Saturday, June 26, 2021

More Kitchen Musings by Rhys

 RHYS BOWEN:  Earlier in the week I blogged about my kitchen mincer. I blogged about which of us feature food in our books and whether we cook.

So naturally I should conclude the week with another post about kitchens and food.

I talked about the oldest kitchen appliance I have, but I am married to Mr. Gadget. This is strange as he is not good with his hands and doesn’t like to tinker. But he loves gadgets. He is drawn to gadgets. This is a picture of one of our kitchen counters. See what I mean? 


We now have an air fryer and a toaster oven. What you can’t see hidden in a closet are the bread maker, the bacon slicer, the vegetable juicer, the sausage maker, the hamburger press, the poached egg cooker, the onion cooker—and of course the Cuisinart, the blender, the mixer.


Each of these was bought by said spouse in a fit of enthusiasm. For a couple of months I woke to the smell of bread baking. It was heavenly. Then enthusiasm waned. He made healthy juices until he realized that cleaning the thing was a pain and I wasn’t going to do it. I think we sliced ham a few times but I don’t think we’ve ever actually made sausages. Most of them now reside in the graveyard of dead appliances in the corner cabinet.

Me? I’m all for simplicity. My favorite recipe says “throw everything into a pot and walk away until done.”  Which was why I decided to try one of the meal delivery services. Somehow I pictured a box arriving, tipping the contents into that pan and sauteing for a few minutes before serving.

My friend Charlaine Harris was trying Hello Fresh. She liked it and gifted me with a sample membership. The first box arrived. I read the first recipe:  first peel and chop the carrots, dice the potatoes. Drizzle with oil then bake on a tray in the oven. Pat dry, season, then saute the pork. While the port is sauteing mince the garlic and onion, finely chop the cilantro. Now start to make the sauce. In another pan melt two tablespoons of butter…

Wait. This is supposed to be easier? To save me time? To save me clean up? Actually I had all those ingredients in my refrigerator so I didn’t need to pay you $16 to deliver them.  And in the end I can’t say the dish tasted wonderful. And John objected strongly to being served couscous and faro. So I guess Hello Fresh is a no. And I’m back to square one with my husband asking me, “What had you planned for dinner tonight?”

There may be murder in my future.

So who has tried one of these delivery services? One where I don’t have to peel and chop the carrots and is ready miraculously in five minutes? One that tastes marvelous? Still hopeful.

Rhys


48 comments:

  1. I haven’t tried any of them, but Home Chef, Freshly Made, and Diet to Go [and I’m sure there are others] all deliver meals prepped and ready to pop into the oven or microwave.

    I did try a couple of the meal kit companies [including Hello Fresh] and while I couldn’t really complain about the finished meal, my grumble is that they were always the same. I got tired of always making and eating chopped and roasted vegetables and potatoes . . . there are a gazillion ways to fix potatoes, but in every meal, every time, the potatoes would be diced and roasted or mashed. [I had the temerity to suggest to them that they needed to find some new vegetable and potato recipes, but nothing ever changed, so we simply stopped using the service.]

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  2. Nope, never tried a meal kit. Sorry that didn't work out for you, Rhys.

    I am trying not to acquire any new kitchen devices, either, although I might have to succumb to a kitchen scale for my sourdough efforts. The last, a few years ago, was a mandoline (wait, is that the instrument or the slicer?). I think we used it twice. Alas.

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    1. Kitchen scale is a necessity, Edith. We have a digital one that weighs in grams and ounces

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  3. Your gadgets are astonishing Rhys! We've not tried the meal services, though I try a recipe that was sent in one of their ads--it was fine but not thrilling. Our busy daughter uses them from time to time--I think it helps if you don't have time to shop or think!

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  4. I tried Hello Fresh with my daughter who was gifted a free meal. It was fun, but I've had better luck with the Washington Post one skillet or one hour recipes.

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  5. What I use the most is a held-hand blender to make vegetable soups. All my other appliances are old but still usable.
    I live alone and like simplicity , I never tried those services.
    When I’m not craving for something, I’ll be satisfied with a sandwich or a salad or a soup. When I’m craving for something, I’ll happily make it and enjoy it.

