Posted on August 16th, 2012
Eight. I have room for eight utensils. My husband and I will be road tripping and camping for three months, and I have room for eight cooking utensils.
It is an arbitrary limit I have set for myself, admittedly. I do that sort of thing pretty regularly, and also end up frustrated pretty regularly trying to adhere to them, which is sort of bewildering to my husband. But I haven’t yet figured out if he realizes that without this self-set limit, we’d end up carting our entire kitchen east across Canada and back west across the United States, to the detriment of space for important things like, oh, our tent.
So here I am with my eight arbitrary slots, for the only kitchen utensils I will have at my side through three months of cooking at campsites and hostels and, where we’re lucky, friends’ houses. What the hell do I chose?
Some are picked out quickly and easily:
1: Chef’s knife 8 inches of full-tanged, steel German glory. You will not leave my side. I even bought you a fancy blade protector, as you leave the comfort of your other knife friends and your nice knife block and embark on this trans-continental adventure with me. Together we will conquer the Canadian wilds, the New England countryside, and the frustratingly dull knives of friends, family, and Couchsurfing hosts. You will chop garlic from Vancouver to Prince Edward Island, peel root vegetables from New England to the Great Lakes, and open all manner of packages from Illinois to Idaho.
2 & 3: Double-ended rubber spatulas A little boring, but a necessity. They will be serving spoons, they will be stirrers, they will be the scrapers of pans with cooked on smears of chili. My particular spatulas of choice have a large end, a small end, and a handle, all of which are completely covered in rubber. One has flat ends (great for flipping and scraping), and one has spoon-like ends (great for mixing and serving). The small end makes them extra handy at things like removing the last bits of peanut butter from the bottom of the jar, and the rubber coating means that their heads don’t detach from their handles all the goddamn time, like those other kinds. (I am looking at you, fancy Martha Stewart rubber spatula that now sits in a Goodwill for some other unlucky bastard to purchase and attempt to use reliably without wanting to scratch their own face off).
4: Locking metal tongs I venture to guess I will use these tongs for a variety of kitchen tasks – like serving things, flipping things, and picking up steaming hot food items (all of which I am stupidly wont to do with my own fingers when no one else is around, but perhaps in my new stripped-down culinary life I will turn over a new leaf). My tongs are simple, entirely metal, and lock with a little tab on the end. They are entirely fantastic and reliable, and were purchased for approximately 25 cents from some sort of Asian market. As cheap as they should be. (Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT try to give me fancy, expensive tongs to use. Why do you have those? Looking at them makes me angry and they will have NO PLACE in my bare necessities, eight-utensil kitchen. Please take them away.)
5: Can opener This is just cruel. I need it, no question, but it does one thing only and that thing isn’t even fun. It is 100% utility, and now I’ve lost an entire slot. Way to go, can opener.
After those five, things get a little complicated. I suppose I could have set my arbitrary limit at five, and then my task would be easily done and I could move on to strategizing how to stock myself with three months of underwear. But I said eight, goddamnit, and all I can think about are the potential conveniences of those three other possible tools.
So I keep looking. Spoons and spatulas of various shapes and materials – nope. You have been replaced by rubber spatulas and metal tongs. Sorry. Let’s all move on. Comically small whisk, I’ve defended you up and down and in and out to my ever-supportive husband, but this is not a circumstance in which you couldn’t be replaced by a well-wielded fork. (Husband says – is there ever another kind of circumstance? I say – be quiet and go back to loading the 40 glorious audiobook hours of Game of Thrones onto my phone.)
Baking tools are out. Bench scraper, I love you, and you have served me with aplomb – but I have no need for you in the backwoods of Alberta. Let’s be real. Later in the year you’d make a bang up windshield scraper, but I’m praying we don’t end up needing one of those. Pastry bags, cookie cutters, and ice cream scoops, don’t be ridiculous.
Eventually, I settle on another three items, carefully curated in terms of their usefulness, their versatility, and their ability to make my life a little easier:
6: Citrus squeezer I am not an alcoholic. I am not an alcoholic. But the right mood, environment, and circumstances for a heavily limed gin and tonic or one of our world-famous margaritas can strike anywhere, and without warning. Cocktails also make particularly pleasant “thank you for letting us stay at your house for free” gifts, and I am a generous and thankful person. But if you expect me to juice that many limes without the noble aid of this squeezer, you have a very different idea of how I will be spending this trip.
7: Kitchen shears Equally as adept at snipping herbs and trimming meats as they are cutting twigs for kindling or giving your travel companion a desperate two-months-post-departure haircut (I’m just guessing on that last one, but we’ll see!), so the shears should definitely be in. And including them means I can take the scissors out of the camping supplies, which my brain tries to tells me means I shouldn’t count them as one of the eight – but I am smarter than myself, and know that if I let that sort of logic fly, soon I’ll be packing it all in.
8: Liquid measuring cup Making rice is almost impossible without knowing how much liquid you’re using, and thus the liquid measure. Will come in particularly handy for those pre-seasoned packets of pilaf, which have no place in my home kitchen but are particularly convenient for camping. What? You’re wondering if I actually want this to be able to make delicious cocktails in the wilderness, which are necessary because, well, have you ever camped for three months and do you realize how there’s really not much to do in the evenings and that it is really freaking dark out there? (Also: I am not an alcoholic.)
But now I see this Microplane zester out of the corner of my eye. Could I be that person? That ridiculous person who brings a zester with me on a three-month road trip? But what if I find myself with a pot of soup that just screams out for a dash or two of lemon zest, and I have no tool with which to make this happen? What then, eh? What then? What. Then.
Nope. Indefensible. Zester is officially voted out. (p.s. I still love you, zester, and will see you in November. Wait for me!)
So that’s it, I guess. Just me and my eight kitchen tools, venturing off into the wilderness. Once we’re out that driveway, there’s no looking back. Wish me luck. (Wish that you don’t find me frantically wandering around a Sur la Table somewhere in Seattle, before we even reach the border.)
And if you happen to find yourself in Saskatchewan with a bunch of limes to juice, look for me. I’m ready.