On Class and Kitchens

I was pleased to see an article in the New York Times yesterday by Mark Bittman, AKA “The Minimalist,” beautifully skewering over-equipped kitchens. Indeed, as Bittman proved, a visit to a restaurant supply store and $200 gives you all the kitchen equipment you need, assuming that you own nothing to cook with. It’s sort of amusing to me that it’s suddenly becoming trendy among yuppies to spend less and live in smaller houses, when you consider that us po’ folk have been spending less and living in smaller houses for years, because we don’t have any choice. One of my yuppie acquaintances actually accused me of being a class snob in reverse recently when I gave him shit for his wealth, and he’s totally right. I am a class snob. I don’t like people who throw lots of money around and boast about it, I don’t like people who don’t work for a living, and I don’t like people who think that they are better than me because they make more money than I do. Hey, at least I’m up front about it. And some of my best friends are rich people. And you can go ahead and not like me because I’m poor and I drink beer on my front porch while watching the SFPD bust drug dealers. And we will all be happy.

Anyway, the best part of the article is on the second page, where he lists 10 items you don’t need. Not 10 items that are nice to have, but 10 oversold, completely stupid items that people say they “can’t live without.” I was pleased to see three old nemesis: the microwave, the bread machine, and the rice cooker. Tell it like it is, Mark! His comment on boning knives is priceless.

He made several good points in the article which I really liked. The first was the debunking of the idea that you need expensive kitchen equipment to cook well. No, you need to be a good cook to cook well. A fancy ceramic knife is no substitute for years of experience in the kitchen, including trial and error. I also appreciated that he admitted the mandoline he purchased was rather a non-essential, depending on your needs.

I think that the article also really encouraged people to think about their individual needs. There wasn’t a focus on “equipping the perfect kitchen,” there was a focus on how you, as an individual, use your kitchen. I mean, if you happen to be one of those people with a Viking range and a fancy fridge and a huge kitchen which you never, ever use, by all means deck it out with expensive and useless kitchen equipment. But if you would rather just cook in your kitchen, why not get workhorse pots and pans and simple kitchen equipment that you need and use every day?

I’m also going to quibble with his cutting board comments: he says that he prefers wood for aesthetic reasons, but plastic can go in the dishwasher. I prefer wood for health reasons, because plastic cutting boards, especially old ones, can harbor bacteria. Bacteria do not multiply in wood, new or old. Heavily scored plastic, on the other hand, is a petri dish of delights. Go wood!

All in all, a good commentary. Now, of course, it’s going to become trendy to shop at restaurant supply stores, which will probably result in an uptick in prices, or the institution of a minimum. And, of course, being the trend rebel that I am, I’ll have to write a post condemning people who shop at restaurant supply stores when they don’t own restaurants. But seriously.

I’m stoked that Mark Bittman was encouraging people to buy what they need, rather than what they think they need, or what they want, because society expects it of them. Now if only this could apply to the rest of our consumerist culture…

[kitchen equipment]