Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kitchen Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - How I Was Diagnosed

I know you are wondering how I became a kitchen equipment guru in the first place. So, this is my story.

I have always been an observant child, so I watched my mother, grandmothers, aunties, and cousins in their kitchens.  The equipment that they used fascinated me and I took mental notes on what they used and how they used them. I learned the virtues of heavy Griswold and Lodge cast iron, and the sharpness of professional Dexter Russell carbon steel knives and utensils.

By the time I was 9 or 10 I was watching Julia Child on TV and later reading her French Chef cookbooks. At that time, I decided I wanted a kitchen with all of the best cookware and in my mind, the best cookware was what Julia Child and my family had in their own kitchens.

Thus I noticed my Aunt Roberta's Kitchenaid 4B mixer. I began reading and accumulating knowledge about kitchen equipment. After thoroughly immersing myself in the subject, I was able to recognize good cookware when I saw it in thrift shops and at garage sales.

In high school and later in college I was also working in restaurants and bakeries learning the best sizes, weights, and brands used in commercial kitchens and comparing them to home cookware. I learned to value the power of Hobart mixers and Robot Coupe food processors and this is how Vollrath aluminum clad stainless steel stockpots and such came to my kitchen along with heavy aluminum Wearever sheet pans.

I had always admired my Aunt Roberta's KA 4B mixer, and longed to have one of my own.  Slowly I began to gather other kitchenware I needed as I could afford to.

Then one terrible day, Aunt Roberta's house caught on fire and most things if not burned, were smoke damaged or water damaged.

I was visiting her ruined home one day, and Aunt Roberta said, "Would you like to have my mixer?" I looked at the poor scorched thing on the counter, covered with black soot and said, "Yes!"

I took it home and proceeded to clean it up. With the scrubbing came off melted paint in huge patches. It looked like I had applied paint stripper. Since 99% of the paint was gone anyway, I removed the rest and polished the aluminum base. The rubber feet were melted off, so I had the Hobart dealer replace them and the melted cord.

I had the Hobart dealer re-tin the bowl and I was done!

I named my baby Phoenix because it seemed invincible and had risen from death by fire to life magically.

This is the myth of the phoenix.
"A phoenix is a mythical bird with beautiful gold and red plumage. At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises. The new phoenix is destined to live, usually, as long as the old one. In some stories, the new phoenix embalms the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis (the city of the sun in Greek). The bird was also said to regenerate when hurt or wounded by a foe, thus being almost immortal and invincible — a symbol of fire and divinity."

Phoenix went immediately to work in bake sale fund raisers for the church.

To illustrate Phoenix's hard work, I can tell you that over the course of 2 weekends one year, Phoenix made over 80 -- count them, 80 Toll House pies.

The pies we sold that year, yielded over $400 in profits for the church.
That does not even count the cakes and other things we baked. 

I watched all of Julia TV shows and her friend Jacque Pepin's shows like I was getting a PBS cooking diploma. Jacque taught me to know and love a Norton 3 way sharpening stone.

I begin haunting the thrift shops, garage sales, Ebay, used restaurant supply stores, and even metal salvage yards for quality used equipment.  Soon because of Julia I had a good supply of pre-loved Descoware enameled cast iron, and carbon steel Sabatier knives. Then a few pieces of fantastic old tin lined heavy copper came my way. I was off and running!

Julia's first food processor was a Cuisinart, so I had to have one [now I have many]. I watched all of Julia TV shows and her friend Jacque Pepin's shows like I was getting a PBS cooking diploma. Jacque taught me to know and love a Norton 3 way sharpening stone.

This is how I became a critical kitchen equipment consumer. Thank you Julia for starting it all.

Then, I became more prosperous and noticed that my dear auntie was making do with an old Oster Kitchen center mixer. Soooo, I found and loaned her Sir Mix-A-Lot [KA K-5A] with 2 bowls and a KA 700 food processor.

Aunt Roberta was an avid baker and was extremely happy with her mixer.

