The writer in strange kitchens


So… I never thought I’d ever say this, but it’s the second time in less than a month that I find myself cooking in a kitchen that’s not my own, and I have to say you don’t realise how well-stocked your kitchen is until you run into one that’s… less well-stocked? I was cooking for VD [1], and the things I missed the most were, by order of decreasing importance:

-chopsticks. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m absolutely useless as a cook without a pair of chopsticks.
-kitchen knife. The difference between a good quality, balanced knife and a random ikea knife really is striking. Not in a good way. (also, still a fan of santoku over more Western-shaped knife; the thing just feels better in my hand. The household is sharply divided between my husband, who uses the paring knife and the traditional kitchen knife; and I, who just reach for the santoku for everything from dicing carrots to cubing meat).
-pots and pans. More minor, but gah, the absence of a wok with a lid is a major drawback for so many dishes. Especially broccoli.

So I guess I’ve learnt my lesson: take chopsticks with me next time I have to cook in a stranger’s kitchen 😀

[1] In case you’re wondering, the actual Villa Diodati workshop was great; I got tons of work done, edited “The Two Sisters in Exile” into submittable form, and made a head start on revising “Immersion”, aka the globalisation piece in space (with social networks! And Vietnamese! And lemongrass chicken!).


  1. I have never used chopsticks as a cooking implement and I am fascinated to know how you employ them.

    When, many years ago, we used to have gaming (boardgame) week-long housecons, I very rapidly got into the habit of taking my full set of kitchen knives with me (those were the days when I’d do a mixed East Asian set of dishes – once prepared 17 different dishes for 21 people, that was a fun day!). Still use the Sabatiers on a daily basis. Have a couple of santokus but I’ve used the Sabatiers for, what, 15-20 years now so they are pretty much moulded to my hands 🙂

  2. 🙂
    I find the santoku fits my hand better than the other shapes of knives? We also have a normal kitchen knife in the same range, and the H loves it; whereas I just feel… awkward. It’s not even like I have big memories of using kitchen knives at my parents, purely a morphology factor.
    (not sure I’d like to take my set of kitchen knives with me though, would be too afraid to lose them!)

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