When I moved back to the United States three years ago, I had to make some tough choices about what was going to go into the three suitcases I got to bring with me. Though I love cooking and the “food” experience, very few of my kitchen items made the cut. I left behind, among others, my Aeropress coffeemaker and beloved immersion blender. Only four cookbooks made it back Stateside intact. The rest were ruthlessly rooted through by my roommate and I as we cut out any recipes we thought we may ever make and tossed the dross. (When you’re trying to get four profoundly formative years of your life down to 150 pounds, you can’t afford to be kind.)
An often overlooked side effect of spending your late twenties having this life-changing experience in the developing world is that you get back to the U.S. with like $600 in your bank account–a bunch of money for China, not a bunch of money for the States. So I had to go about rebuilding my life on a shoestring.
You don’t think about how all the stuff you’ve amassed in your kitchen cost an accumulative bundle because most people’s kitchens are slowly populated with every spoon on the planet over a course of months or years. (Lots of people also get cool things called “wedding showers,” of which I didn’t have the benefit, but I digress…)
So what does a poor, at the time only partially-employed teacher do? She becomes best friends with her friendly neighborhood Goodwill, that’s what.
This is the way I got my dishes, silverware, mixing bowls, casserole dishes, pans, pots, mixing spoons, storage containers and measuring spoons–in fact, as I catalogue my kitchen in my head, I can think of only three or four things that were actually new when I bought them.
It means I saved a bunch of money.
It also means my kitchen paraphernalia has a strongly ’70’s gold vibe about it.
I’m now in a much more stable financial place, and could probably afford to upgrade a lot of my Poor Girl Kitchen. I could replace my mismatched kitsch-fest with something chic. But I realize I’ve grown attached.
Nobody else has my old, white-with-royal-blue-trim Correllware. I never have to worry about anyone “accidentally” taking my aqua-blue Pyrex bowl home from a potluck by mistake. I am the only person I know under 60 who can claim her kitchen counter is graced by a vintage, 1980 CrockPot with orange flowers on it and a bread making canister. (Yes. I can, in fact, make bread from scratch in my CrockPot. You can be jealous. It’s okay. I understand.) I also don’t know anyone else who can claim her salt and pepper shakers were made in West Germany (back when West Germany was still a thing…)
My kitchen has history. Generations of cooks and bakers are represented in my kitchenware–my 1950’s Pyrex, my 1960’s flour and sugar canisters, my 1970’s Tupperware, my 1980’s CrockPot, my 1990’s lemon-shaped egg timer–all the cooking fads, all the kitchen disasters, all the families who gathered around tables and stood around while people washed dishes, are all represented and remembered my little kitchen. I like the one-of-a-kind uniqueness of it. My kitchen has the “be your own person” personality we always tell kids is important but so often shy away from in our adult lives. And I think that counts for something.
So you can keep your fancy-shmancy, polished silver coffee storage containers. I like the green pepper and squash design on my old glass one just fine.