Thursday, 6 February 2014

Kitchen Resolutions

And so we find ourselves properly in the swing of 2014.  Here in Australia we begin the year with terrifying heatwaves, politically incorrect clothing, boozy barbecues and the love-it-or-hate-it Hottest 100 playlist.
No contest - we're a country that knows how to burn things and party hard.

Many of us also start the year with hearts full of good intentions and minds backed by steely resolve.  I will.  I shall.  I must.  This year, I became one of them.  Because it's my year, dammit... and I don't just mean it in an aspirational Jerry-McGuire-ish fashion either.

I mean that it's ACTUALLY my year.  According to the Chinese Zodiac, I'm a Horse - and 2014 is the Year of the Wooden Horse.  I remember my mother owned a thick red zodiacal almanac which she referred to frequently, much like you'd check the weather or the traffic on your smartphone now.
The almanac was kept in a long, low bookshelf in my playroom, which also house a number of toys and my collection of Malory Towers paperbacks.  It's surface was also home to an Apple 11E, as well as our heavy black rotary telephone and the slide-lever address book.  
As a child, I'd learned how to read quickly.  With a natural inclination for words and letters, it didn't take long before I'd found myself poring intently through the red book too.
My father is a Dragon; my mother a Sheep, my brother a Tiger and me, a Horse.  Our zodiacal personalities were interwoven into our lives, just like we would never drink iced water and always take off our shoes before entering a house - a simple state of being.
To this day, the thought of riding a real, living, breathing, snorting, galloping horse remains nonsensical.  It is not out of any special sense of respect or reverence for them; it is only that I can no more imagine riding a horse than I can imagine saddling up and riding another human.  I am them, and they are me.  
So.  Let us pull back from memory and look to the present.  These goals for 2014 are not complex; in the most earnest and human of ways, I am merely striving for clarity and focus, flavoured with a healthy dash of peace and quiet.  You know, the whole 'chop wood, carry water' thing.
The kitchen is a good place to start.
1. Sharpen
One resolution fulfilled - my two cook's knives and paring knife have just come back from being professionally sharpened.  Oh, the joy of a blade gliding through a lemon without resistance.  As well as being much safer to work with, they are again a pleasure to use.  If you reside in Melbourne get your knives to the London & American Supply Store on Elizabeth Street quickish.  I paid a small amount of money ($9.00 per chef's knife and they give you a discount voucher for next time, winner winner chicken dinner) for a great deal of steely, stabby happiness.  
Actually, here's a tip: If you're feeling particularly grumpy or fed up, you know, in that cross, hormonal kind of way - don't get a $95.00 haircut, get your knives sharpened.  It's soooo good and much less expensive.  I guarantee you will be blessed with an almost giddy feeling of smugness the next time you chop tomatoes.

2. Cull
In every kitchen, there is always that drawer.  You know the one - with the gadgets and the whatsits and the dooverhickeys.  Not all of them are necessary.  I have deemed the strawberry-topped silicone cup lid holder essential and the icing pen (don't ask) non-essential.  Obviously each household has it's own set of priorities, so pare accordingly.  Hint: If you didn't use it in 2013...

3. Learn
Wine.  Fermentation.  Fresh-milk cheeses.  These are three areas of interest I know nothing about.
Therefore, a little education is no bad thing.

4. Hold Fast
Stolen from a sailor's knuckles, this sentiment can also be applied to the kitchen.  Know thyself and be resolute. Yes, I know Mason jars are ever-so-hip right now, and kale is here to stay.  However, there is a fine line between widening one's repertoire and jumping on a bandwagon.  
If a culinary happenstance sparks a light within, if it has been of benefit to your skills and ability, embrace it - nobody regrets their sous vide setup.
There are some really interestinginnovative things out there which are likely worth your effort, time and money.
Then there are trends.  Those retro paper straws that end up disintegrating into your beverage.
The overpriced macaron bought from the not-very-good cafe.  The cronut.
What you bring into the the kitchen is a relationship, not a one-night stand... and I mean absolutely no disrespect to one-night stands.
And so the list ends on that somewhat ribald note.  
Have a most excellent 2014.  May your wit be fierce and your mettle indomitable.

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