When I first left the college dorms for my own apartment, my aunt and mother took me to a handful of kitchen supply shops to buy a few starter pieces as housewarming gifts. They were inexpensive simple items like a hand-held grater, some cheap knives, a can opener, a whisk and a dish or two.
Cooking has always been important to me. And, later, I scrimped and saved my way through summers nannying and working at coffee bars (I make a mean macchiato, folks.). At the end of the summer, I had saved a little over a hundred dollars in spending money that wasn’t earmarked for anything else. And, I walked into a department store and made my first real investment in my kitchen: a shiny red stand mixer that was 75% off. And that mixer still sits on my countertop, used nearly every day, even now that it’s fifteen years later.
Equipping My Traditional Foods Kitchen
Later yet, I married, started a family with my husband and fell in love with the traditional foods movement – a movement marked by wholesome foods like real butter, grass-fed meats, raw dairy, sourdough breads, fermented vegetables and minimally processed sweeteners for that last touch of goodness.
Nontoxic Cookware and Bakeware
And as the way I cooked evolved to celebrate culinary heritage and old-fashioned cookery, so, too did my kitchen’s needs. Gone were the nonstick, teflon-coated pans. In came cast iron and enameled cast iron (read why I fell in love with enameled cast iron here). As time and budget allowed, I slowly replaced other items in my kitchen as well. Plastic and nylon utensils became bamboo and stainless steel utensils. Stoneware, cast iron and glass replaced our nonstick muffin tins, Bundt pans and cake pans. (I still have yet to find a decent madeleine pan to replace my nonstick pan, so if you know of where to find one drop me a line in the comments.)
Flip-top Bottles for All Those Home Brews
During this time, my husband and I gave up soft drinks for the most part (we never drank too many of them, really) and in case our own home-brewed, fermented beverages like Beet Kvass, Water Kefir, Cinnamon Spice Kombucha, Authentic Homemade Root Beer and Ginger Beer. So while we had fewer plastic bottles to toss in the recycling bin, we instead needed to pick up several flip-top bottles to store our home brews.
And just so you know, I still indulge, from time to time in a Reed’s Ginger Beer or a China Cola from the health food store. There is no perfection in my home, either.
A Thousand and One Glass Jars
And one more thing: I invested in what seems like thousands of glass jars. Know the feeling? Glass jars to hold our ferments once their finished fermenting in the big stoneware crocks. Little jars to hold our organic spices. Big jars to hold grains and pulses. Medium jars to hold nuts and seeds.
Investing in Crocks and Grain Mills
And, eventually, we scrimped and saved (just as I did with that first purchase of my shiny red stand mixer), for a grain mill to grind our grains fresh for bread making, and for big Polish-style stoneware fermentation crocks to put up the gallons of homemade sauerkraut, easy kimchi, true sour pickles and hot pink jalapeno garlic sauerkraut I make each year. These are far from a necessity, even in a traditional foods kitchen, but are a nice investment to make as your budget allows and your interest commands.
How to Prioritize Kitchen Investments
So if you’re looking to equip your kitchen with the items that help to make cooking traditional foods just a little bit easier, it’s worthwhile to go about it slowly: one item at a time. First, place a priority on replacing cheap, nonstick cookware and bakeware with heirloom-quality alternatives like cast iron, enameled cast iron, stoneware and glass. Replace plastic spatulas, spoons and turners, which are apt to melt if kept too close to the heat, with bamboo or stainless steel.
And you can pick up this kit from our partner MightyNest which includes a few starter items like a cast iron skillet, flip-top bottle, glass jars, bamboo cooking utensils as well as my cookbook. It’s a lovely gift for yourself, or for someone who means a lot to you. Check out the package here. (P.S. They give 15% of every order to a school of your choice! Hello!)