September 30, 20161 Comment

Secrets of the Kitchen Cabinet

The roaches have discovered my secret. They've invaded my unit's kitchen cabinets and made little roach tracks through the dusty wasteland of cut crystal vases, a KitchenAid stand-up mixer, bread plates, a stainless steel seltzer bottle and a carved wood ice bucket.

The roaches have found the wasteland of my wedding registry gifts.

And for the exterminator to eradicate these six-legged intruders, I have to pull everything out of the kitchen and bath cabinets. Seeing all of these cooking, baking and entertaining objects is like unpacking lost baggage from a long-ago vacation. These gifts--china, crystal--have outlived my interest in home entertaining and also the marriage. The days when I thought I would be throwing dinner parties are pretty much over. Hell, most weeknights I'm balancing a sandwich or Thai takeout on the couch with my laptop. Weekends I go out to dinner. I don't need a fancy cheeseboard with four different kinds of cheese cutters to slip a slice of cheddar out of the pre-packaged bag from Ralph's. I don't need silver ice tongs to crack a cube out of the tray in the freezer. And the seltzer bottle? I don't even like seltzer water! What was I thinking?

I know what I was thinking. I was under the mid-1990's spell of the Macy's, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ross Simons and Williams-Sonoma wedding registry lists. Marketers had concocted a set of fantasy images about my married life and I'd bought right in, imagining somehow once we said the "I do's" that we'd magically morph into people who throw cheese tasting parties and serve seltzer water with artisanal ice cubes. People who make their own ice cream and cheese. People who use double-boilers and candy thermometers. None of these things happen.

Now roaches claim these glamorous items as their landscape and I must take the territory back, object by object. A one gallon stock pot. Christmas china. Ceramic ramekins. Cloth napkins. A mortar and pestle. A spring coil strainer. All-Clad pots and pans that get passed over on the rare days I do cook because they're too heavy. Bon Appetit cookbooks with recipes that call for Tahitian vanilla beans and blood orange zest. Confronting these relics is like reading old diary entries from middle school: nostalgic, startling and a little embarrassing.

I pack everything into boxes and consider a garage sale. But is there even a market for these things? A quick search on eBay reveals that the last Lenox Federal Cobalt place setting of china sold a month ago for 39 bucks.  I had become a hoarder of tableware and gourmet cooking tools that I had no use for and not many people want anymore.

A friend deep in the wedding scene tells me that now, brides and grooms ask for money toward honeymoons and houses now. Crowdfunding. How practical! We should have done that.

So, if you're in the LA area and you need mother of pearl caviar spoons, cut crystal high ball glasses or a melon baller, drop me a line quick before the whole lot goes (washed, of course) to the thrift store.

Now to tackle the bathroom cabinets, which are a graveyard of hair, skin and makeup products that didn't work out. That's another blog post.

April 17, 20133 Comments

Where is the Lean Cuisine aisle?

Wandering through a Beijing supermarket a few days ago, I realized how much I rely on packaged, labelled food to tell me what something is and how to prepare it. And I'm not sure this is a good thing.

Fresh fish, meats, noodles, breads, vegetables, mushrooms and fruits arranged in attractive displays, their limited signage in Chinese characters. Food at its most elemental -- do you want to eat this, or not? No names, no marketing images, no smiling Mikey's who "like it." Just poultry or peppers as a commodity, no labeling to tell you this is the best one or the one with anti-oxidants or the low-fat one.

My grandmothers had to slaughter, pluck and prepare chickens for Sunday dinner and the closest I've gotten to that is having to pull the little bag of organs out of a Butterball turkey at Thanksgiving. I have no idea how to get bones out of a fish. I never remember how much water to use in rice or how long to cook it. I am convinced brown eggs will taste funny, not that I've ever tried one. No wonder I'm completely lost in a market that doesn't stock Rice-a-Roni and Lean Cuisine frozen meals.

Maybe I'll expand my grocery shopping list beyond chicken breast filets, salad in a bag and frozen green beans this week, just as an experiment. It's undoubtedly healthier to prepare fresh food, and probably more satisfying as well.