April 2, 2012
Minimalist Monday: Cooking Necessities
When I lived in St Maarten, and was writing EHH, I didn't have all my pots and pans and fancy appliances to cook with. All I took to the island from New York were my 2 sharp knives, a blender and my measuring cups and spoons! (I probably didn’t need the measuring cups and spoons but wasn’t sure if I could find them there since Europe has a different measurement system).
At first I couldn't imagine my life without my food processor but moving abroad really helped me minimalize my kitchen. I had less and it was more.
I often hear people say they would eat better or healthier if only they could afford a vita-mix or some other expensive tool. While those things are nice, they aren't necessary for good health. Some of the healthiest populations in the world barely have electricity. I like to remind myself of that.
Anyway, when I moved back to the states this Fall, and was reunited with my missing cookware, something was different. I wasn't as happy as I thought I would be when I unpacked my ice cream maker and food processor. A year before I was practically devastated to box them up and now... I could take them or leave them. I'd gotten used to a more simplistic life without them.
What I had in St. Maarten while writing EHH:
3 pots, 1 skillet, 2 cookie sheets, 1 muffin pan, 1 bread pan, 1 square baking dish, 1 glass oval baking dish, 1 blender, a spoon, a spatula, a cheese grater, 1 colander, 3 mixing bowls, 1 whisk and standard utensil. That's it! (Aside from the knives & measuring cups/spoons I brought with me).
The rice cooker was great to have back, and it does make things simpler, but I know now that I don't need it to make great meals (though if I had to pick ONE splurge, this is it!). I'm using my food processor again, but not with the same fervor. I'm pretty fast with a knife after a year of constant practice!
Below are a few of my must-haves in the kitchen, and it's a minimalist list.
Knives are the most important. I can’t live without them, that's why I brought my own with me. A good knife is worth more than it's weight in gold! If you're looking to make an investment in something for your kitchen, a knife is my top recommendation. I recently purchased a Victorinox Chef's Knife that was inexpensive and it's great for the price.
Stainless steel cookware is a great investment that will last a lifetime, but it isn't necessary. While I own and love my Emerilware, I used the cheap set of pots & pans that came with my furnished condo in St. Maarten (when writing EHH). I priced the same set at Target recently for under $50. So you can easily make great meals with cheap cookware!
My next recommendation would be a mini food processor. It isn't necessary, but the time it saves is well worth the cost (they're about $20-$30 on sale). I got by all last year without one, but now I find I grab the small one over my bigger food processor the majority of the time. I’m sad to say I barely use my big food processor.
Since we don’t drink smoothies, or make frozen drinks very often, I don’t have much use for a blender. I use mine to make oat flour, (neither food processor can do that), and blend creamy soups like butternut soup. Any cheap $20 blender can handle those two tasks. If you like smoothies or frozen drinks, however, having a decent blender will make a difference but you can get by with a cheaper $100 version. I never felt my vita-mix was worth $400. My $100 Breville worked just as good, sometimes better, and was quieter. My breville also had a glass container, which I like better than plastic.
My sister, meanwhile, is even more minimalist than me -- a blender and steamer are the only appliances she has, she doesn't even own a toaster! (I love toaster ovens but am doing fine without one -- and I love steamers too, but don't have one but am considering buying one).
And that's it. Having just these items in the kitchen, you can do more than get by with cooking you can make amazing, delicious, healthy meals! Do those neat little gadgets make life easier, sure. But are they necessary? Nope, and without them you have more money in your pocket and more space in your kitchen! Ahh... minimalist indeed.