Wednesday, March 25, 2009

5 kitchen tools that I love and 1 that I hate

I'd like to take a moment to celebrate five kitchen tools that I really enjoy using and one that drives me crazy. I've limited my list to (mostly) hand, non-electric or electronic tools. In no particular order:

1. Spoon rest
When my cousin sent this device to us as a gift (sans spoon, obviously), we had to call her to ask her what it was. Turns out it's a very space-efficient spoon rest. It lives in the middle of our stovetop, and has something standing in it virtually whenever we cook. Great for big wooden spoons, spatulas, rubber spatulas.

2. Egg separator
Not a great picture, but I love an egg separator because it is such a crazy one-use-only device. It does its job really well, and it does no other job at all.

3. Chocolate chunker
This is a new edition. It solves the problem of how to break off a chunk of chocolate for baking. It is very effective, chunks the chocolate with precision so that you don't get more than you want and, ahem, looks bad-ass.

4. Mezzaluna
A double-bladed mezzaluna (half-moon) knife with its own round-welled cutting board. This makes cutting the fresh herbs that we love so much not feel like drudgery. I look forward to using it both on the herbs we get from the farm and on the ones we're (finally) growing to grow ourselves this summer.

5. Timer
Also a new addition, and the one electronic tool in the bunch. This device has four timers that you can set for different times. It's terrific when half a batch goes in the oven and then the other batch goes in 6 minutes later. It's also great when there are three different things cooking on three burners, all with different cooking times. It can "remember" a time, too, so we tend to keep one of the four timers set to 4 minutes, yielding a perfect pot of tea.

And one I hate:
The Pastry Bag
Every time I use the pastry bag, whatever is going in it squishes out all over the place. This one has a good nozzle design, so I don't get leaks there, but I do have trouble filling it cleanly, and then stuff inevitably squeezes out the back end. I'm perfecting my twisting technique, which helps, but I recently saw a recipe that tipped me off to what may be the problem. It called for filling to 10 inches of a 14-16 inch bag. My bag is only 10 inches total; its small size forces me to either put very little pastry/frosting/whatever in the bag and refill a bunch (suboptimal) or squeeze it out the back end (sub-suboptimal).

Differential Parental Awareness

We have a two-year-old who does not seem destined for a career in radio or public speaking. Perhaps his speech will clear up before he writes his first resume, but for now, he's hard to understand. The way he only honors consonants in the t and d family (eschewing the c and k consonants) and shortens words he considers too long (dessert becomes ert) makes for a language all his own. Occasionally, I'm at a total loss. But more often than not, I can understand him.

I can understand him because I go through the morning routine with him. Plus, I spend Wednesdays and Fridays with him. Not only do I hear his wacky words more than most anyone else; I also have context. When he tells a story, chances are that I was there to see the dump truck or the balloon or the birdie.

It does not surprise me that I have to translate for Teddy with strangers or people who don't spend much time with him. But I also often have to translate for him to mommy, who is not enjoying the same privilege of time that I have with him. It's emblematic of a gap in awareness of what's going on with Teddy day to day. With our current family arrangement, I'm the one who knows what he had for lunch and how long he napped and whether he sat on the potty for 10 minutes with nothing to show for it (ok, he has "hurray! you sat on the potty! high five!" to show for it). Sometimes I think I should fill out a little sheet like the child care centers do: Teddy napped from 12:30-2:15. He had his diaper changed twice. He ate his whole (half) sandwich at lunch. This kind of knowledge, has, of course, been the provenance of moms in so many families. It's one of those things that I sometimes have to remind myself to treasure as a stay-at-home dad.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Floor-level Foosball

On a visit to the home of our friends Kenny and Liz, I saw a brilliant idea: their foosball table, sans legs, on the floor. Floor level foosball seems much easier and enjoyable for the six-and-under boys that we have and Kenny and Liz have. This morning, our two-year-old fell off the box he stands on to play foosball at our house. He was fine, but it was a little traumatic for the two of us.

Kenny and Liz have one thing at their house that we don't at our house: floor space. Their farm house has a lot more space than our 1920s humble city home. Our foosball table might be safer on the basement floor, but it would not be hospitable on the frigid concrete. Maybe your house has a spot for legless foosball. It's great for the short-legged crowd.