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Am I alone? Very Traditional Cookware.

Passadumkeg Dec 26, 2008 03:15 PM

I read threads about crock pots, nuclear clad cookware, Viking Platinum Made stoves and a gazillion gadgets. I cook a lot from a wide variety of world cuisines.(We save dining out for travel.) I feel I am in the minority in the tools by which I cook. I have never had or used a crock pot, cook on or in cast iron or old copper/stainless pots and pans and wok. I cook on a simple 50 year old gas range or a wood stove. Have a Webber grill and a Brinker smoker, both charcoal powered. I rarely use our gift given food processor; I like to chop and dice (very therapeutic). We have a root cellar with our garden crops and since or fridge is small, use the cellar and garage as refrigerators. Are there other simple chefs (in cookware not methodology) out there?

  1. c
    chuckl Jan 15, 2009 05:24 PM

    no amount of expensive, modern cookware will make a great cook out of someone who doesnt love to cook. As a corrollary, a good cook can make do with the most basic tools. Still, I must admit that I love good cookware.

    1. t
      taos Jan 15, 2009 05:24 PM

      It sounds like you have traditional but good quality cookware. With few exceptions, I also have relatively simple wares. No food processor, no crock pot, no immersion blender, no rice cooker, no bread maker, no juicer, my range resemble an Easy Bake Oven.

      I've made some investments. For example I traded in most of my hand-me-down and thrift store RevereWare and Farberware pans in the last few years for some good pieces of All-Clad and a cast iron skillet and it was worth the money and, in my case, does make food taste better. I have a good knife and cutting board. If space and wiring allowed, I'd have an electric oven and a fridge that doesn't sound like a freight train and gobble up most of my electric bill. For the most part, however, simple works.

      1. s
        Smorgasbord Jan 15, 2009 04:40 PM

        I'm with you... I grew up without any fancy cookware or gadgets, and other than the Magic Bullet I got as a gift [gag gift?] one year, our kitchen is old-school and pretty spartan. We cook every day using our 2 pots, 1 cast iron, and set of knives. I always think about my cousin, who when she married registered for every expensive gadget and whosit at Willims-Sonoma [a $200 paring knife? lobster forks for someone who's never eaten it?!] and doesn't actually cook...

        BTW, Passadumkeg, I have to hijack this to tell you a story [since you started this thread]... I was on a road trip to New England this summer and when in Maine I insisted to my SO that we had to go to Passadumkeag- I wasn't sure why, but I had heard of it somewhere so there must be wicked cool things to see there. Only once we got there [small, small there] did I realize that the name was imprinted in my brain from seeing many of your posts on chowhound!

        1. j
          jlafler Dec 29, 2008 07:51 PM

          In California, a root cellar is an affectation. I'm not sure about exact statistics, but the vast majority of houses built since WWII are on slab foundations. (Note that between 1940 and the present, the state's population has approximately quintupled, so that's a huge proportion of current housing stock.) Of course, we can grow vegetables year round, so who needs a root cellar? But my point is that one region's old fashioned, down-to-earth necessity is another's extravagance.

          I almost never use my food processor for chopping vegetables. In fact, I find it odd that people think of it as a chopping device -- if you have even passable knife skills, using it to chop an ordinary amount of vegetable matter is way more trouble than it's worth. My food processor is for pesto, hummus, and big chopping/grating jobs like making latkes for 12.

          I suspect that most serious cooks, on a daily basis, use the most basic of tools -- pots, pans, knives, cutting boards, spoons, spatulas, colanders. The only major appliance that lives on my counter-top is the stand mixer, and that's not because I use it often, but because it won't fit in any of the cabinets. When we remodeled the kitchen in our old house several years ago, I had to put my foot down about including a built-in microwave oven. I don't like 'em, and I'd rather have either the cupboard or cabinet space instead.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jlafler
            paulj Dec 29, 2008 08:10 PM

            Because of space considerations, I have used a Braun Multimix for years. The beaters are used mostly for whipping egg whites, or whole eggs when making a cake like a genoise. The minichopper is enough for small batches of pesto, and sauces iike a romesco. The immersion blender part is great for soups, including cold ones. At one time or other I've used a full size food processor and a blender, but gave them up years ago. The slicing disk on the processor never made much sense.

            My parents had a stand mixer with lots of attachments. Because we lived for a while in a rural setting, they used grater attachment to grate things like whole coconut, the slicer attachment for potato chips, and the meat grinder attachment. And the mixer part for cakes. My mom's recipe for swedish pancakes called for beating the eggs for 5 minutes (though I think my Braun would do the job much faster). Come to think of it, their meat grinder was a separate, hand crank unit.

