Is real food scratch cooking just too hard to do? Most people think so. And they’re aren’t talking about some of the more labor intensive or time consuming things you could do as a from-scratch cook either. Mostly people are talking about things a fifties housewife commonly did like bake a cake from a mix, frying chicken, or squeezing fresh orange juice. A depression-era housewife would have done all of these things and more like gardening and canning but without the modern appliances. She would be crazy jealous of all the appliances women commonly had in the fifties. And this fifties era housewife would marvel at all she could get done with the tools we can get at far less expense that a fifties household would have paid.
Looking for some inexpensive practical kitchenware? Stuff that looks quaint and will survive a nuclear holocaust? Comes in a very wide variety of sizes and shapes? Need a cheap hobby? Vintage Pyrex is the answer for all your varied needs! Vintage Pyrex bowls, casserole dishes, plates, platters, cups, mugs and refrigerator dishes are hard to damage, are so cute you’ll just want to pinch their little glass cheeks, and collecting them will provide hours of cheap entertainment making it a fun hobby to boot!
If you find cooking a frustrating thing there is a very good chance that the cookware you have has an awful lot to do with it. Thin stainless pans and hand-me-down cookware make cooking so much harder than it has to be.
Now, I’m no great cook nor did I ever plan to devote enough attention to cooking to reach such a lofty level of skill. Rather I’m a good enough cook so ordinary cookware looked fine to me. I started out cooking with what I could find that wasn’t too expensive and seemed reasonably healthy. For me that meant stainless steel pans bought mostly at grocery store sales. But in the process of changing from a novice to a good enough cook I learned that cast iron both plain and enameled are so much more forgiving of an absent-minded cook like me! They are so much easier to clean and care for and if carefully selected they last essentially forever making them the most frugal choice over the long term.
Want to cover up your ferments with something other than a towel and a clip? I’ve been doing more fermenting this summer and experimenting with my new little Pickl-It jars. With all these jars out in my little kitchen, well things look more cluttered. And I’ve been concerned that my rather thin little towels just weren’t cutting it in the keeping the jars dark department. So I decided to try to reproduce something similar to a jar cover I remember from the Pickl-It site last year.
Okay, this post is going to sound like an ad, I know. That’s how much I love this machine! But it will be short and sweet … I just want everyone to know that there is a way out of mixer burnout hell :-). And maybe a few newbies will avoid the same disappointments I had.
Mixer Burnout Hell
All the pro chefs on TV have KitchenAids. KitchenAid makes a gorgeous, photogenic machine, no doubt about that. By implication we’re to believe that KitchenAid makes the most durable machine since pros use it and presumably they use theirs every day. But is it the most durable really? Let me tell you my personal experience.
I received a KitchenAid Classic mixer as a wedding present almost 20 years ago. It was a beautiful machine and I was in love, with both my husband and the mixer ;-). I made bread fairly often back then, but never used the KitchenAid for this. The one or two times I tried I found the capacity to be too small and the machine seemed strained. It also didn’t mix/knead the dough all that well so I continued to knead dough by hand. As time went on and I found decent bread made locally I gave up on this too. So the KitchenAid was used lightly, just a few times a year really. This went on for about 12 years. The KitchenAid was going strong as far as I was concerned. It was a great machine for light intermittent use.
Then as my interest in real food grew and my use of the KitchenAid went up I immediately started having trouble with it. It started making a strange grinding noise. The casing got very hot. So I did a little investigation and found that there is trail of broken KitchenAids and broken hearts all over the internet. I called KitchenAid with my issue, but they couldn’t hook me up with an affordable repair. The repair suggested was pretty close to the value of the machine. And I felt pretty sure that the use I was giving it would create the need for another repair not to long down the road. Thus ended my love affair with modern KitchenAids. There are many happy KitchenAid owners out there I know, I used to be one. But I can’t help but wonder if the reason for the happiness is that the machine is never really stressed. My machine was great for cakes and small cookie batches but couldn’t be trusted to handle heavy doughs at all. With KitchenAids reputation I had expected a lot from this mixer. I’d expected 20 years of heavy use just like the old Hobart KitchenAids used to give. What I got was about 12 years of extremely light use … I’d say I ran it somewhere around 70-100 times total.
So I sold it to a guy who wanted to tinker with it and bought a vintage version of the Pro KitchenAid made by Hobart. It was manufactured in the early 60’s and was in very good shape. This mixer was produced prior to the use of breakaway plastic gears and was reputed to be very reliable. Same troubles basically with heavy doughs. It just ran too hot. The bowl for this one was a bit larger but still not large enough to do really bit batches. Perhaps the heat problem could have been dealt with, but by this time I was just tired of worrying about my mixer! Then I found Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s gushing love of her Bosch Universal! So I decided to trade again, selling my vintage machine to another collector and ordering the Bosch.
Why did I decide on the Bosch Universal Plus?
What clinched it for me were Kelly’s mention of people using it for very large batches often without problems. With a little searching I found many home cooks using their machines year after year to make large batches of bread, up to 9 loaves at a time! Many had used the prior version, the Bosch Universal for up to 20 years in this way.
Now this machine won’t be winning a beauty contest with KitchenAid, but it’s attractive enough :-). And as an added bonus it could also be my food processor and blender saving room in my little kitchen. I didn’t have either a blender or food processor and decided to add them as accessories to the Bosch. So now for a small footprint on my counter I have all three machines! The Bosch Universal has as many or more accessory attachments as the KitchenAid did. My personal favorite is a new attachment from L’Equip, the sifter. This has been a fantastic aid to having freshly ground, bran-free flour. This can be done without a mechanized sifter, but for the quantities of flour I need it would take a long time.
What about the expense?
It’s been over a year and it’s going strong, no problems at all. It’s been bliss to not have to worry about having such an expensive piece of kitchen equipment go bad! To put the cost in perspective, I bought a new dishwasher a few years ago for the same price as a KitchenAid classic, about $250. My Bosch is more expensive still, coming in at about the price of the range we installed when we remodeled the kitchen, $479. This is a major expense, I know, on par with replacing a large kitchen appliance. If you can work out how to afford it though, it will give many years of service making quick work of time consuming tasks. It will help save money in the long run by making many previously time-consuming, money-saving tasks possible.
In the Pantry Principle series I suggest a way to slowly build up savings for investment purchases like this. Each investment purchase helps reduce your food bill a bit, making the next investment purchase a bit easier, kinda like Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball, only for savings :-). The hardest part is just getting the snowball rolling. But if you can find a small way to reduce your expenses and save that toward your investment purchase you’ll get there eventually. And eventually may be sooner than you think if you’re very creative. It’s so very worth it!
Did you know you want a vintage cast iron skillet? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t but after reading this post I think you will want one! I apologize in advance for tempting you with visions of the perfect new addition to your kitchen ;-). Cast iron is a must have for all southern cooks, but you probably already knew that. What you don’t know is why Grandma’s cast iron skillet is better than the one you have. [Read more…]
Do you live in an apartment? Do you have an old house with a little, old, dingy kitchen? Is all the kitchen equipment you have handed down from you mother-in-law? Is it too crowded? or is it devoid of tools, even a can opener? Do you dream of a beautiful, well-lit, well-equipped kitchen? If the decorating magazines are any indication, most of us do, myself included.
Still, most of the cooking done in the world happens in little, cramped, dimly-lit kitchens with simple tools. Meals get made, things get done anyway.