Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Bottom Drawer Of Strangeness And Mystery

In every home and in every kitchen, there remains a drawer of strangeness and mystery. It is usually the bottom draw and it is often full, cluttered with a right load of old tut. Purchases from Lakeland, IKEA and the Ideal Home Exhibition. Gifts received with a perplexed frown and fake, fixed smile. Gadgets and thingymabobs that normally don't get used, don't get to see the light of day. Except in times of panic, when the bottom drawer is flung open with tremendous fury. The collective sigh of joy is palpable as rays of sunshine beam down but more often than not, all they get is a fist, which plunges in and frantically rummages around for a second or two before extracting painfully in shock. And then the drawer is slammed shut again, amidst howls of anguish and profanity, leaving those poor, unloved tools of the kitchen to continue their existence in darkness and shame.

I decided to sort out my bottom drawer yesterday in a drive to spring clean the kitchen, with a view to de-clutter and simplify but it was a lot harder than I expected. Perhaps I am a hoarder. Perhaps I need a bigger drawer. Perhaps I need to get a life and stop photographising random gizmos and concentrate on other things. Let me know what you think.


So, let's start with the 'Gastro Max' cheese slicer. Ergonomic, light, flexible and able to withstand very high temperatures with a melting point of 265C, this plastic cheese slicer is ultimately very naff and very pointless. I don't know where it came from, I have never ever used it and it's unlikely that I ever will. Not unless I find myself wanting to cut some really really hot, volcanic, cheese. That doesn't melt. Alex James would probably find this device a boon and would gladly put his name behind it for an extortionate fee but I reckon it's a piece of crap, so I should probably bin it soon. But not yet, because, well you never know.


This Progressive Dough Scraper was bought to save a dozen stainless steel bowls and a dozen debit cards. Much as I like to bake bread, I am quite a messy, wasteful baker and I am forever getting told off for not clearing dough out of bowls and off surfaces properly because once that heady mix of flour and water and yeast dries, it becomes like superglue and sticks steadfast to everything. Enter the Progressive Dough Scraper! Except I still prefer to use a debit card, especially my wife's, which I get told off for too. Apparently, I can't chuck this out. Apparently, I am going to learn to remember to use the Progressive Dough Scraper. Well, let's just see how we go forward with that one then.


There is a story behind this vicious pizza wheel. A few years ago now we held a 'Pizza Party' at our house. Essentially a 'bring a load of alcohol and toppings and we'll all make pizza and get drunk' type affair. Throughout the evening, we had been cutting our brash, handmade pizzas with a plain old carving knife, when suddenly I remembered that I had this cutter in the drawer, new and still wrapped in cellophane. I bounded back into the room with a triumphant "Da-dah!", sat down and proceeded to tear at the plastic with my teeth and then swish, the pizza wheel was free. Or rather, slice, the pizza wheel was free. Looks of horror immediately focused and fixed towards one side of my face. I had slashed myself a neat, half cocked Chelsea Smile from the corner of my mouth up to my cheekbone. I still use it from time to time but in my opinion, a plain old carving knife is much safer.


Nanny FU gave me this strange contraption. By all accounts it's a pastry whisk. Well at least that's what it says on the side. It's obviously old, been well used and has a certain charm but it's not really practical, well at least not in my hands. I've used it to mash potatoes before but that's about it. Oh and I also use it when cooking with the twins, pretending to be some sort of culinary robot called Gadetmatrix Prime, teaching them how to mix cookie dough or something. With the pastry whisk in one hand, some stainless tongs in the other and a colander on my head, I reckon I am quite convincing. Rolling eyes and stifled yawns suggest otherwise but I can't get rid of it for purely sentimental reasons. And Nanny FU would bollock me if she found out.


I can't remember if I bought this craft blade specifically for carving lines into sumptuous pork skin for salting and crackling or whether it a remnant from a wallpaper job in the front room and has just wound up in the drawer. Either way it looks filthy and probably shouldn't go anywhere near meat so alas, I do think I am going to have to throw this away. But no matter, I can always go marching into B&Q and get another one, asking one of the oh so helpful staff, "Good man, can you please tell me where your pig scoring knives are please?"


I have no idea what this is or does, it may well have come from a Christmas cracker or something, I just don't know. Do you know what it's for? Answers on a postcard please.


Jean-Patrique is a spiv and a charlatan who has conned a million Sunday supplement readers from middle England, selling his cheap, crap, blunt, 'Professional' knives. OK, Jean is only filching pensioners for £1.99 a time but all adds up. I bet you he is living it up on his own island in the Caribbean somewhere and he is laughing, laughing at all of us. And it makes me mad that he gets away with it and it makes me mad that I ever fell for his advertising promotion in the back of the Mail on Sunday. I won't get mugged again. This cleaver is being sent back to you Jean, in the post, embedded in a horses head. Your time will come.


I think these are picking olives or pickles out of jars. Or maybe they are to be used for skewering corn on the cobs that have been cooked on the barbecue and slathered in butter. Or maybe they are little spears that the Borrowers use, to keep the cat at bay when raiding the fridge at night. No matter, they are quite cute and I shan't be throwing them out yet.


