Okay, by show of hands, how many of your child selves would lock yourself in the closet with the varied department store catalogs and a half dead 30lb D-cell flashlight and bask in wonderful covetousness? JC Penny, Sears, Best (anyone remember Best? It was short for Best Damn Toy Catalog EVER!) all of which gave me endless hours of voyeuristic capitalist joy and ensured a short novel for a Wish List that was most often completely ignored in favor of crap AM radio headsets and the corded RC cars that you had to chase around and therefore ran into poles a lot. (It explains a lot, I realize this.)
These days my life is thankfully lacking in bad sweaters and swap meet toys. But I still love the fantastical chase of power window shopping. If you asked me what culinary toys or items I’d like for Christmas, I could vomit out 300 things under $100, most under $20. If you asked me which one I really needed or wanted more than anything, I’d tell you, not a single one. Why? Because as long as you have something sharp and something hot, you can cook. Sometimes that requires some extra creativity or revisiting some neglected techniques, but food can be made and it can taste good.
But that’s boring and preachy! Tis the season to want shit! And so if’n I had my druthers and a warehouse/kitchen to store all this crap in, here’s what would curl my elf shoes under the mistletoe. And damn the price cap!
First off, a good dehydrator. I’m not looking to go all granola Swiss Family Robinson or anything. But since I’m getting into growing hot peppers, it’s the best way to dry thinner peppers like habaneros. Not to mention, I’m a sucker for jerky, which this bad boy can knock out as well.
Knives! After all, who doesn’t want to have a laser in their hand? I’m almost 50/50 on the subject. I don’t believe the old adage that dull blades cause more injuries than sharp ones. Obviously they’ve never cooked while sloppy drunk. I kinda don’t mind a chefs knife that doesn’t shave through my fingernails while I’m chopping. Call it a preference for a margin of error. Still, who would cry about having these babies in your block?
Pickle crock? But it just looks like a ceramic jar you say? Aha! But it is hand thrown by Amish cyber ghosts and fired by the combustive farts of fire toads to magically maintain a fluid water seal at the top to keep out ucky bugs while you’ve got nice bugs turning your cukes into tangy taste bombs. Pluuuuuus, it’s a handy and useful tool in the making of hot pepper mash. Which is pretty much what it sounds like, but it’s also the preferred treatment of peppers for making hot sauce. How badass would it be to make sambal oelek at home?
Baking gear. The rather daunting scientific nature of baking has been glaring at me since I decided to get half ass serious about cooking. The above rant still applies, but it seems that with the proper gear, baking is a lot more pleasant. Good, heavy ceramic bowls. There’s just something so very pleasant about a nicely glazed bread bowl. Plus you get good insulation and moisture retention. Hotel pans. Even if you have to go with the smaller ones due to an apartment sized oven, there’s nothing more durable and versatile for your oven. And most certainly Sil-pats! These things blow my mind. You can even melt parmesan cheese onto them and it comes right up. Toss in a couple bread pans and you’re ready to rock!
The only two pans that I lack in my kitchen that I covet in my black little heart are both fairly small ones and both non-stick. The first one being a good egg fryin’ pan. I suck at fried eggs, so in that category I can use all of the cheater-help I can get to keep from busting my delicious yolks. The other would be a nice crepe pan. There’s already enough pressure to get the batter right, the last thing I want to do is learn to despise a dish because my spatula skills are on par with a lobster’s ability to put on a condom.
Ingredients! They’re like the batteries for all the new toys. And the lube! Who wouldn’t love some white truffle oil? Or even better, some black truffles by which to copy Batali’s beef cheek and duck liver ravioli in black truffle sauce recipe! And who wouldn’t love a whole, black footed Iberico ham? You think you won’t finish a whole hog leg before spring…until you taste it. Then you realize that you have to kill! Kill them all, for coveting your magical ham of utter mouth happy. Burn ‘em Ralphie boy! Burn them with demonically hot peppers and sauce from Australia! And then top them with a nice Stilton cheese.
But where are the gadgets, I hear you cry? The whirring and clanging whangdoodles predestined to the time capsule of the hidden back of the cabinet. Well, we are in Fantasy Land, so why not? First would be a nice deli slicer for that sexy ass ham! Not to mention, I could cut steaks thin enough for a proper Philly cheese. A vacuum sealer would do double duty, helping to preserve and portion stuff easier, as well as being perfect for ghetto sous vide cooking (no way I’d ever use an immersion circulator enough to even vaguely want one). What would be fun though is one of those super turbine food mills that can rend granite into a light cake flour. Plus I’m pretty sure you can run dried stuff like peppers and herbs through it for spice mixes. Plus, it’s a fucking turbine!
So here’s hoping that this has inspired a little bit of wish listing in you as well. Not only is it fun, but sometimes you can find some really good deals on stuff you actually want and be better able to nudge friends and family away from the bargain bin at the mall and guide them towards something that will make them happy, because you actually like their gift. After all, let’s face it…your friend’s and family’s tastes suck.