Call me crazy, but I’ve always had a bit of a thing for housewares. I don’t know why. It’s not like I have any aspirations toward housewifery or being a latter-day Betty Crocker. I just like them.
And I like shopping for them. I love the housewares department, too. Whether at a high-end department store like Bloomingdale’s or at a specialty store like Sur La Table or Crate and Barrel, heck, even at Target, I am perfectly capable of spending a couple hours wandering through a sea of Fiestaware and All Clad. It’s all fascinating to me. I thought this somewhat embarrassing fact was one of those guilty pleasure secrets that I kept mostly to myself and to family members, who may even share the housewares obsession (e.g., I know my brother sort of enjoys a jaunt through housewares, as well). But other people who know me fairly well have occasionally picked up on this fact somewhere along the way.
Case in point–once when I was meeting a friend for the afternoon in San Mateo, he suggested that we meet at Draeger’s, a local upscale grocery store that also happens to have a fairly sizable housewares department on its second floor. Not only did we end up getting lunch in their deli, but we literally spent the better part of an entire afternoon at the store, with a brief stopover at a wine bar down the street when they opened at 4 pm, followed by trip back to the store so he could pick up groceries for dinner and a foray to the housewares upstairs, where I was impressed to see an actual electric Norwegian lefse maker on display (these are not often found outside of either the upper Midwest, Norway or some Scando gift shop in Lutheran college towns). Unfortunately this guy was able to see right through me enough to know that an afternoon wandering a fancy grocery store and housewares shop was one way to my heart. “We are such geeks,” I said to him when he offered me a ride to my car a couple blocks away. “We just spent an entire afternoon wandering in and out of this grocery store and thought it was fun.” Maybe it was just my company, but I know he totally enjoyed it, too!
Which brings me to one of the dire consequences of engaging in a lengthy cooking course–along with it comes the urge to splurge on shiny new kitchen toys.
It’s almost inevitable that each class will not only inspire in me a desire to try some new recipe or experimentation with the technique of the week, but it often inspires the need to acquire additional kitchen loot. Of course it doesn’t help that KoF West adjoins a resto supply store and that it’s also only a couple miles away from the Berkeley Sur La Table. I am semi-proud to say that I have refrained from a weekly trip to Rocket Restaurant Resourceafter class (although I have browsed on more than one occasion and I am still contemplating getting a good quality carbon steel wok before the series ends). But I can’t say the same for staying out of Sur La Table or Bed, Bath and Beyond (and even Target) in search of new supplies.
First it was after the sauté and stir fry class. I decided that I simply must have some bamboo stir fry utensils (if not the wok–yet) so I could toss vegetables and meats with both hands in proper stir fry fashion rather than continue to use my oversized plastic spoon utensil. After knife skills, I also decided I needed a new bench scraper (I already had one from a bread series I took this summer) that had measurements on it so that I could be a bit more exacting when slicing and dicing and keeping veggies all the same shape for even cooking (ha! like I’m really ever exacting about anything!). Foolishly, I did a spin through Target looking for one, the other or both the bamboo utensils and the bench scraper, which was to no avail. (But I’m sure I picked up something else at Target along the way–probably another scarf or 3 or 4 bottles of face wash or shampoo.) I found what I needed a couple weeks later when I dragged my sister, who was visiting from the Midwest, to the 4th Street shops in Berkeley and made her go to Sur La Table with me for the bamboo. Much to my delight, not only did I find the bamboo, but also the bench scraper, complete with a built in ruler!
A Sunday afternoon dedicated to making vegetable stock required not only a trip to the Temescal Farmer’s Market for copious amounts of veggies, but another trip to Sur La Table in search of a good strainer large enough to handle a lot of liquid. Did I go for just any strainer? Oh, no! I decided to go not for some run-of-the-mill strainer, but instead a chinoise, which is a super fancy, large conical strainer capable of super fine straining.
Of course, I also needed some better containers for freezing my stock, so I had to pick up some of these great Oxo locking containers. A fateful wander into the back of the store where the clearance items revealed that individual Le Creuset ceramic gratin pans were on clearance for $9 each–so I had to get four.
My pickling foray a few weeks ago sent me to Bed, Bath and Beyond in search of jars for my pickles. I walked out with six different jars of three different sizes made by some Italian company. The great thing about those jars is they have those nice hinged lids (like a bottle of Grolsch beer) and a rubber ring to seal the jar shut. (do these jars have I name, I wonder?) And I got a book on canning because I think I may try my hand at marmalade for holiday gifts for the office this year instead of my usual holiday sweets.
Of course if I decide to make jam, I will probably need to invest not only some canning equipment, won’t I? At the very least, I’ll probably be forced to buy some of those funky canning tongs, maybe even a larger stock pot for boiling and a whole plethora of Ball jars.
Contrary to what it might sound like from this blog, I have no affiliation with any of the stores or manufacturers mentioned here. Of course, if they’d like to sponsor my blog, they’re more than welcome to! 🙂