Once a year, I probably make spätzle, just once a year. Yet whenever I do make these 'little sparrows' of joy, I can't help but smile at my own ingenuity. Because I bet no-one else uses a Pyrex pizza tray and grout spreader to smear sloppy, eggy dough through holes into a stock pot of boiling water. No, I bet the likes of Sebastian Stevenson of Islington have forked out fifty quid for their Original Kull Spätzle-Schwob HOCHGLANZ Spätzlepresse. But not me. This is about keeping it real. Which is why I will always keep my little bit of homemade kit tucked away in the draw. Even if I only make spätzle just once a year.


And on a familiar and final note, I don't think I'll be getting rid of my stash of tin cans either which are excellent for creating pretty, poncy, towers of food or simple, perfectly symmetrical fried eggs. Especially since the whole enterprise is highly ethical from an environmental point of view (hmm I now starting to sound like Sebastian). So yes, the tin cans can stay in the bottom drawer. As for the fifty or so empty, hollow cans that are cluttering the cupboard above. I think that I am going to have to get rid of them, but it will pain me to do so.

Am I a hoarder? Do I need to get a bigger bottom drawer? Do I need to get a life?

I think I just answered all three questions with this post.

14 comments:

Alicia (foodycat) said...

In the words of Jimeoin "The third drawer from the top is full of shit" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpnxedNxK3o

Jules said...

I think the white screw thing is for making cucumber spirals. In my bottom drawer in amongst the naff wine glass charms I have a very retro butter curler. Why? I haven't a clue.

meemalee said...

The thing you can't identify - think it's a Magic Spiral. Makes fancy veg garnishes. I have one in metal. Never used it.

Craftilicious said...

I use my cucumber spiral quite a lot - does that make me a sad git? Probably ;-)

The pickle forks should have a lazy susan type affair with them - we had one in the 70s - you put the pickles in the spinning compartments and the forks in the middle - it was the height of sophistication at the time I'm sure!

I have a drawer - but a top one, not a bottom (only because all my drawers are on top of the cupboards) for the bits of craps I still use, and then a big plastic storage box under the dinning room sofa for the all the rest of it. My mother likes to buy me things from those catalogues that old people get - this year I got an automatic pan stirrer - I can't even bear to put it in the box so it's been sitting under the table where the Christmas tree once was - I think I have a major problem!!!

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

if I send you an SAE will you send me the dough scraper thing... rather than you chuck it out, i'll have it and donate a quid to my local charity... I have just been making bread and tend to use my silicone spatula but I think your dough scraper would be most useful... and I have the perfect drawer, 3 down, to the left of the oven where i can store it... oh...

Food Urchin said...

Alicia - true words that

Jules - cucumber spirals? why would I want to make cucumber spirals *thinks hard*

Meemalee - a Magic Spiral? maybe we could use ours for Stir Wars and AMAZE everybody

Craftilicious - OK, OK so everyone has a cucumber spiral, why don't we see more cucumber spirals everywhere?

Dom - it's in the post, you should be able to throw it in YOUR bottom draw full of crap by Tuesday.

Alicia (foodycat) said...

I'm glad others were able to explain the spiral thing - I'd never seen one of those.

My useless-kitchen-stuff drawer (which is indeed the 3rd from the top) contains things like a spirtle, an idli scoop, a hand-carved olive-wood rice paddle and a hand-painted earthenware garlic grater. All donated to me by the same loving aunt with a taste for craft markets.

Kavey said...

The white handled look like fondue forks to me but love idea of sound of pickles around a lazy Sudan.

Bloody Swype autocorrect nearly had me taking of fondue girls and lazy Sudan!

Miss Whiplash said...

I WANT CUCUMBER SPIRALS!

I have a pickled onion grabber in my drawer.
Like this, but much more plasticky...
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bar-Craft-Pickle-Cube-Grabber/dp/B00309FIIW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333638994&sr=8-1

Beat that :-)

Su-Lin said...

I want a spiral cutter!

Your pastry whisk looks like a device I used in high school to cut cold butter into flour.

Helen said...

I'm loving the spaetzle maker. I made spaetzle once and only once because it was SUCH a ballache. I tried a colander and a sieve and then ended up just pinching bits off with my hands and dropping it in.

meemalee said...

My drawers are full of weirder stuff. Mostly brought back from Japan.

Alicia, I'll have the rice paddle if it's going spare - you can never have too many ;)

Dan said...

Good God man! What a complete heap of useless shit you've collected. I suggest piling it all up and using the blunt as assholes chopper to attack the pile. Should keep you occupied for months.

PS - In my house, all this stuff lives in the top drawer. Not sure what this says about me...and I don't want to know.

Unknown said...

i have several fancy cheese slicers in all sorts of metals--all lousy. Somewhere I picked up a Gastro-Max and it is fabulous!--the only one that does not stick to the cheese. All my family and friends want one but I cannot find a source in the US. I would like to buy about 20 of them. They're cheap enough but the shipping is horrendous. Hope you did not throw yours out!