Shape-up suggestions for the cooking year ahead
In an article on the front page of the food section in today’s Denver Post, writers Ellen Sweets and Tucker Shaw and food editor Kristin Browning-Blas suggested that readers “spend a little energy now to get the kitchen back in tip-top shape” following a holiday season filled with cooking and baking. Their article is worth reading in its entirety, but here is a list of their good counsel — and what I’m resolving to do about them.
Sharpen Your Knives: They suggest having them professionally sharpened now and again — and I’ve done that, now and again. When the Cooking School of the Rockies (now the Culinary School of the Rockies) had a volunteer assistant program, I took advantage of the knife-sharpening services whenever I was working on a day that the truck rolled in. Coincidentally, the Post’s business section recently featured one such service in a front page business story.
Refresh Your Spices: Mine really need refreshing. I do cook through mainstream ground spices and herbs fairly quickly, but some of the exotic ethic seasonings — Indian, Chinese, Indonesian. Thai — linger and linger. In fact, I should probably be too embarrassed to admit that some of my Indian spices moved to Colorado with me from New Jersey in 1988 — but the fact that I am doing so publicly might motivate me to toss and replace them. We have wonderful Asian and Middle Eastern grocery stores, as well as a couple of dedicated spice shops in Denver, so there’s no reason for me to keep these almost-flavorless powders around….except I’m habitually too thrifty to throw them out.
Replace Your Sponges: I do replace them when they get too grody, but whenever they need a bath, I stick them in the dishwasher. The Post writers also suggest nuking them in the microwave as a maintenance tactic, but I’ve never tried that.
Clean Your Oven: I’m pretty conscientious about this, because I hate to bake in a dirty oven. My Viking range’s self-cleaning oven makes conscientiousness pretty easy. While it is self-cleaning, I soak the stainless steel racks in a strong ammonia solution and remove the residue with steel wool.
Toss the Live Stuff: The Post food team suggests replacing baking soda, baking powder, self-rising flour, yeast and such every few months. Of those, I only have baking soda and powder, and I’m afraid I’m not too good on keeping fresh products on hand.
Arm & Hammer in the Fridge: Sometimes a box is in there, but not right now. Thanks for reminding me.
Get Wired: They suggest the availability of music to listen to while cooking. We have a good radio with satellite reception in the next room, which I listen to mostly when preparing a big meal for a lot of people — Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. They also think an Internet hookup in the kitchen is useful. We have wireless networking in our house, so I wouldn’t need a hookup — but I also wouldn’t dare have my laptop in the kitchen. The potential for disaster is just too great.
Can the Jars: The writers remind readers to toss old and unrecognizable items that lurk in the back of the refrigerator. I’m pretty good at doing this anyway, but I’ll go through the shelves again.
Cull Your Cookbooks: They think a cookbook that hasn’t been used in a year or two should be off the shelves. I could no sooner do that than cut off my left arm. I always mark up the recipes that I’ve made, date them and note the changes — and how the dish turned out. I couldn’t part with any of them. Sorry.
Organize Those Loose Recipes: I keep them organized in looseleaf notebooks — a fat one with most of my recipes, one just with Asian and Mexican dishes and a third with Cooking School of the Rockies recipes (plus those from other cooking classes). I treat them like cookbooks, marking them up as I cook along.
Clean Out the Utensil Drawer: I last did this when my son got his own apartment a few years ago and outfitted him very well with extras. I do keep nostalgia utensils, some that were my late mother’s, that I’ve hung on the wall. I use just about everything that’s left.
Wash the Walls: I don’t think so! It might be necessary, but this is not a task that I will take on. I periodically take down the stuff that’s hung on the walls or perched on top of the cabinets, but that’s as far as I’ll go.
Get on Your Knees: The Posters remind us to “give thanks for the good meals you had in the past year and the ones yet to come.” While there, they suggest scrubbing the baseboards. I’m off the hook, because my kitchen cabinets go to the floor, and there’s hardly any additional wall or baseboard showing.
Fight Fire: They also remind readers to keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. We have one, and we’ve fortunately never had to use it. Another reason to get on our knees with gratitude.
Happy, healthy and delicious 2007 to all!