In Mark Bittman’s cookbook How to Cook Everything, he says the best way to stir fry is to use a flat-bottomed cast iron skillet. “Though woks are marketed as the ideal pans for stir-frying, this is only the case if you have a special stove-top burner for accommodating a wok, which almost no one does.”
When I read that, I remembered how I gave away my wok months earlier. It had never worked well on my electric stove because it could never get hot enough, and I knew to me it wasn’t worth the disproportional amount of space it took up in my small kitchen. The next time we had stir-fry (made in the skillet) the results were so superior I had no regrets.
When I was growing up my family had a dustbuster. There was something so satisfying about sucking up spilled cereal and watching it disappear into the canister. We also had a broom and dustpan, but those weren’t nearly so exciting. We gradually used the dustbuster less and less because the battery wasn’t strong enough and it couldn’t hold a charge.
In college I had a sleek toaster, the pop-up kind for toasting bread slices, and then one day it occurred to me that I hadn’t used it in years because I also had a toaster oven that was so much more versatile.
I remembered an electric can opener that would have never worked in a power outage. It was mounted in a prominent place under the cabinets, when a lowly handheld can opener would have stayed in the drawer.
Or how about the paper towel holder? I used to think that was essential in a kitchen. Now we just use a rag to wipe up spills and a dish towel to dry our hands.
Do you ever wonder how we accumulate so much stuff? Or maybe some of it is given to us?
There is always a new and improved version of something. There is always an upgrade, and it’s supposed to make our lives better and easier, or so we’re told. Now when I’m presented with something new, I’ve started to ask, “What problem will this solve for me, and is it really that much of a problem?”
As my life becomes full with more responsibilities, I cope by having fewer things to keep up with.
I want more of my things to resemble a cast iron skillet, modest and hardworking. Fewer gadgets. I’m learning to choose the classics.