Cooking Advice from Pears On A Willow Tree

In the book Pears On A Willow Tree by Leslie Pietrzyk, which chronicles four generations of Polish-American women passing down culinary traditions to one another, the matriarch of the family tells her great-granddaughter,

"All you need to be a good cook is a very sharp knife."

We tend to agree. One does not need a huge kitchen with hundreds of gadgets to be a good cook. All it takes is a few essential tools, fresh ingredients, a recipe, and knowledge of technique. I've personally lived on a 32-foot sailboat with a tiny galley kitchen that had a wet bar-sized refrigerator and a two-burner stove. Since there was no place to store my pots and pans, I had to put them in storage and buy camping-style pots and pans that fit into each other, to save space. I've also lived in a 13th-century apartment in Italy that had a closet-sized kitchen built in a stairwell. And I managed to produce amazing meals from these places using very little equipment. A good, sharp knife was always with me.

When buying kitchen equipment, one thing we do not skimp on is the knives. Invest into good, sturdy, sharp knives, and you will be rewarded with an invaluable tool that will stay with you for many years and essentially become your kitchen "workhorse." Invest in top brands like W├╝sthof, and Henckels.

Always hand wash your knives immediately after use - never, never soak them in a sink full of dirty dishes overnight and never put them in the dishwasher. Don't place them in the dish rack to dry with pots and pans on top of them. Hang them on a knife magnet or towel-dry them and put them in a knife block. Don't keep them in a drawer where they'll rattle around and get scratched.

Last piece of advice: buy a knife sharpener and keep your knives sharp. Most knife-related accidents ar a result of dull knives that slip while chopping.

(Image: Harper Collins)

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