One of my favorite high-end cookware catalogs suggests that in order to cook a turkey this Thanksgiving, I should drop a bundle on a Bluetooth thermometer. It can monitor two temperatures at once, courtesy of a smart phone app. (Don’t test turkey temps and drive!)
If I want to be a truly state-of-the-art cook, I will also need a new blender. Not just any blender, but a 2-horsepower blender. To pulverize what? The driveway? It says particles are 50 percent smaller than particles pulverized in other blenders. Good to know. Nothing ruins a meal faster than a particle in the 65th percentile.
I might also want to take out a small loan to buy a new set of steak knives before Thanksgiving. They are sharp-looking knives, but listen, if you need steak knives for your Thanksgiving turkey, you’ve got bigger problems than dull knives.
I might also want to drop a couple of Ben Franklins on a technically advanced skillet with ultra-even heating. I might. Or I might just keep seasoning my cast iron skillet. It has such ultra-even heating that even the handle gets red hot.
Home Retail, parent to a chain of do-it-yourself stores in Great Britain, recently announced they will close a quarter of their stores, in part due to the rise of a generation “less skilled in DIY projects.”
We’re all a little less skilled in the basics with each passing generation.
Contemplating the wizardry that would put my Thanksgiving feast on the fast track to smart phone apps, more electrical cords and multiple credit card swipes, I realized some of the best holiday meals I’ve ever had were created by cooks often working without so much as a cookbook.
They learned by doing and I learned by watching.
Sauté chopped onions and diced celery in a pan of butter. A pinch of this, a pinch of that, a dash of salt and sprinkle of pepper. Dry your bread crumbs the night before. A little broth, not too much.
Gravy? Stand back. Once that woman gets to whisking, there’s gonna be a whole lot of shaking going on.
There is something marvelous about tapping the vein of DIY resourcefulness. It makes you feel more human, less mechanized, less controlled, less at the mercy of a digital readout and 2-year warranty.
Knowing how to do a few things with your own hands, independent of expensive gadgetry, is satisfying. Maybe it’s learning to test a bird for doneness by wiggling the drumsticks, cutting butter into flour for a piecrust, sticking a tomato plant in the ground or growing rosemary on a windowsill.
Creating something, making something, enjoying the fruit of our labor and learning the art of improvise when things go wrong, are among our last remaining links to that original band of Pilgrims. They were the ultimate in resourcefulness.
That said, as highly as I esteem resourcefulness, I have been known to buy a box of Bob Evans’ potatoes, microwave them, sprinkle them with parsley and pass them off as my own. I like to think of it as resourcefulness of a modern sort.