Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring, or Winter (?), Cleaning

Soooo, instead of sowing some seeds in the garden this weekend (you know, because of that fluffy white stuff unexpectedly smothering it) we decided to sow the seeds of change in the kitchen. After we spent much time and deliberation designing it to work best for us, we mucked it up with the detritus of a newlywed's registry. Sure, we registered for everything and got nice stemware rather than ugly tea towels, but six years ago, we hadn't become the simple-living fanatics we are today.  

Three years later, we realize how dysfunctional our space actually is; not the cabinets themselves but all the junk that's in them. Getting back to basics, we exploded the cabinets, removing all the items inside, wiping them down, cleaning the shelves and scrutinizing individual items, asking ourselves: Do we need/use/like this? Do we need three nearly empty bottles of honey? Two jars of cumin? Seven wooden spoons? Six wine openers? Chargers we've used once? Three sets of plates -- 12 each? 

Spices were checked for potency and combined and/or tossed. (The trash can smells great, but Mike's been on a sneezing rampage!) The juicer, fondue pot (still in its box), panini maker and three-tiered steamer have all been identified unnecessary and marked for departure. We also have martini glasses, margarita glasses, two sets of daily glassware and Tiffany water glasses that rarely get used; we'll be paring down to four in the cabinets and put the rest in storage. Two people -- even ones who entertain as often as we do -- do not need all this stuff. It's clutter. What we've come to realize is that cooks need some basic items and the rest is just a way for appliance manufacturers to make money. Some appliances can make your life easier, and others are just sitting around taking up space...  Besides, when has anyone known us to take the easy way out around here? Doing things the hard way is how you build muscle and character. Below are our suggestions for true ease of use and simplicity.

Clutter-buster No. 1: The steam basket vs. the timed steamer
Rather than bust out six different pieces (not to mention sanding out the stains the appliance's little rubber feet leave on our wood countertops), just drop a flower-like contraption into a pot and cover with a lid. We bought one by OXO that has a top with a slit for a fork so you don't have to lift it with your fingers.

Clutter-buster No. 2: The French press vs. the coffee maker
Only one of us drinks coffee in this house, so we don't need a large coffee maker. We bought a small, 4-cup electric coffee maker when we first moved in together, but the dingy white plastic will soon be replaced with the classic pairing of a kettle of hot water and glass jar with plunger. We have a 10-glass French press now and will probably get a single-serving size also for on-the-go use. 

Clutter-buster No. 3: The glass juicer vs. the electric juicer
This is the perfect example of an appliance that supposedly saves you some elbow grease but just causes more strain on your well-being than it does on the actual fruit at hand. Ours constantly gets clogged and we've  gone back to the old-fashioned kind and never looked back. 

Still deciding: The Dutch oven vs. the crock pot
This one's a toss up, really. We wouldn't want to leave our electric oven on all day simmering a pot of rice and beans unattended, but a crock pot plugged into the wall could do the job. It stays for now, pending our integration of this Southern tradition into our weekly menu.

Jury's also still out on: The microwave
Call us crazy but we think we can plan our dethawing ahead of time to avoid having to suck the life out of our meter to run our 20-year-old yellowing eyesore. Better keep it around in case we get lazy, though. Currently, it's been banished to the adjoining sunroom to test how often we actually need it. 

Would consider booting: The toaster
We've discovered the unmatched pleasure of pan-toasted bread, which is supremely moist, unlike when you use an appliance to toast first then butter. Of course, when you're in a hurry, a toaster and some spray butter will do.   

Keeping: The food processor for bread crumbs, dips, smoothies and numerous other things; the stand mixer, great for our new baking hobby; the griddle because it's so much faster to cook the entire package of bacon and smell up your house only once a week; and the ice cream maker because Cuisinart makes it so easy to make my favorite dessert using only three ingredients.

Voila! Two days later, it's like we have a whole new kitchen!


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