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Practical Pot Watcher: Brighten your kitchen to get rid of culinary doldrums |

Practical Pot Watcher: Brighten your kitchen to get rid of culinary doldrums

I know any number of talented and creative cooks. People who are never at a loss for something new and different to put on the table, people who never find themselves wondering what to prepare for supper that won’t require a trip to the supermarket or be excruciatingly dull.

For them, cooking is not a chore; it’s almost a hobby. I knew one lady who regarded it as therapy: when she came home from a hard day at work and her husband offered to take her out to dinner, she preferred to retreat to the kitchen and restore her soul with a frenzy of slicing and dicing, mixing and mashing, seasoning and sautéing.


Others among us are subject to the culinary doldrums. When your husband points out, ever so gently, that you’ve already served green beans for three days running, or you can’t seem to come up with a menu that doesn’t include stuff that someone in the family is either allergic to, or violently hates, you know you’ve got trouble.  

Sometimes the fix is as simple as a new cookbook with full-color illustrations to stimulate both  both appetite and imagination and have you starting a grocery-shopping list before you’ve browsed the first ten pages.

Eating out a few times might do the trick. A restaurant meal often provides inspiring ideas for your own cooking. Or you wind up telling yourself, ungraciously, “I can do better at home!” You can’t wait to go home, start cooking, and prove it.

But perhaps it isn’t you who has slipped into the Slough of Despond. Perhaps, instead, it is your kitchen that is suffering from an attack of The Drearies.

Check out your potholders. Do you own even one potholder that isn’t badly scorched or stained?  If they are in good condition, is it because you almost never use them? (They’re too thin to really protect you from burns, but you got them because you liked the color, or Aunt Jane gave them to you because she thought they were “cute,” and you can’t bear to hurt her feelings.)

In that case, toss them in the nearest garbage can, and get yourself at least two sets of new ones, thick enough and big enough to protect hands and wrists. Choose a color you really like, whether or not it matches your kitchen décor.  After all, potholders spend most of their time tucked away in a drawer, and no one but the cook ever really notices them. 

Dishtowels are a bit more public — we normally hang them close to the sink, out in full view of any relative or guest who happens along.  So if an inspection reveals them as stained, tattered, and scorched from being used as potholders, by all means, replace them with something that both soaks up moisture and harmonizes with the kitchen’s color scheme.

For a really high-octane uplifting of the spirits, nothing is as effective as new cookware. And don’t be too quick to decide you don’t really need anything replaced. If there isn’t a skillet with a few scratches or blank patches in its nonstick lining, or a saucepan with a wobbly handle, perhaps you’ve been coveting a specialty item — a cast-iron pan for cornbread sticks shaped like little ears of corn, a double boiler for those easily-scorched puddings and sauces, or miniature Bundt pans for fancy cupcakes.

And have you noticed? Manufacturers have always tempted cooks with technological improvements, but the past year has seen a marvelous explosion of color.  Formerly staid bits of cooking equipment are now tricked out in everything from sedate pastels to apple green and brilliant turquoise.

Don’t overlook the copper-infused ceramic cookware, either — some pieces combine the glowing copper finish with exterior surfaces in an eye-catching red. 

I enjoy bragging about my baking pan with a footed basket that cooks frozen French fries on both sides at once.  No need to bother with flipping fries halfway through the cooking process, and on top of that, clean-up is truly a snap.

But we both know I really bought it for the lovely coppery color.

 

Mary Ryder is a food columnist for the Daily Commercial. Email her at practicalpotwatcher@cfl.rr.com.

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