December 21, 2006

Need & Want

There’s a difference.

A Toronto comedienne made that the spine of her show a few years ago as she told the story of her evolution – or devolution – into her 40s.

Her marriage collapsed under the crush of what she implied but didn’t say was infidelity, she sold the matrimonial home, bought a farm she called Wit’s End and went off to lick her wounds, contemplate life and experience working a farm…which of course meant she had reams of material for her show.

…Like, turning 40 and losing her nouns. They evaporated, like that stuff…you know…the thing…in the morning…the moisture stuff…oh come on…you know…that.

My friends and I all thought we were going to die on the spot…only to be discovered with a mass case of failed bladders.

Want and need…I want that…I don’t need it…but I want it.

I get it.

I was thinking about it this morning as I was thinking of kitchen tools – well, as I do at least part of each day.

Want and need - our kitchen.

I’m not a gadget person. Nope. If a gadget’s ratio between required space and use is inversely related…it goes to the garage sale pile. I feel the most passionate about this when I think about kitchen appliances that force their presence on my counter – oh so meager counter space (Justin Spring would approve).

Popcorn makers, rice cookers (I know they perfect the art of rice cooking, but I trust my instincts now with a pot on the stove – having been encouraged by an old boyfriend’s Iranian buddy who just swept a wand over a rice pot and it was perfect…so I do the same…it’s just about patience – as is most of cooking – that, and wrapping the lid in a clean tea towel if you were a little generous with water), slow cookers, can openers, jar openers, vacuum sealers, blenders, mandolins (though we have two)…I may want them, I don’t need them.

Now…microwaves (reluctantly – I’ll use them to heat leftovers, and soften butter), coffee makers, toasters, and in lieu perhaps a toaster oven (which I don’t have, but which I understand now if you’re on your own and don’t want to heat a whole oven for a pork chop), are all welcome on or near my countertop because I find them useful…daily.

This is my rant right? Yours is probably completely different. I glory in that. The toys can change easily – the distinction is want and need. I’m just sayin’ is all.

Now want can grow to need pretty quickly, if you’ve noticed. Like…my cutting boards. I have a large block I bought years ago and love and use everyday…I need that.

My tongs that sit in the jar next to the stove for quick egress of something volcanic – I love that I can grab them and smack them authoritatively on the bottom to provoke the arms open on their spring mechanism…I need them.

And my wooden spoons – where do wooden spoons come from? They’re like pets in our family. I don’t remember EVER buying one…so how I adopted them I can’t tell.

Except one: my favourite little guy…a six inch spoon, worn down by loving turns in soup and sauces and custards…it’s now darkly, richly stained by its history.

…I purloined it in a custody battle…a breakup that included me practically throwing a whole set of Henkel’s knives back at him – knives that he’d given me as a Christmas present in our less hostile days, because I loved cooking and he didn’t - he actually asked for them back (it was darkly amusing to try to imagine what he thought they might be for) …so I collected a box load of stuff he’d given me, knocked on “our” former apartment door and threw the box contemptuously at him and told him I’m bigger than he is…spiritually…

I use the spoon with glee…so I’m not so sure about the bigger spiritual thing…in this case I think the spoon NEEDED me…no really.

My knife. Now I know that Clotilde when she was talking about kitchen tools said she didn’t think knives were as important as everyone makes out…and I sort of agree in one sense…they don’t HAVE to cost a ton of saffron, or the earth, whichever. Mine, I’ve written briefly about, is from a supermarket in England. I went there specifically after I’d tried it at my friend’s house – thinking I was using something that had been tempered by Shinto monks under a full moon using fairy urine – and he told me it had cost him 20 bucks. When I'm cooking elsewhere, it comes with me. My six inch wonder tool. I wish I’d bought two. I’ve had it for almost ten years I think…Not a Henkel in the place…

When Steve collided with me from the outer reaches of singledom, he brought with him a propensity to experiment with cooking and a digital meat thermometer. Oh. My. God. It’s what gives me some peace of mind when my own propensity to cook too many vegetables with a roast gets me distracted. I used to rely on the billowing smoke.

He also brought the Standing Mixer. ‘Nuff said. I said yes five weeks later.

My indulgence on the want side of life is probably Gabe’s pottery. She’s a friend of mine who produces dishes, no, vessels, of nature. She combines all the remarkable reds, golds, browns, blues, that our place in the world offers up and lets them streak through her, to the glaze, to the kiln…to my table…and I’m grateful. I get a rush when I pull them out of the cupboard and see them on the big wooden table in our kitchen. I don’t exactly need them…but I think maybe my kitchen sprite does…

Aha! I DO have something that qualifies as a gadget that most people would sniff at: an egg poacher. With four cups sitting on a frame in a pot over boiling water to make my most favourite eggs in the world…slightly runny poached eggs on toast…the best.

I didn’t spend the fortune a freelance writer earns on it…I bought it at one of those big box stores in one of those malls that Steve’s nephew refers to as the FCF: fascist cluster *uck. When are we going to support independent retailers/restaurants again? We NEED to.

Our kitchen does have almost everything it needs – including a gas stove. No industrial/restaurant monstrosity that requires its own natural gas generating plant in the backyard…just a simple home stove – it’s bigger than its insides seem – it has NEVER let me down – it’s gentle and beloved by me…

Which leads me to think the greatest tool this kitchen offers is its spirit and the spirit it evokes in me. I started my blog writing about the life in my kitchen – and how it evolved into our kitchen – it’s the heart of our home – it’s warm and wooden and simple.

So I find myself not wanting more…not needing anything for this kitchen to help me love better. Okay except counter space…I need counter space.

I could go on…there are more tools/toys/potential Christmas presents in here that deserve recognition - many that fall into the need category.

But, as Ms. Shamas said at the end of her show: I could go on…but I don’t want to.

Here’s hoping you have what you need and can see it…
With love and peace…Nicola

1 comment:

Julie said...

Nicola, I just wanted to stop by and wish you a Happy New Year. I'm looking forward to reading lots of new posts in the coming year and I hope 2007 is a great one for you.