Once when Aunt Roberta, Aunt Kathryn, Aunt Naomi, and Aunt Phyllis admired some of my real heavy aluminum commercial half size sheet pans. There were 8 pans and to my shock they decided I did not need them, and they divided them up between them! The more I hollered, "hey wait a minute here". The more they laughed.

I finally laughed too, and gave in. I remembered all of their kindnesses and thought, sure they can have almost whatever they like, but I will never tell them. They walked out proudly with their prizes -- giggling like little girls. My aunties thought they were slick ganging up on me like that!

What they didn't know, and I didn't tell them was that I had another 8 or 9 commercial heavy aluminum sheet pans put away that were even better than the ones they took!

Then, another time, I visited Aunt Phyllis and saw she practically had no cookware, appliances and utensils at all! So I provided her with a large set of Le Creuset I found in a thrift shop, Mighty Mouse [a KA 3-B] I got on Ebay, a 3 cup Cuisinart I bought on Ebay, and some commercial stainless steel professional utensils I got at the used restaurant supply store.

When Aunt Kathyrn came in town and stayed with Aunt Phyllis, Phyllis told her all I had gotten her. That put Aunt Kathryn on the warpath -- she wanted equal consideration especially since she liked everything!

Well of course then Aunt Kathyrn had to get a large set of red Copco enameled cast iron cookware [even heavier than Le Creuset but no longer made] and the KA model 4C I had originally bought for my Uncle Charles [he had passed away by then]. I hadn't even had a chance to name my 4C and he was gone! She was a happy camper and went home to brag to her daughter how good I was to her. Almost every time I talked to Aunt Kathyrn on the phone she told me what good things she made with the sheet pans, cookware, and the mixer. She just loved them.

Then Aunt Naomi had to have some things too, so she got a set of yellow Copco enameled cast iron cookware. She didn't want a mixer!

Somehow, over the years Aunt Kathyrn misplaced the KA 4C.

Aunt Roberta passed away 11/07, and my cousin refused to give the mixer back. But at least I felt satisfied because I had re-paid my auntie back for her gift of Phoenix, which started my love of vintage KA mixers. I had been given and received precious gifts that were in essence ------ love.

On her last visit home, I gave Aunt Kathyrn her Christmas present early. She had been so sick for so long and looked so emaciated, I was worried she would not live to Christmas. Well all the other aunties had to have their Christmas presents early too!

I had given each of them two of the reversible aprons I made, 4 matching potholders, and a array of Oxo good grip utensils. Aunt Kathyrn had been too ill the last couple of years to cook and she had moved in with her daughter. So for her I bought a beautiful china tea service painted with pink roses and a array of gourmet tea [she loved tea].

What did I do that for? *hit hit the fan! "Where's my aprons and utensils? Corrina cooks and I live there! I want my things too!" I cowered, "Don't you like your tea service?" Yes, but I want what they got!" [I worked real hard and kept a straight face although I wanted to burst out laughing]. Aunt Kathryn was like a second mother to me when I was a young woman and away from home for the first time. Auntie loved to tease and joke with me and laugh when she "got the best of me".
I always tried to do little things to show her my love.

Ok, so I brought her things. The aprons didn't fit, so I returned home and tailored the aprons to fit her emaciated body, and returned them to Aunt Kathyrn before she left town. Aunt Kathyrn left town feeling real good about her "victory".

Right before Christmas Aunt Kathyrn passed away.

Later, her daughter [my cousin] emailed me. We were reminiscing and my cousin said, "You know I saved her red pots with you in mind. I know both of you were crazy about those pots." My cousin said she would send me the cookware and did so.

I had to cry, both with pride because I had so pleased my auntie and she had treasured my gifts; and with the pain of her loss. But every time I look at or use the pots in the future, I will remember my auntie and her love.....  

Here is the address of my Kitchenaid history blog.  http://leoladysw.blogspot.com/2012/02/introduction-and-timeline.html

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