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Cutting Tools

Posted by tinako on August 20, 2009

My favorite podcaster, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, did a podcast recently on favorite kitchen tools.  I found it very interesting and recommend it.  I like how she asserts that people don’t buy good kitchen tools because they don’t cook much, but that they would probably cook more if they had good tools.  I can completely relate to the feeling of not finding it as much fun to cook when away from home and my kitchen layout and tools.  I was trying to chop fresh herbs at a relative’s house one time, and all she had was paring knives and a glass cutting board.  I thought I was going to cut my fingers off.  I bought her an inexpensive IKEA chef knife and a small bamboo cutting board, and she says she really likes them.  (Re inexpensive chef knife, it’s not that I’m a cheapskate guest, it’s just that I haven’t personally found a huge difference in expensive knives, and I wasn’t sure she really wanted it.  It’s a knife I would have bought for myself.)  When I’m chopping carrots with a paring knife at a relative’s house, which doesn’t feel dangerous so much as time-consuming, I keep my spirits up by pretending I’m camping, roughing it.

I thought I would add my comments to Colleen’s, since I didn’t agree with her on everything, for my own personal preferences.  Re knives, I just use some I got for my wedding 19 years ago, so I don’t know how great they were.  I keep them in a knife block and seldom remember to sharpen them, but they’re pretty good I think.  Probably Colleen is right that we should spend more for good knives (and she makes the excellent point that vegans need only two or three – a chef knife, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife).   But not everyone can afford to.  $100+ for a knife is utterly out of reach for many families.

I agree with her wholeheartedly that glass is a ridiculous surface to cut on.  It makes an awful noise (clank clank clank), dulls your knife, and the knife can easily slip and hurt you.  Also those flexible cutting mats are no fun – they slip.  But I’m not sure she made the case against plastic cutting boards.  She makes the point that plastic cutting boards are recommended mostly to guard against salmonella and so forth, which isn’t so much a problem in a vegan kitchen.  But she said they get groves cut in them which can harbor bacteria; doesn’t wood?   She said she worries that bits of plastic get in the food; if that is the case, my 5-year-old plastic cutting board should have some serious pits in it, but does not.  Then she went on to recommend bamboo and explained the care it needs: season it with oil periodically, wash it off immediately after using with soap and water, and then dry it off.  The care that my plastic cutting board requires is as follows: rinse it off when I get around to it, let it drip dry leaning against a wall, throw it in the dishwasher when it gets dirty beyond rinsing.  It was cheap and will never break, warp, split, or mildew.  I bought it when I tired of throwing away wooden cutting boards that I had damaged by accident, the last one when a puddle formed under one for a few days and I didn’t notice and it split apart.

Colleen was surprisingly vehement against every brand of food processor except Kitchenaid.  I had to smile at her zeal.  What is the sin of its poor competitors?  They only come with one bowl – you buy a large machine or a small machine, and you are stuck with one size.   Honestly, I never expected my food processor to come with more than one bowl.  Now that I know one brand does, I would give it special consideration, but perhaps there are other features more important to me.  I keep a Cusinart Little Pro in a cupboard under the counter where it is easy to get to.  A larger one would not fit, and I have never wished I had one.  It is very quiet, though I agree with the reviewer who said its juicer attachment spins “disconcertingly fast.”  It is kind of scary to juice with, but is very effective.  I’m not a very good source for a review, since it’s the only one I’ve ever used; my point is just that I’m happy with a non-Kitchenaid food processor.

You can see the items that Colleen recommends at her Amazon store.


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