Thursday, 22 April 2010

Kitchen Rituals. Routine, or a form of witchcraft?


It is imperative that they be stacked neatly next to the sink in an orderly fashion. Glassware nearest the sink, all mugs drained of dregs and holding cutlery, then plates and bowls and finally the greasy pots and pans. Have I always been this anally fastidious about tidiness or has O.C.D set in since I became a kitchen geek?

Over the course of time, engrossed by all things food, I have adopted some rather methodical habits in the kitchen. Where some seem quite sensible others tend to lean to the more avant-garde or mentally unbalanced as has been mentioned before now.

Routines and superstitions have been instilled in me since I was very young from walking under ladders to stepping on pavement cracks. My earliest experience was once being told that to walk over a bank of three drain covers was bad luck and I have ever since found myself dancing down the street in order to avoid them. Nowadays my superstitious rituals extend to the kitchen.

It started with the tinned food and my need to have all the labels facing the same way, stacked in categories. Through time this evolved into a stock rotation system put to use every time I returned from the shops. My wife thought it a little unusual but was happy to leave me occupied whilst she gained the lounge to herself for a few priceless moments.

As things progressed I knew deep down that it wasn’t normal to feel a surge of panic upon realising I have less than ten onions in the blue rimmed bowl on the table. It matters not whether I need them or have something planned, I seem to insist on having at least ten onions to hand or else I break into mood swings and become fidgety. When that bowl drops below a certain level it makes me feel naked and as though things could quickly descend into a world where no matter how sharp my knife is, or shiny my shoes are, I will not pass the inspection from my inner tormentor.

The onion thing comes from my mothers own kitchen constitution, in keeping with her philosophy of potatoes.
“Always keep plenty of onions and potatoes, you never know who might pop round,” I remember my mother reciting, although I’m sure whatever guests she was expecting would quickly grow tired of the mundane meal of onions and mash and ‘pop’ somewhere else for their impromptu feed.

The more you cook and prepare meals in a kitchen the more you find more efficient ways of doing things. How many of us have worked out ways to reduce the washing up, striving for that one pot method of a making a meal. Or realised that having a bin handy and your worktop clear makes the time in the kitchen that much smoother. I think what it all boils down to is the fact that cooking creates a certain mindset, one of order and organisation. Being highly-organised is a trait that many a successful chef would commend in a young Commis. However in the confines of your own home, if you’re not careful, you can wind up an eccentric, knife wielding, onion counting nut-job.

What routines and rituals do you have when you set up shop in the heart of
the home and are there any that others sometimes deem unusual?

3 comments:

  1. I'm getting increasingly obsessed with the sharpness of my knives, I insist on steeling them prior to use. I don't think they will ever be sharp enough, even in some distant future when I have my lazer knife

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  2. I gotta say, blunt knives really frustrate me too. Im always honing mine on my steel. It's a slippery slope though, one day your concerned over the sharpness of your favourite knie, the next thing you know you are breaking into a cold sweat because the butter's running low...

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