Pots, Pans and other Cooking Tools
January 30, 2020
They say it's a "poor workman who blames his tools." I have good reason to dispute that. I've found in sports, luck beats skill any day. A few years ago, I was coerced by my boss to join my colleagues and play golf at his country club. My prior golf experience was on a par-3 course, using my late 88-year-old aunt's left-handed golf clubs (I'm right-handed). I acquiesced, went to Roger Dunn golf shop to purchase an entire set of clubs, irons, putter and bag for $69. I felt the shame of golf club inadequacy, while listening to my boss and colleagues comparing their $500 Big Bertha clubs, but being a good sport, I played on.
On the second hole, I swung and heard everyone yell, "birdie!!" First, I didn't even know what that meant, then I realized, it was a good thing, and, no, I didn't kill a bird. I took the golf cart, ran to the clubhouse and spent $500 on a new set of clubs (woods, putter and bag, not included). I don't think I scored below eight on the next 16 holes! In fact, I don't think I've ever scored below eight ever again! So, as I said, it's not the tools. The lesson learned; I'd rather be lucky than good!
However, cooking tools do matter. Another lesson I learned through trial, error and disasters. I remember my first set of pots. I bought a brand-new shiny set of Club Aluminum avocado green pots. I raced home, cleaned the little saucepan and made myself a poached egg. The egg was fine, the pot turned black at the water line, and I was devastated. Of course, I called my mother for advice, and so she advised, "cook a can of tomato soup in the pot" which did the trick. The pot was shiny again. Hmm, obviously a lot of acid in that soup, what's it doing to my stomach lining?
I did eventually toss the aluminum pots in favor of stainless steel, and yes, good pots make a difference. They cook more evenly, they don't need to cook on high heat, they clean up beautifully, they don't stain, or warp and they will last a long time. I purchased my first good stainless-steel pots in 1976. I still use them, and they look brand new. I admit they were expensive, but considering I am still using them today (44 years later), I'd say it was a good investment.
Good knives can also be an investment, but here I am a bit more judicious. I am a sucker for knives of different styles, weights and handle types. According to the propaganda every knife has a specific use. There are tomato knives, chef knives in various sizes, fish knives, rocking knives, a variety of serrated knives. However, truth be told, if you are going to make an investment in good knives, a good chef knife that feels comfortable in your hand (size, weight, balance and handle material) is worth the money, but maybe not too much. If you sharpen knives regularly, they shrink as you sharpen and hone the edge. Paring knives tend to get lost in my kitchen, on catering jobs, or in restaurant kitchens. Working fast, they're small, so they wind up mistakenly in the trash. A good serrated knife is great for bread, tomatoes and even some cakes.
My mother was a kitchen gadget sucker and I inherited her fascination with kitchen tools. But, after working in a restaurant kitchen I learned, it's good knives, comfortable shoes, band-aids, finger cots (to cover the band-aid), and antacids are the essential kitchen tools. A good sense of humor, stamina and patience help!