Chopsticks

Chopsticks are an interesting and versatile utensil that have always been a part of my life. I actually find it easier to eat spaghetti out of a bowl with chopsticks, than on a plate with a fork and spoon.

And they aren’t just for eating either; there’s many a time when I’ve used them for cooking. Long chopsticks make a great stirring utensil for tall stockpots or stir frying. I’ve used chopsticks to pop items out of tiny jars, in replace of tongs, and even for draining pasta directly from a pot.

There are many kinds of chopsticks – Japanese have pointy ones, Chinese have ones with blunt ends, Korean-style chopsticks are metal and flat. I hate the sound of any kind of metal rubbing together, so eating at Korean restaurants are usually a careful experience for me.

I’ve been asked before how you eat rice with chopsticks. Well, in some cultures, the rice is stickier so that you can easily pick it up in clumps with your chopsticks. In the Chinese culture, you pick up your bowl, bring it close to your mouth, and use your chopsticks to shovel the rice. This is perfectly reasonable in Chinese settings, but in other cultures it is considered rude. There are actually quite a few universal etiquette rules as well, along with the culture-specific ones.

Children are taught how to use chopsticks at a young age. Nowadays you can buy fancy schmancy kid-sized chopsticks that are connected at the top like these easy training chopsticks or these Hello Kitty chopsticks that come with finger loops (fyi – those two are affiliate links, just trying something out and if I don’t like it I will remove).

But when I was growing up, we did it the old fashioned way, using only a pair of short chopsticks (take-out chopsticks are usually the right length), a rubber band, and a piece of paper.

To be honest, I never could hold the chopsticks in the absolute correct position and at some point my parents gave up and just let me use this modified grip I adopted. I can actually use the correct form now but it takes me forever to eat that way, so I usually don’t bother.

As to how to wash them, my mom taught me this little trick as I got a little older and started helping out with the housework. Soap ’em up with your sponge – individually if they have food caked on them but you could also do a few at a time if there’s no debris. Then, under running water, gather a bunch of them in your hand (I would say no more than 6-8 chopsticks as it gets more difficult to handle when you add more than that). Holding the bundle in one hand, bring your palms together under the water with the chopsticks pointed in a vertical direction, and rub your palms together while being careful not to drop any of the chopsticks. The chopsticks will rub together and make a clattering sound while the soap is rinsed off. Easy peasy.

On buying a pepper mill

Last year started building up my kitchen gadget collection. No longer satisfied with using cheap knives and minimal appliances, I wanted to pick and choose some of the better quality items that would help me to make all those recipes that I had been reading about.

My first gadget was a pepper mill. I love the taste of freshly ground black pepper. It’s just so much more flavourful than the pre-ground stuff. I had been getting by with what was basically a table top-sized pepper grinder, meant for use at the dining table. It had been a part of a set that came with my cheapie set of pots and pans. But when I used the pepper grinder for cooking, it took me forever to grind out the correct amount of pepper. I needed something better, faster, and easier to use.

My first try was one of those electronic pepper mills that disperses ground pepper with the touch of a button. It worked well in the store, and I thought it would save my wrist from becoming sore. Too bad it jammed and stopped working within days. I took it apart and still couldn’t manage to get it fixed properly. I finally returned it in frustration, and hopped on the web to see what people said were some of the better pepper mills.

Peugeot Pepper MillI ended up spending way too much money. More money than I ever thought I would ever spend on pepper. But I’ve had the mill for about a year now, and it still works wonderfully. I love that thing! And from what my research said, this grinder will go on and on for years. That’s worth the cost, in my opinion.

And the one I ended up getting? It’s the one pictured here, from Peugeot, the car maker. They apparently started out making things like pepper mills, and haven’t stopped. I’ll probably never own a Peugeot car, but I have a feeling I’ll be loyal to this pepper mill for a long time.

Smoothies

For Christmas I requested one appliance on my Christmas list – an immersion blender. Since I opened the box on Christmas, I have kept it working making various things like sauces and smoothies. Mostly smoothies.

My main go-to smoothie has been this one which uses frozen bananas, vanilla and almond extracts, and milk. I substitute low-fat soy milk and add a bit of liquid honey for some added sweetness. Yummy.

For variations, I’ve added cocoa powder (not bad but not enough chocolate taste), as well as frozen and/or fresh fruit (berries work great). I found that you don’t need ice cream as long as you froth the smoothie enough. Healthier than a milkshake, and cheaper than going to Dairy Queen.