So the local investigative news reporters came knocking at my parents’ house the other day (where I’m visiting) because they’d heard about my mom’s cutting board. They were reporting one of those dangers-that-lurk-in-your-very-own-kitchen stories, and someone (I won’t say who) leaked the information that my own mother has a cutting board from who knows when. It’s scarred and stained and, even though scrubbed fastidiously and put in the dishwasher, I still have a hard time sleeping with that thing in the house.
Alright, so I’m fictionalizing the account. My imagination got the better of me, sort-of David Sedaris style*. There is such a cutting board, and it is in my mom’s kitchen, but I haven’t whispered that to any journalists on the prowl. I did, however, ask her if I bought her a new one, if she’d toss ol’ Scarface, but she shrugged and smiled, in her I-was-raised-in-the-Sixties-in-northern-California way, and said, “If you want me to. But you don’t have to buy me a new one.”
Of course I don’t, because she’s perfectly able to do so herself. She just won’t, because she’s a little better than I at distinguishing between needs and wants. I “need” the new tea towels with the French writing, for instance, because they match not only my kitchen color scheme, but also my sensibilities, which have changed dramatically since my once-upon-a-time bridal shower. My mom hardly ever needs anything at all, or so it seems. She’s my shining example of practicality (among other things).
There’s still a brown plastic cup in mom’s cupboard that’s been there since before I could even think of reaching the cabinets. Surely she doesn’t keep it around for nostalgia’s sake. It’s because it continues to perform its function. There’s also a punitive, (literally) bent-out-of-shape strainer that jabs you if you’re not paying attention, and a grocery caseload of repurposed cottage cheese containers that will be used for the duration of their immortality, long after the ink on the labels has been whooshed off without a trace into the plumbing, microscopic bit by microscopic bit.
Way before minimizing carbon footprints (as is the parlance these days) was de rigeur, I was raised to turn off the tap while brushing my teeth and taught that all leftovers must eventually make their way into a soup. Where did I emerge from, then, me with my running mental kitchen wish list?
Even as I recognize the wants for what they are, I still claim my affinity for new stuff, kitchen goodies included. Give me a good chopping knife over any of those new-fangled chopping implements any day, but there are useful tools and ingredients beyond pantry essentials that can go a long way toward furthering one’s repertoire. Proof: my panini press and the fact that once-exotic tahini has become one of my refrigerator staples.
Here’s my wish list as it stands at the moment, things I “need” to buy based on recipe ingredient lists and discussions with other people who cook. First up: A new cutting board for my mom. What’s on your list? Drop me a comment and let me know.
- Dagoba cacao powder
- Spelt flour
- Rose water
- Pomegranate molasses
- Julienne slicer
- Instant read thermometer (for fish)
- Aebleskiver pan
- Scone pan
- Mortar and pestle
- Wheat grinder
- Set of stainless bowls
* I am not comparing my writing style to that of David Sedaris — oh, heavens, no. I’m only referring to his admissions of “exaggerating for effect.” See this NY Times article.