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  6. Rhys, evidence that you are truly a skilled writer of fiction: “One where I don’t have to peel and chop … and is ready in five minutes? One that tastes marvelous?” The non-fiction world just isn’t that way. Thank you for the smile on this Saturday morning.

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  7. I've often hovered my mouse over the Hello Fresh ads but never clicked. Now I'm glad of that. I used Misfit Market last winter, just for variety and because I was avoiding the grocery stores as much as possible. Nothing easy about it, but I did get some different veggies I've never had before, so that was fun.

    Gadgets? Rhys, I have the same Lazy Susan corner cabinet and keep a bunch of my kitchen gadgets in it too! I "need" a new bread machine. I think I wore the old one out during the pandemic...which is also why I packed on a few pounds at the same time. Maybe I don't really "need" one after all. Hm.

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  8. My sister and her husband have never met a gadget they could do without! They have 5 different sized crock pots! I don't own one. I do have a food processor but seldom use it. When it comes right down to it I'd rather do whatever it is by hand than have to clean the darn thing. I thought it would be perfect for shredding cabbage since I make such a mess when I do that by hand, but I still had cabbage all over the counter. Now I buy it in a bag, all shredded.

    Not even tempted to try one of those meal kits.

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  9. One of my very best friends is a chef. She has a list of clients who pay her to shop, prepare, cook and deliver. She is an expert. Allergies? Don't worry, she has you covered! That is the delivery service you crave, dear Rhys!

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    1. You’re right! A personal chef, if I could find one who cooked to my taste!

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    2. That's the service most of us crave, Judy!

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  10. No meal kits here or delivery service. When we can think of nothing else to have for supper, we resort to cheese omelettes.

    The one appliance I would hate to do without is the rice cooker. Dead easy to use. Perfect rice every time.

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    1. The utility of a rice cooker escapes me. I cook great rice in a heavy port I've had for forty years, make popcorn in it too, not to mention pasta, potatoes, steamed veggies, ad infinitum. Once I asked a Chinese friend about rice cookers. She said the appeal to her and to older Chinese was the lack of sticking, therefore the lack of waste. I get that. I just don't care if a few grains stick to the bottom!

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    2. *Pot, not port, although I might try port.

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    3. The way we cook rice it doesn’t stick!

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    4. I have cooked rice on the stove top, and did for years, but the rice cooker frees me of any tending. I just set it up and leave it be. When I'm ready with everything else, the rice is happily waiting on the 'warm' setting. No muss, no fuss. Just the way an appliance should be!

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    5. The Japanese rice cooker is my favorite appliance ever--the last thing I would give up. I know I can cook rice on the stove top, but it's not the same. And it is the only thing I can truly walk away from while it's cooking.

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    6. I bow to the masters

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  11. Judi, uh, I have five crock pots, small to enormous. Mostly for entertaining. At least that's what I dimly remember about it since it's been so long. They all live in the basement unless I need one.

    My cousin's daughter just had a virtual Pampered Chef party. Talk about useless and redundant gadgets! We all need donut hole kits, right?

    I'm glad you shared this about Hello Fresh, Rhys. That was my suspicion, that it was the same amount of work. I think it's really meant for young people who need to learn how to cook, but without the need to buy a lot of ingredients they won't use for anything else. They send only the amount needed for the recipe, right? The excess packaging is what bothers me about it.

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    1. The right amount, in tiny packets. Lots of excess packaging. And I already have most of the spices, plus who doesn’t have two carrots and an onion?

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  12. I have nothing in my kitchen that I don't use. We have a two slice toaster instead of a toaster over, no Instapot as I'm home most days and a Dutch oven works great in a slow oven or on top of the stove at "barely on." I do bake a bit, so the Kitchenaid mixer lives in a corner on top of the counter. I just ordered a sous vide thingy, but I'm already considering sending it back after Julie told me it took an hour and a half to cook a steak to medium rare. I can do that in three minutes on the grill. My goal is to have no single use appliances or anything else in my kitchen. Except maybe the cork screw.

