My Kitchen Family

August 28, 2012

The new and improved kitchen

The other day I was online chatting with my chef friend Chris about my kitchen family when it occurred to me that I have a favourite kitchen child.  I like to think about each appliance and new addition to my kitchen as part of a growing progeny of careful research and experimentation with different methods of eating and preparing food that serve me and my health needs best.  Perhaps it’s because my juicer was the first born that it holds a very special place in my heart.  Perhaps it’s because investing in a juicer (the good ones are not cheap) came at a pivotal time in my life, when I realized even more profoundly that I could take my health into my own hands.  Whatever it is, I love my juicer and no matter what trouble it may or may not give me in the future, it’s my baby.

It was roughly two Springs ago when I decided I wanted to try a juice cleanse.  A what?  A juice fast.  So you don’t drink juice?  No – you only drink juice.  Forever?  No, for a fixed period of time in order to detox.  Oh God that sounds awful – like apple juice from Sainsbury’s?  No, you make your own juice at home with lots of different vegetables and fruits and they’re really yummy, not from concentrate.  But what are you trying to detox, you’re the healthiest person I know?  And so the conversation tends to go every time I bring up this topic.  I had done some reading into the benefits of giving your digestive system a time-out by eliminating solid foods for 1-7 days and wanted to try at least 3 days of juicing to see if it would bring all those things people continuously report: improved digestion, better eyesight, reduced inflammation (bloating and puffiness), more energy, clearer mind, fresher appetite, etc.  My body was calling for it and a 3-day weekend around the Spring Equinox presented the perfect opportunity.  But how was I going to make juice without a proper juicer?

First let’s briefly look at WHY you would want to make your own juice versus drinking store-bought juice.  Firstly, you control the ingredients.  And as someone who strives to consume 90% organic produce sourced from local markets and prefers vegetables to fruit, this is a hugely attractive benefit.  Secondly, to truly reap the benefits of juicing, the juice needs to be freshly made and consumed immediately after juicing.  The juice you make at home is unpasteurized so bacteria will grow faster and the longer you leave it, the more its nutritional value will decrease (store-bought juice can contain loads of preservatives or sugar and most juices you find in the shops or on juice bar menus, consist predominantly of sweet fruits – in other words – a natural, but potentially detrimental sugar rush).  Thirdly, you’ll save money in the long run and in a city where pubs rather than juice bars grace every corner, you won’t have to venture far for a nutritional boost.

So without digressing too much onto the topic of juicing and detoxing (this will appear in a future post), let’s get back to how I chose my juicer.  In this instance, I consulted my yoga teacher and friend Linda who has accumulated a wealth of information over the years on health and well-being and who I knew had the same juicer for more than a decade.  I also consulted raw food Goddess Kate Magic  and the website of Jason Vale (a.k.a The Juice Master) and settled on a ‘masticating’ rather than ‘centrifugal’ juicer.  I was determined that my juices would be mostly green in variety and would serve first and foremost to promote a cleanse and then subsequently to create daily ‘medicines’ full of powerful, immune-boosting enzymes.  So a masticating version (literally chews up the vegetables to extract more than any zippy, centrifugal juicer can) was the way to go.  It was love at first sight when my ivory, Matstone 6-in-1 juicer arrived in my flat.  One flat move later, it still holds a special place on my counter (bench) as my very handy medicine maker whenever I need it.  Even though she often hibernates in the winter months when my body calls for warming, cooked foods, she’s unveiled again in the Spring for a very active few months.

My Matstone 6-in-1 making her first green juice!

About one Spring ago, I moved into a new flat in London.  I was heartbroken to leave my humble abode on the 3rd floor of a cozy block of flats in Battersea – a flat that not only witnessed my first juices, but also the first Thanksgiving I ever hosted (lovingly and comically re-branded Kates-giving by guests).  To soften the blow, I decided it was time to cough up a bit more on rent and moved into a 2-story cottage within the vicinity that had a kitchen about 5 times the size of my previous one and a garden about 10 times the size of my previous balcony where I grew a few humble herbs.  Now I could really go to town.