            Rural, traditional living, does not necessarily involve less gear than modern urban cooking. Depending on what you want to make, and start with, it may require more. More of the appliances might be hand powered, but they still are appliances. That could include grain grinders, dough kneaders, washing machines, wringers, coffee grinders.

            An urban apartment dweller might have a simpler kitchen. A couple of 'food media' threads have discussed an article by Mark Bittman about a minimalist's kitchen.

            1. re: paulj
              Passadumkeg Dec 30, 2008 03:40 AM

              I think my traditional cookware has more to do w/ the fact that I have moved around A LOT! And 17 years overseas w/ 220 volts makes one a minimalist . Compound all the moving w/ having 5 kids and being educators, money for any gadgets (except chain saws) has never been in great supply. Our 23 year old unemployed recently laughed at our 70's blender. It has a stronger motor and a longer cord than a new one. Bucking out wood today w/ my nifty new Husqvarna 346 c chainsaw today and splitting it w/ my powerful but small mini-splitter! My kind of gadgets!

            2. re: jlafler
              Passadumkeg Dec 30, 2008 04:12 AM

              I lived in New Mex. for a long time and am familiar w/ slab construction and towns 2 blocks wide and ten miles long along Rt 66. I lived in an old adobe trading post in a ghost town w/ Rt 66 running through my front yard. Very cool in the summer. We also had a cabin at 8000 ft w/ wood heat and cook stove. It got colder there than on the coast of Maine. At -35, I bring in the car & truck batteries in at night so it wouldn't freeze! I belonged to a Mormon food coop. I still grate my potatoes for latkes, but my new inherited Cuisinart sounds like a good idea. Maine is at the end of the eastern transportation system. It is an expensive place to live every which way.

            3. l
              lcool Dec 29, 2008 07:00 AM

              I lean very hard on cast iron,copper and enamel coated pots and pans.All old and heavy.I
              love modern refrigeration.Yet the goose is on the outside dining deck to dry before it is roasted later today (38*-40*f) for some reason I still think it's better than the frigo weather permitting.The exception to knives for most prep work is either volume or boring.Bread crumbs and slaw come to mind.Still insist on my own butchering and meat prep,very satisfying.

              1. PegS Dec 28, 2008 09:51 AM

                My wok is my primary workhorse and there's nothing new-fangled about it.

                1. k
                  Kinnexa Dec 28, 2008 07:33 AM

                  Well, my kitchen is equipped with 2 hot plates ($9 at Sears, years ago), an ancient toaster oven (free from the town dump), and a couple of gadgets to pull it all together: a George Foreman grill (secondhand from my mom-in-law), microwave, electric kettle, and breadmaker. I have a couple of saucepans, one terrific skillet - nonstick, I'm afraid - and a $30 electric griddle, plus a couple of knives I picked up at Goodwill and keep sharpened to a razor edge. If I had a stove I'd probably be more traditional (although I confess I'd rather have a totally cutting-edge, high-end induction cooktop). I have tried cooking soups, stews, etc. on the woodstove, with pretty good results. And when the grid goes down I can manage Boy Scout-style as long as the firewood holds out.

                  I have to laugh when I'm at Goodwill for supplies and see all those single-use miracle gadgets from the '60s: electric hamburger press, butter melter, "salad shooter", iced tea maker (?), and of course the ubiquitous fondue pot in shades of harvest gold, avocado, or Pepto pink. And I agree, attacking food by hand is much more satisfying than pressing a button...and avoids the necessity of scraping the cats off the ceiling when they hear that newfangled motor roar!

                  1. m
                    mlgb Dec 27, 2008 07:36 PM

                    Well, I've got an old Sunbeam Mixmaster (Model 10), but even then I'd just as soon use a wooden spoon and spatula.

                    1. Sam Fujisaka Dec 27, 2008 06:37 AM

                      Nothing beats my 100 year old rice pot (made of unidentifiable pot metal, what else?) from Japan.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        Passadumkeg Dec 27, 2008 06:50 AM

                        For spiritual meals w/ good tea and good rest afterward, I have my 100+ years icons, feather bed (pirina in Ruskie) and samovar! The Russo-Japanese war is why I'm here. So thanks tor yours, my for-fathers had the good sense to go AWOL!

                      2. Gio Dec 27, 2008 05:38 AM

                        Passa.... A 50 Year Old Gas Range???? I'm impressed!

                        Re your questions.... I use both new-fangled and old-fangled. Whatever works well and makes prepping & cooking easy and satisfying.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Gio
                          Passadumkeg Dec 30, 2008 04:02 AM

                          Hey and a troika of twenty year old red SAAB 900's my wife's a '90 SPG, me a '88 900 convertible( they borrowed it for the film Sideways[joke].) and we just inherited my mom's '88 4 door. My taco truck odyssey will be in a '67 VW splitty camper. Complete w/ wok & cast iron cookery. "Are you on the bus or off the bus?" Ken Keasey On the road again!

