Last weekend my boyfriend and I went up to visit his mother and while we were there, I offered to cook us all a little meal. I went Frenchy and did steamed mussels with celery, garlic, white wine and cream and for the main course, seared salmon slathered with Dijon mustard and breadcrumbs served on a hearty bed of lentils with bacon. This Thursday, I will be cooking yet another meal in an unfamiliar kitchen. Well, it’s not exactly unfamiliar – it’s the kitchen I grew up in, although it has been remodeled since I last lived there. But there is still that constant sense of disorientation.
When I try and cook in kitchens other than my own, I find I’m always opening the wrong drawers, asking where measuring spoons, mixing bowls or certain spices are kept. I love cooking for other people in their kitchens, but often the reality quickly sets in when I realize that their knives aren’t as sharp as mine, their cookware is lighter or their oven controls are different. I have grown very attached to my jar of Kosher salt and whenever I have to season anything at someone else’s home usinging a shaker of table salt I can’t guarantee the results. And I have to say, I really get thrown for a loop if I don’t have a digital timer. One of those tick-tock egg timers make me tense.
It’s gotten to the point where I simply travel with the kitchenware that makes me comfortable. Last year for Christmas I packed a bag with with my favorite knife and steel, my All-Clad frypan, lemon zester, digital timer and an assortment of spices and specialty ingredients that I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to find in the smaller town I was traveling to. This year, as I pack my razor and saline solution for my contacts, I will also be stowing away some Herbes de Provence and a small container of dried lavender for the dessert we’ll be making. Am I the only one who does this? Please tell me I’m not. I’m sure that there are others out there who can’t function without their favorite knife, pepper mill, or heat-resistant spoonula? Is it difficult for you to work in a kitchen that isn’t your own or am I just a control freak?