My mother instilled in me a life-long love of cooking. She was a wonderful cook; in fact, she was a volunteer canteen chef for the local Red Cross for many years. She tried out recipes on her family, the best ones of which ended up in the canteen for luncheons.
Because of this, I enjoy watching cooking shows of many types. One of my favorites is Chopped. From years of watching this show, I’ve learned a lot about foods I never knew existed, how to use spices, cooking methods, and sometimes how to put foods together that you wouldn’t normally.
There are famous chefs who are judges on these kinds of shows. Many of them I know and have used their cookbooks from time to time. Some I’ve never heard of or watched on TV. Perhaps one of the most famous (or infamous) is Martha Stewart. I was never a huge fan of hers before she engaged in insider trading, but I knew who she was. She’s out of prison now and serving as an occasional judge on Chopped¸ so I’m actually getting to know her a little bit better.
I’m learning that my mom and I are not the same kind of cooks as Martha Stewart! I have deduced this because of things that Martha says, matter-of-factly, that take me by surprise.
For example, recently, she was talking about the upcoming holidays and sharing a recipe for chestnut stuffing. I was totally on board with the idea, until she nonchalantly said, “Now get out your chestnut roasting pan.” Excuse me? Wouldn’t that be a cookie sheet?
Apparently not. I quickly found out that there is, indeed, such a culinary tool. It comes in oven and fireplace styles and looks amazingly like a popcorn popper pan from bygone years. The stainless steel fireplace one is selling for a mere 65 dollars, while the carbon steel oven pan is less than 20.
The following week, I was watching a different show on which the chef was making a special dessert. He told the audience to use a culinary blow torch. This is yet another “tool” my mom didn’t use. We had this handy thing called the broiler which I still have on my current stove. So I’m not spending the 17 bucks to get a blow torch that will rest, mostly unused, next the fire extinguisher under my sink.
Finally, I’ve learned there are tools for the terminally lazy. These include a Dachshund-shaped hot dog cutter that slices and dices a dog for the kids. Why use a knife, when you can have another weird thing to store somewhere? It even has an attached “dog bowl” for ketchup or mustard. There’s also a miniature lacrosse stick called a Dipr that can be used on any sandwich cookie to dip into milk, insuring little fingers don’t get milk on them. These tools, naturally, cost more than you’d expect.
Due respect to Martha, but I think I’ll stick to my “old-fashioned” ways of cooking.
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.