    As for Hello Fresh? Naw. We can buy chopped onions and carrot and celery if we want, but I can't see paying someone to do what I can do easily. We do have curbside pickup at Wegman's. I think it saves more money than the upcharge for using it. No impulse buying. And no Covid exposure although we are going into store more now but only if we need milk in between times.



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    1. We love our toaster oven! You can toast four slices of bread, bake a potato, make nachos, and so much more for two people.

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    2. Oh, I forgot the sous vide yes, we have one of those! The pot is too big for kitchen cabinets so it sits in the garage! Never used!

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    3. I would love a toaster oven for the reasons Edith lists, but our kitchen is too small. No counter space for anything more, ergo no toaster oven.

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    4. My toaster oven is all-in-everything to me. It lives on its own shelf, not the counter. I do 95% of my baking and cooking and toasting and even defrosting bagels in it. All right, I live alone and my needs are simple and I have no use or room for a microwave. There is only one single-use appliance in my kitchen: the hot air popcorn popper. I'm on my second one since about 1980. All right, two: my pasta maker lives in a cupboard in the non-dining room.

      Bottom line is, I live in a small 1930s house with a tiny perfect kitchen--no wandering all over hell's half acre to make a meal or clean up. Every item in the kitchen has to earn its keep. Except the vintage teapots on top of the cupboard over the fridge.

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    5. Your kitchen sounds perfect, Susan D!

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  13. Rhys, so funny! I did try Hello Fresh for few months, back when my daughter first started using it. But it's a lot of packing waste, and I didn't love their meat or seafood. And, as Joan said, the meals are all so similar. My daughter is still using it every week, but they do the vegetarian option. Much more interesting, but mostly things my picky hubby won't eat...

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  14. LOL, so funny, Rhys. My husband is also a gadget king, some have worked out better than others. I do love my Breville food processor over my Cuisinart - much larger, and I'm now having an affair with my bread maker - Hubs insisted we have one, but he only comes in for the slicing and eating part.

    I've not tried any of the food delivery services. I find cooking relaxing and am picky about the quality of produce, meats, etc. Friends who have tried them have had similar complaints to Joan and Deborah.

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  15. No meal kits here--and few kitchen appliances that don't get used. One crockpot--used enough to be considered necessary, but the food processor rarely sees the light of day.

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  16. Interesting timing as I just got an offer for 14 free meals from Hello Fresh. I haven't checked it out yet. It would have been far more tempting pre-vaccine. I did finally have Costco order delivered one very cold week last winter.
    I use my toaster oven daily, sometimes multiple times a day, but now I also have an air fryer, given to me by a neighbor when they got a bigger one. The bread maker has been put away for a while (I really hate cleaning it), but the yogurt maker still gets used often. I also prefer one-pot meals, especially in winter when the meat and veg can slow roast in the oven in grandma's cast iron skillet. Right now, big salads sound best. <3

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  17. My husband is the one who buys gadgets and appliances: bread maker, deep fat fryer (tried to pass that off as a birthday present to me), Keurig, toaster oven, grill/panini maker ( he's on his third).
    The bread maker was fun but it has died. Fryer given away--it stunk up the house. I use the Keurig, he drinks instant. The last two items he does use a lot, but the grill has been relegated to outside use as it stinks up the house. As for meal services, nope. Not interested at all.

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  18. I have a stand mixer. A classic Kitchenaid. A few years back I borrowed the food grinder attachment from mom and never have it back. I used to make cranberry relish ever year for Thanksgiving. I have a blender that I rarely use, same can be said of the food processor.

    I tried one good service, Freshly, for about 6 weeks, thinking it would be easier at the end of the day. Just cook in the microwave. I wasn't happy with the texture of the food, taste was barely palatable at times and disposing of the shipping, which included padding and frozen packs was a weekly pain. I cancelled.