                        2. rednyellow Dec 26, 2008 10:57 PM

                          I cook because I love to eat good food, not because I love gadgets. A couple good knives, mortar and pestal, a few good pans covers 90+%.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: rednyellow
                            thew Dec 27, 2008 04:35 AM

                            i use both. i like high quality stuff as it usually performs better. i use a cast iron pan for most meats. i use mortar and pestles for most spice grinding (have one dedicated for pepper grinding) but the only ones i've ever liked are thai granite ones, the otehrs are too much work. never had a crock pot. love my pressure cooker. I use le creuset as dutch oven and stew pot. only use non stick for eggs and sometimes fish. I have high end knives. I use a food processor sometimes. I use my microwave for more than just defrosting and popcorn. I have a superautomatic coffee maker. I could go on. the point is there is no moral superiority in either. i use what works best for me

                            1. re: thew
                              Passadumkeg Dec 27, 2008 04:45 AM

                              Ms Thew, no moral superiority intended. I'm just a poor rural teacher w/ 5 kids to put through college. I too have high end knives ( a gift). I miss the 90's when one could pick up le creuset for a song at yard sales. Our coffee pots are Gevalia freebees. I live a pretty isolated existence and am just wondering how far down the curve I am.
                              ps We save our dining out money for the # 7 line in Queens!

                              1. re: Passadumkeg
                                thew Dec 27, 2008 05:14 AM

                                mr actually.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg
                                  paulj Dec 27, 2008 07:24 AM

                                  I got a Gevalia freebee coffee machine back in the 90s as well. Eventually the glass pot broke and I never found a replacement. Now my morning mug is made with an enamelware sauce pan to boil the water, and Melita papercone to steep and strain it. If I'm using a coarser hand ground coffee I steep in sauce pan, and strain through a fine mesh strainer. That's for one person, so there isn't much point in using anything fancier.

                                  I have experimented with alternatives such as the Italian Moka pot, and the Vietnamese steel 'filter'. I even an ibrik ('turkish' coffee brewer) buried in the back of some shelf. I suppose the next arrangment that I need to try is Ethiopian :)

                                  1. re: paulj
                                    Passadumkeg Dec 27, 2008 08:01 AM

                                    We use the Melita filter at our cabin and have a yard sale Moka for a rainy day buzz. In Norway, a type of coffee called Kokke malt (boiling grin) is sold. Boil up a liter of water, dump 500g of kokke malt, let sit for 5 min and pour. Ground sink to bottom, not filter necessary.

                            2. ipsedixit Dec 26, 2008 09:52 PM

                              I use cast iron (and rarely ever use a non stick pan)

                              I use a mortar and pestle (and don't even own grater)

                              I dice and chop by hand and with a cleaver (and wouldn't even know how to use a food processor)

                              I knead and work my dough by hand (and would probably be disowned by my family if I were ever to resort to a dough mixer)

                              I use a wok (and couldn't imagine life without it)

                              1. Vetter Dec 26, 2008 08:33 PM

                                I'm with you. I have a tiny, boring old kitchen, use my cast iron 99% of the time, store my main dry goods in my grandma's old tin containers, and my two jelly roll pans get more use than any other baking container that I own. A set of fancy pans would be wasted on me. My most used kitchen appliance is my (old, boring) slow cooker, which to me feels pretty old school. I'm all about ingredients and technique. It's easy to be all about technique when money is tight! :o)

                                I'd love a root cellar. We do a winter farm share (CSA) each year and I end up with potatoes and such coming out my ears. I try to improvise; if I had a garage, I'd be using it! I grew up with a freezer for a side of beef out in the garage next to the steel shelves full of canned goods and condiments and baskets of fruits and veggies. I miss that luxury!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Vetter
                                  Passadumkeg Dec 27, 2008 01:32 AM

                                  Our freezer I bought for deer meat, but due to a very harsh winter last year, the "harvest" was down 50% this year and no deer for me. Oh dear!

                                2. v
                                  virtualguthrie Dec 26, 2008 07:45 PM

                                  Cast iron is very traditional and I suggest you try it, cheap, versatile, unbreakable and there are simply things you can do with cast iron that you cannot do as well with other pans, like searing for example. I agree that simplicity is wonderful.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: virtualguthrie
                                    Passadumkeg Dec 27, 2008 01:28 AM

                                    My writing was unclear, I have 4 cast iron frying pans, 2 Dutch ovens, 1 pot and on sauce pot.

