Kitchen Tools

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 5:15pm

Somewhere, I sort of stopped cooking beyond the most basic of dishes. On some level I realized what was happening, but how far it had gone hit me squarely the other night when it took four, yes, four, implements to open a bottle of olive oil. A knife to cut the foil, then there were two jar openers. The first was my mother’s, if not grandmother’s, a wonderful geared implement, probably with whatever paint remains on the handle filled with traces of lead. It is one of those kitchen tools that appear on social media with captions akin to “if you’re old enough to know what this is. . .”

Then there was another, a more “modern” opener, a sort of textured loop attached to a wooden handle, come, as I recall, from some fancy mainland store, a well-intended gift which has proven not nearly as clever or useful as originally thought. Finally, I went to the tool drawer and got out my fallback, the ViseGrip, which I am pretty sure I last had out to solve a similar problem.

Overall it took a couple of hours to cut up and stirfry beef and onions, to steam — to over-steam — a crown of broccoli, and to boil a handful of noodles. I looked at my kitchen and thought my mother didn’t use as many pots and pans to produce Thanksgiving dinner for thirteen. It’s an exaggeration, of course, but proportionately not as much as I’d like to think.

The days run together but I know it was Easter because I remember looking in the refrigerator and seeing a beautiful single serving of chocolate mousse — it was a gift — and deciding while I deserved a treat after that long dinner prep, short meal and very long cleanup that I was just too tired to fully appreciate it.

The next night, newly inspired by that glorious chocolate dessert, I started pulling out the long neglected cookbooks. It somehow felt better than going on-line to find exactly what I could make with what I had on hand — it is amazing how quickly those results can be narrowed. I had, I still have, dark baking chocolate which I am sure cannot go bad in the mere years it has been on the shelf, and eggs, which I know are not old at all, in the refrigerator.

And sugar, there must be some sugar somewhere — how did I ever become this person? Alas, I was still sadly lacking what was necessary for even the most basic mousse and again the reality of having to know exactly what I want before I order from the store hit me. Gone is the simple but great luxury of picking and choosing on-site, one to which we have become accustomed.

We have had April weather, windier than some years, but rounds of rain and sun and clouds all rolled into one a few minutes some days. Still, we are so out of time, so removed from the usual mileposts of the spring that it was a bit before I realized it was solidly mid-month. Seven years ago this date fell on a Monday; it was Patriots Day in Massachusetts, when there is always a home game at Fenway, and the Marathon is run. It’s a holiday I do not like to wholly cede to Massachusetts, it should belong to all of New England, my annual lament.

Today, there were no runners massing at the starting place, no sea of nationalities jockeying for the best spot even at the beginning of the unimaginable twenty-six miles. The event, never completely cancelled since its inception in 1897, has been postponed until the fall.

The bells of the Old South Street Church in Boston still rang at 2:49 this afternoon, commemorating the bombing at the end of the Marathon seven years ago. News clips showed streets almost empty in the April sun, the tolling made even more mournful for the surrounding silence.

I could have an idea when I really stopped cooking if I thought about it, but I do not know when I came to associate church bells almost exclusively with mourning rather than joy. So I hold the memory of the night New England held its breath waiting for Carlton Fisk’s hit to go fair and keep the Red Sox Series hopes alive, and the story of someone in his home town running over to the church to ring the tower bells in celebration. It still makes me cry but not with sorrow.