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  19. We tried GoodFood in Canada. I was looking for inspiration and new flavour combinations and got excess plastic and food poorly packed in transit boxes. The smooshed box of raspberries was the end. I can see the value if you don't know how to cook or how to shop, but otherwise, it was not useful. The transit boxes though, now they have become useful. They are lined with insulation (foil not stryrofoam) and have gel packs in the bottom. I am glad that I kept them though. OUr refrigerator died on Thursday night and those boxes are going to save a bunch of food! For kitchen gadgets, I follow the Alton Brown rule. If it only does one thing, it doesn't belong in my kitchen.

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    1. We used our Butcherbox box to transport frozen food from Arizona to California. So good!

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  20. I agree with Karen - those meal ingredient delivery services sound perfect for busy young professionals who don't have any experience cooking yet. Kind of like having your mom stand in the kitchen with you to make sure you get everything right. The only way I could see it useful for experienced cooks might be if you on a special diet for health/allergies/reducing. Then it could be useful to have everything pre-vetted, and new recipes you might not already be familiar with.

    As for gadgets, I've managed to give away all the ones my darling deluded father-in-law gave me: the pasta maker, the home rotisserie, the set of 64 cookie cutters. I don't want anything that actually makes me work harder (pasta maker) or that can't perform multiple tasks, like my food processor. That and a Crockpot are the only gizmos in regular rotation. Otherwise, I'm a Single Quality Knife kind of cook.

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  21. Rhys, thanks for the heads up on meal delivery. Perhaps by "easier", they meant they do the grocery shopping for you?

    Speaking of gadgets, I have been thinking about two things: a Kitchen Aid mixer and a coffeemaker.

    Because of small space in my kitchen, I am deciding whether or not to get the mini Kitchen Aid mixer which has 3 quarts instead of 6 quarts. It is from Williams Sonoma. I have been baking more with recipes from Ellie's BAKESHOP cozy mystery series.

    Regarding the coffeemaker, I am concerned about the environmental impact. Is it possible to find a solar powered coffeemaker? If not, which are less wasteful? I do NOT want to buy these disposable coffee cups to put in the coffeemaker to make coffee.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, Nespresso pods are recyclable by the company. They send you pre-paid UPS bags so that you can return them. We love our Nespresso machine.

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    2. Diane, how about trying trying Melitta (or similar) cones for drip coffee? Boil the water, grind the coffee (okay, that's a one-use appliance too, isn't it, since I don't grind the spices in the same one), let it drip. I toss the filter and grounds into the compost bin.

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  22. LOL - Hub took over cooking at the beginning of the pandemic and there is no turning back!!! Woo hoo!

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  23. Rhys, I feel your pain, I am so past being asked the perineal what's for dinner. I'm inclined to consider snapping back, well what are you cooking? But that time is past. I don't want to ghost the Huxtable family, but I laugh every time I think of the graveyard for appliances. I have very little space so items that live on the counter have to have a regular use my darling child gave me the full Ninja for Christmas, sigh, plus a new fearsome mixer as G'guy the younger, said that granny's mixer didn't have the power he needed to beat cream as he liked it. Horrid first world entitled child. I think the real world may be a nasty shock there. On Cuisinarts, buy the largest one can afford is my motto. Wouldn't be without my electric kettle. I bought my first one in the USA back on arrival in 1969 with a wedding gift token to Bloomies from my best friend. Long gone to the steamer in the sky. No food service here unless it's human and comes with it's own set of knives and recipes.

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  24. I calculated yesterday that since we've been married, I've cooked more than 6500 dinners. SERIOUSLY. That's just 250 a year, so it's probably more. What lives on our counter is coffee maker, toaster oven, blender. The cuisinart is in the basement. And the blender is on its way to basement banishment, too. But, and don't yell at me, I found Uncle Ben's(or whatever it's called now) pre-cooked packaged brown rice and wild rice that you pop into the microwave for 90 seconds. IT IS PERFECT. It is life-saving.

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    1. Hank, I just read an article, either in WaPo or NYT, that rice is very easy to freeze. Freeze in portion sized containers and microwave it for 45-90 seconds.

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    2. Yes, you are so right! I have done that! Works perfectly.

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  25. Becky Sue EpsteinJune 27, 2021 at 10:40 AM

    RHYS and everyone -- thank you so much for the tip about Hello Fresh and similar services: don't do it. That's what I suspected all along!

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