rubber wood.  Whatever that is.

OK, I admit it:  I have a son who expressed an interest in making his own teabags.  That is perfectly normal, right?  So the small ones are for him.  The big ones are for me, for bouquet garni and other things I want to fish out easily from a pot at the end of cooking.

Again, not silly at all.  These little natural fibre brushes are so incredibly brilliant that I bought three.  The notches on the side are to control the length of the brush fibres.  Have them long like this, medium, or short and stubby (ideal for greasing up the pan between crêpes).

This very gorgeous foil paper is used for wrapping up sandwiches and bento items.  One day, when I decide to be an exemplary mother, I will do that.  Or maybe I'll wait until I can be an exemplary grandmother.

This is such a clever idea that I don't know why no one thought of it decades ago.  Shot glasses are a standard measure, right?  So here you have a standard measure with measurements up the sides.  The measuring spoons have been feeling pretty neglected since this came into the house.

Another gadget I am excited about.  A little thingie that will grind sesame seeds for you.  I love to sprinkle gomashio over everything except my All-Bran, and this is brilliant, because as you may or may not know, if you make gomashio ahead of time, it just clumps together after a few days.  But I can fill this mill with roasted sesame seeds and sea salt flakes, and grind my gomashio as I need it.  That is, if I can make sense of the instructions:  "This commodity might change in quality by the terpene or oils and fats contained in the skin of citrus fruits such as the lemons."  "Rough of sesame can be added or subtracted to the own taste by adjusting an internal screw."  "Of beginning use it becomes easy to use when putting sesame in the container and turning the steering wheel though the rotation of the steering wheel may be tight."  Of course.

These I didn't buy. My colleague Kylie brought them for me from New Zealand.  They are for frying eggs in the shape of a cow, a sheep, or a kiwi (the bird, not the fruit).  I wonder what made her think I would use such a thing?

Surely not these eggs shaped like teddy bears, bunnies, hearts, stars, cars, and fish!  No way.

No, I didn't need another saucepan, but this isn't just another saucepan.  It isn't that it's just the right size for one or two packets of ramen, but that despite being stainless steel, it's thin with a thin bottom.    It's not meant to sauté anything:  it's meant to heat liquids up fast.  Faster than the mikey, with more even heat distribution.  My sons, who eat ramen in industrial quantities, will use this.

As will I.  Happy and satisfied after my little shopping spree, I can have a little play in the kitchen and a bit of a giggle while I eat my lunch.  Because sometimes, we all need a little teddy bear looking out at us from our noodle bowl.

Yumbo McGillicutty!

*  Not a real book title. 


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