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Nothing Satisfies Like A Good Spring Clean

Karolina Grabowska

Every year or so at my house, it rains plastic containers. I reach up to the top shelf to stack those last few plastic containers and lids, but there is just no more room, and they come pattering down to the tile floor. That’s always the signal, as reliable as spring crocuses, that it’s time for the annual kitchen cleanse.

I open all my cupboards and drawers and take everything out with eye for culling. I’ve just finished the process this year. It’s amazing what multiplies in my cabinets over the winter – pickle weights, popsicle molds, a rennet kit for making mozzarella cheese – it’s all gone, for now. But it’s a hard process to get through. I generally consider myself something of a minimalist, but I’m also a bit of a sucker for a quirky kitchen gadget or a specialty sauce. This year, here are a few of the things that didn’t make the cut:

A mandoline slicer. This seemed like a good idea … especially for our french onion soup, which we make at least once a month in the winter. But after I bought it, I literally cut off the tip of my ring finger three times with that instrument of terror. I decided I’ll take my chances with a chef’s knife.

A pierogi press. If you don’t know, pierogies are a little like pot stickers – except filled with potatoes and topped with sauerkraut. When I bought this plastic tray meant to help seal the little dough packages together, I had dreams of teaching my teens to make these polish filled dumplings on their dinner night. Then I remembered that cooking with my teens gives me indigestion and high blood pressure, and put a 30 minute limit on their time in the kitchen. Now we do BLTs instead.

Along with some various old spices and weird marinades, I got rid of half of a very expensive bottle of blackberry balsamic vinegar. We picked this up last summer on a road trip to Oregon. You know those little boutiques, usually in beach towns or big cities, with shelves of shiny long-necked glass bottles of condiments. Since I don’t buy wine, it seems so … elegant … to stroll through the aisles, comparing flavors, sniffing corks and the like. And they let you taste everything.

And we did, I think, taste everything. Peach olive oil. Black truffle sea salt. Champagne white vinegar. We kept dipping our tiny slivers of crusty bread into tiny cups of thick liquid until my taste buds were so scrambled that everything began to taste … expensive. But by then we’d spent so much time in that shop that the employee was giving me that look … you know the one that says “you’d better not smile and walk about of here, or I’ll be talking to my coworkers about you with disdain.”

So I bought an overpriced bottle of blackberry balsamic vinegar and babied that thing in the minivan for another 750 miles. It did taste good in the store, and seemed thematic at the time – it being Oregon and all. But it turns out that it’s awfully hard to use an entire bottle of the stuff. Actually the only way we really did use it once we got home was to give people tiny pieces of bread to dip into it.

Next on my cut list was a sausage maker. This is an attachment that hooks on to a mixer for actually grinding meat and spices and making your own sausage! Right at home! After I bought it, I YouTubed the process and realized that you have to smoke sausage for like 16 hours in a smokehouse. So instead we just took a Saturday and drove down to Caputo’s in Salt Lake City. We got our sausage without our neighborhood smelling like a forest fire.

Maybe you have a bigger kitchen with plenty of cupboard space just begging to house an electric ice cream maker and a set of cheese knives for an indefinite period of time. If so, you’re in luck … head on over to the thrift store, and all these things can be yours … for a lot less than I paid for them.