I do love all things food – buying it, preparing it, cooking it, eating it. Even the stores where I buy it, the gadgets and equipment used to prepare it, my pots and pans I cook it in, and the utensils and plates I eat it from. I have even fallen in love with a restaurant bathroom (go figure).
Being tactile and pragmatic, a well-designed, well-crafted piece of kitchen equipment does send my heart aflutter. My commercial KitchenAid has been my faithful steed for over 20 years with nary a complaint from its 450 watt motor. (Did you know the silhouette of this mixer is a registered trademark?) My vintage 1972 Cuisinart food processor has still got it goin’ on but my barely one-month old Cuisinart immersion blender (just days out of its Amazon warranty period), however, prematurely burned out. I dug out my mom’s 30 year-old, still-in-box, but definitely out of its warranty, Hamilton Beach Mixette that, when plugged in, still whirred like hummingbird wings. I’d like to add the immersion blender was made in China. The Mixette was made in Racine, Wisconsin. I’m just sayin’…
My latest, new-found love came out of nowhere (as love can sometimes do). I wasn’t looking for it, it just happened.
Winding down from the major gorge fest called Thanksgiving, I chatted with my cousin Michael about the various Japanese dishes he made for this annual family reunion – nimono (stewed vegetables with seasoned shoyu), gomokuzushi (traditionally, five main ingredients over rice), and nukazuke (an involved fermenting/pickling method using toasted rice bran). And that’s when he brought it out – his fresh-off-the-boat hinoki tsukemono ki, a gift from the Kajiwaras who are long-time family friends and own a kitchen supply company in Tokyo. Having known of Michael’s penchant for traditional Japanese cooking, they brought him this traditional Japanese pickling pot. (Old school tsukemono ki are wood, but nowadays most are plastic.) This beauty was about 14″ across, and made from hinoki – a species of cypress with a blonde timber that is grown only in Japan. As I held the bowl in my hands, rubbing its grain across my cheek, I could smell the citrusy fragrance of the wood, so sweet I wanted to lick it. To the touch, it was as smooth and uncut as a single piece of wood – virtually seamless. To the eyes, it was warm and inviting – begging to be touched. It was an elegant vessel of a more civilized age. I was in love.
When I was a little girl, whenever I’d come across a big post – be it a granite street lamp, a wood telephone pole, a cement pylon – I would joyfully run up to it, enthusiastically wrap my arms around it, let out a content sigh and proclaim to all within earshot, “This is my lover boy!” So it’s no wonder that as I hugged the hinoki tsukemono ki to my breast, and a certain excitement, pleasure and peacefulness arose, I was four years old all over again – this was my lover boy!