Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 8: Be a Gourmet

by Michael on March 29, 2010 · 0 comments

On the other hand, you might just need one pan. (Photo by rightee)

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning main page.

Yesterday was an opportunity to have some you time. Now let’s to get back to work. We’re still in the kitchen, and if you haven’t finished the cleaning we started on Day 6, carry on. But while you’re there…

Your Home: Outfit Your Kitchen

If you’re going to cut the crap and make meals out of good, wholesome original ingredients, you need the proper tools to combine and cook them. To that end, while you’re in the kitchen, inventory your cookware and bakeware. If you’re not sure you have any cookware or bakeware, let’s start there.

At the bare minimum you should have four pans:

  • A small frying pan
  • A large frying pan
  • A 2-quart saucepan
  • A 5-quart stock pot

These will enable you to cook enough recipes to keep you happy. You can pick up other pieces, like a Dutch oven or steamer, as you need or can afford them. How much to spend? Not much. Although it’s tempting to go for a deluxe Emeril cookware set, if you’re just learning to cook you want pots and pans you don’t feel bad about replacing if they get destroyed. A basic set of stainless steel cookware can be yours for as little as $50.

It’s also a good idea to make the small fry pan non-stick, so you can quickly cook eggs. There are top chefs who buy a $10 fry pan from the supermarket and throw it out as soon as the coating gets scratched. Or if you want to make the effort to properly season a cast iron frying pan, you’ll be rewarded with better tasting food and the ability to quickly and professionally sear steaks and fish.

You’ll also need something for the oven. Unless you plan to bake cakes or pies, a couple of cookie sheets and a roasting pan will do.

To mix and stir, get yourself a couple of glass mixing bowls, one medium and one large. Don’t forget a hand mixer and/or a wire whisk to do the stirring with. Finally, a large strainer or colander will help you drain food.

Of course, you’ll need to flip and serve, so get yourself a kitchen tool set, which usually consists of a food turner, large solid and slotted spoons and one or two other items.

The piece de resistance in your kitchen will be one good chef’s knife. If you’re going to spend good money on one item, this should be it. With a 7- to 8-inch blade of stainless steel, sharpened to a fine cutting surface, you will be blown away the first time you use a good chef’s knife like a Shun. Using a dull or “as-seen-on-TV” knife is a chore in comparison. You will, however, have to take it to a professional to be sharpened. Don’t forget two cutting boards: one for meat, one for vegetables, in soft plastic or wood.

Finally, make sure you have good-looking dishes and flatware for serving and eating: you will eventually be inviting ladies over for a bite, no?

As you go through the kitchen utensils and gadgets you already have, do the same as you do with everything else: keep it if you use it, get rid of it if you don’t. Non-stick pans with scratched teflon go in the trash, as do nicked knives and cracked cups. Make a checklist of what you need, and buy as your time and finances allow. Only get new gadgets and appliances if you know you’re going to use them—a countertop cluttered with pasta makers and espresso machines offers that much less surface for food preparation.

Your World: Look at Your Career

On Day 2 you started thinking about what you want from life. Over the past six days maybe you’ve reflected on or continued that exercise, and I hope you’ve at least made some progress.

Today, look at your job. What do you like about it? What do you dislike? More importantly, what do you want to be doing for a living in five years’ time? Or even next year? Write it all down. Again, you might not immediately know what you want to do. You might only know what you don’t want to do. That’s fair.

Once you have a goal, it’s time to determine how to get there. Is it a career trajectory from what you’re doing now? Can you get more training or find a mentor? Can you get there at your current employer, or will you have to apply elsewhere? Do you want to be an entrepreneur and work for yourself?

Yes, these are tough times for a lot of men, and there may be an element of fear if job security is important to you. But that’s an even better reason not only to make a plan, but also to carry out steps to become more valuable at the job you have, or to diversify your skills so that you have other options. Break down the plan into chunks you can easily accomplish.

Then make a promise to yourself that you’ll start on this plan. Work shouldn’t just be a necessary evil—it should be as productive for you as it is for your employer.

Yourself: Get Creative

Many of the activities in Ultimate Spring Cleaning require at least some creative thinking. Over the course of this week you’re going to stimulate your creativity by making a work of art. It can be anything that strikes your fancy:

  • Poetry
  • Prose (fiction)
  • Music
  • Painting or drawing
  • Carving
  • Sculpture
  • Collage
  • Movie or slide show
  • Lego

You can do the work at home or go to a studio where you can do guided glassblowing or pottery throwing. Do it with a brush and canvas or the computer. If you have an instrument you haven’t played in a long time, pick it up and compose a little song. Don’t worry about structure, or what people might say, or any limitations you think you have. Put a stroke down on the paper, then another. Chip a few pieces off the stone. Write the first five words that come into your head.

Feel free to share your art with someone, link to it in comments below, or just know that you did it and have the capacity for creativity. Know you can bring things into the world. You’ve got all week to work on it, although if you want to continue when the week is done, I’m certainly not going to stop you.

Until tomorrow…don’t forget to ask any and all questions. I’m here to help.

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