                                    1. re: Passadumkeg
                                      jlafler Dec 27, 2008 05:22 PM

                                      Okay then. I was about to be indignant.

                                    2. re: virtualguthrie
                                      Candy Dec 27, 2008 06:32 PM

                                      Cast Iron is not unbreakable. Drop it or hit at the right spot and bye-bye cast iron. The process ny which it is wrought does make for weak spots. Breakage is definitely possible,

                                      1. re: Candy
                                        Passadumkeg Dec 30, 2008 03:28 AM

                                        Yeah, I know! My wife has broken several cast iron skillets over my head late at night!

                                        1. re: Candy
                                          MakingSense Jan 15, 2009 07:13 PM

                                          Once when we moved, I packed a set of glass mixing bowls inside a cast iron skillet.
                                          Have NO idea what happened but the skillet cracked in half and the mixing bowls were fine.
                                          Go figure. Must have hit something at just the right - or wrong - angle.

                                        2. re: virtualguthrie
                                          RGC1982 Jan 15, 2009 05:29 PM

                                          Cold water on hot cast iron will crack it. NEARLY unbreakable, however.

                                        3. cayjohan Dec 26, 2008 06:11 PM

                                          Passadumkeg, we are out here! Cay

                                          1. paulj Dec 26, 2008 05:42 PM

                                            Funny how one person's 'traditional' is another's exotic or newfangled. What's more traditional than wood stoves and cast iron? A wok over a charcoal fire? A ceramic pot for slow cooking?

                                            Your subject line made me think of the Spanish terracotta 'cazuella' that I bought a few months ago, or the Chinese sand pots. OK, I do use them on a new-fangled butane hot plate, but that's in part because my stove is an electric coil one. Is a 30 yr old Presto pressure cooker traditional? Cast iron chicken fryer with glass lid? What's more old fashioned than blue-speckled enamel ware? French carbon steel crepe pan? Mexican steel comal (tortilla griddle)?

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: paulj
                                              Passadumkeg Dec 27, 2008 01:24 AM

                                              Yes, I forgot my pressure cookers! Pinto bean Mexican heaven! One is full of garbonzos as I type to make a big batch of hummus for a healthy snack for the 2 college kids home for the holidays.

                                              1. re: paulj
                                                cimui Dec 28, 2008 02:55 AM

                                                >>Funny how one person's 'traditional' is another's exotic or newfangled.

                                                amen to that. i grew up watching my mother cook with a wok and using a rice cooker almost every night, and watching my friends' parents make cornbread in a cast iron skillet. for me, you can't get much more traditional than these. on the other hand, my mother didn't own a crock pot and i never used one until graduate school, when i scored one for free and discovered the joys of lazy braising and oxtail stew. so 'traditional' is definitely in the eye of the beholder!

                                                i can't wait to try this new fangled pressure cooker doohicky for the first time, passadumkeg. ;)

                                                1. re: cimui
                                                  Passadumkeg Dec 28, 2008 05:05 AM

                                                  A pressure cooker is bean (and chuck roast) heaven! My pressure and camping grill got me through grad school w/ 130 lbs. of pinto beans and 4 bushels of chiles (2red and dried and 2 roasted, pealed and frozen) Our youngest (19) and I did 4 cups of dried garbozos yesterday and made and froze ( to take back to college) bunches of different types of hummus. I must confess, that when mom died in Oct. I inherited a Cuisinart food processor. We used it for the first time yesterday. After overloading the first batch and making an olive oil and fresh squeezed oj mess, it worked slicker than sh*t through a tin whistle. Easier than our 70's blender.
                                                  Our unemployed sociology major was dropping heavy hints that he wanted a $130 rice cooker from Santa. But good ol' Dumkeg Santa, true to form, got him snow shoes ( DW and I still have trouble w. these new fangled, hihg tech, non-wood,non-gut and non-leather contraptions.) and tool kit and handle bar bag for his bicycle.
                                                  I going on the radio this afternoon at 2 to sub on Woodstock Radio (For over-the-hill hippies and hippie wannabes) on WERU (Commie Radio) www.weru.org, give it a listen.

                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                    Gio Dec 28, 2008 05:39 AM

                                                    Here's the corrected link, Passa:

                                                    Looks good. Break a leg!

                                                    1. re: Gio
                                                      Passadumkeg Dec 28, 2008 06:28 AM


                                              2. m
                                                mpalmer6c Dec 26, 2008 04:03 PM

                                                Sure. The overpriced cookware from
                                                gourmet stores and catalogs
                                                won't make food taste better. I now just
                                                buy from restaurant supply

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