A new, bright, big kitchen meant I would inevitably use the space to host cooking workshops with guest chefs like Chris and eventually on my own – there were no excuses now.  It also meant I could really guilt my flatmate into learning how to cook.  I slowly built up a collection of standard kitchen necessities such as stainless steel pots and pans, various sizes of strainers and colanders, pyrex storage containers, proper cutting boards and knives, casserole dishes, glass jugs, mortar and pestle, scale, etc.  Finally a kitchen that didn’t come with a microwave – hallelujah!  But there was something missing.  While I had a reputable blender that was working perfectly fine, I had not yet invested in a food processor and I knew there was a machine out there that could fulfill both duties faster and better than anything else on the market…the Vitamix.  What’s that – does it make vitamins?  Well, kind of, but no, it’s like the Mercedes of blenders – I think it can blend gold if you want it to.  Wow – what do you use it for?  All sorts of things: salad dressings, juices, smoothies, soups, nut milks…It’s an all-in-one.  Nut milk?  Yeah – you can make milk out of soaked nuts.  Weird.  Was it expensive?  Yes. And so the conversation usually goes.  I knew Chris relied on a Vitamix to whip up his truly tasty dressings, nut milk-based smoothies and creamy soups and so we agreed I would purchase one upon his arrival in London.  As luck would have it, Whole Foods was having a sale.  I present you with a photo of its christening (we made chilled organic coffee smoothies with nut milk).  It’s now my second favourite kitchen baby.

‘CHRIStening’ the Vitamix

What I like about both of these kitchen appliances is that they were born organically from a need or growing interest at just the moment when I was ready to welcome them into my life.  Oftentimes we buy things because they sound good or promise results that we are drawn to, without actually thinking about how much time we have to devote to using them, practicing different recipes and establishing the role they will play in our overall kitchen family.  Remember that treadmill that sat in your basement for years that you used maybe 5 times?  It’s like that.  I feel lucky with these two.  They complement one another and each fulfill a unique, primary role – the juicer makes the medicine shots and the Vitamix is the overall time and money saver on items I consume in bulk (home-made nut milks cost a fraction of what they would in the shops and smoothies and soups are whipped up in no time before heading off to work in the morning).  They haven’t replaced my stockpot, slow-cooker, or steamers; nor have they replaced conventional and less effective forms of juicing and mixing – I still enjoy my hand-held lemon juicer and pouring blended milks and juices through a cloth bag to eliminate pulp.  There’s always a more primitive and meditative route if you have the time.  I reckon the next item down the line is a dehydrator, but I’m not ready yet.  I want to give each kid the attention it deserves before I divide my time further and I still haven’t made my own nut butters yet with the juicer – yup, it does that too.

Iced nut-milk coffee frappes

In later posts, I’ll blog about my favourite uses for each item and other healthy kitchen essentials in further detail, but for now I encourage you to think about how your kitchen and your kitchen family serves you and your health.  Do you have clear counter space as your canvas?  Do you have a wonderfully working oven that gets neglected?  A stove-top giving you sad eyes from neglect?  What about a coffee grinder that wants to have a go at some seeds but you’ve forgotten about it?  Is the lack of a blender preventing you from making healthy smoothies or making you spend too much on smoothies from Joe and the Juice?  Is a microwave promoting the continual, lazy purchase of salt-laden ready-meals and making your cookbooks collect dust (let’s not mention the fact it kills food)?

Don’t forget – a kitchen can be a playground.  It can also be a laboratory for your health.  And your kitchen tools and appliances can be like family if they work for you.  They’ll be burdens if they don’t.  As times goes by, my medicine cabinet becomes more and more bare while my kitchen gets fuller and fuller.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Invest in your kitchen family and you invest in your health and happiness.  If you’re unsure what you need next, think about attending a cooking workshop or find a style of cooking that resonates with you and see if they have a list of suggestions for appliances.  What does your kitchen family look like? How might it grow?

  • […]  Instead of having to prepare my own juices (which you can read more about in my blog post on My Kitchen Family) and think about appropriate timing, they were made for me.  I never experienced hunger or fatigue […]

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