Lets get all of my essentials out of the way. Chopping board, wooden spatula, big sharp knife, little sharp knife, stir fry pan, lid, knife, fork, spoon. Maybe a lemon juicer. And a few extra bowls. Some kind of casserole dish and/or baking tray. Colander.
With that lot I could probably cook just about anything that I ever cook. It would get complicated without more pans, but I could survive with just my big stir fry pan.
But can any part of that be more important than the others? Looking at my general style of cooking, I probably need at least a sharp knife, a stir fry pan and a wooden poking device. I need to cut, cook and poke. Without that, there’s no point in even starting. I could probably do most things with that, but the lid is really useful for adjusting temperatures subtly and retaining water, which has a huge impact on what you cook. I adore my mortar and pestle, but I could probably use something ramshackle for the same purpose where necessary. The juicer could obviously go, but it does make things easier.
And if I had a stir fry pan with a removable handle, could I maybe use it for baking and stuff too?
And I guess I could forgo the knife and just pull vegetables apart with my bare hands? Is that possible? Everything would suddelny have the wrong size and texture, but I could still cook it, still manipulate the flavours some. I guess I could poke with my fingers. I’d eventually callus and not feel it, right? Toughen up?
So I guess that makes my stir fry pan my most important, and that kind of sits with my instinct (I pick it out of the rack before I start doing anything else, I rarely even decide what I’m cooking until I’ve got something sizzling away in the base).
But a better knife is the thing I want the most. A really strong, sharp, heavy knife. The frustration I’ve had at our current mix of bendy, wobbly, blunt and ridiculous blades is hellish. I’d most like to invest in a good knife.
But my spatula, my favourite spatula. With the little kink at the edge, one side flattened, one bent, it’s tilt makes me satisfied. I’ll cook with other poking devices, but I know where my heart lies. It adds to my feeling of contentment.
The fact is, all the utensils are the most important, because you need the right tool for each job. You can’t cut an onion with a stir fry pan. Or bake stuffed peppers on a knife.
And when it comes down to it, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s you that’s the most important. Its the games you play and the experiments that you take and the way you approach it.
Cooking is about play and learning. That’s why I love it. The most important utensil is your brain. Memory and imagination. Guesswork and instinct.
Illustration by Jaime