Now that you're older, you should probably take your kitchen seriously.
Well la-di-da, Mr. Smarty Pants. Looks like you’ve survived a year or two in your first apartment. So what? You want a trophy? Because you’re not going to get one, Mr. Millennial Momma’s Boy. Deal with it—you’re a grown-up now.
Welcome to adulthood and to your second apartment, where you'll transform into a responsible, productive member of society. Someday, you will host a dinner party, and you will actually like it. You will pick up a Crate & Barrel catalog, and you will not cringe or look away in horror. Heed our advice, and use this list of useful kitchen and dining room goods when you want to take your homemaking a bit more seriously.
Hopefully by now you’ve learned a thing or two about cooking and eating well. Your meals are now tastier, healthier, and cheaper—a win, win, win combo. If that doesn't sound like you, it's time to put down the Nutella and pick up some vegetables. Stop eating Ramen and chicken nuggets, and buy yourself a cookbook. Sure, it takes more time and energy to prepare a decent meal, but it’s worth it. So now that you’re older and want to ramp up your cooking game, where do you start?
• Pots and Pans Lots of them. Serious cooking means using more than one burner on your stovetop: You have your vegetables in one pot, your rice or potatoes in another, some protein frying in a pan, and some sauce simmering in the back—maybe a loaf of bread in the oven, too. This is basic stuff, but it requires several pieces of cookware. Make sure you equip your kitchen with a few different sizes.
• Stock Pot or Wok These big containers will allow you to seriously ramp up the size and style of your meals. Suddenly, a world of deep-fried pickles, stir fry, beef stews, lobster, and even home-brewed beer will open up to you. Who says adulthood is boring?
• Food Processor Food processors expedite the cooking process. It’s like having another set of hands in the kitchen—someone who can chop vegetables, purée eggplant, or make a smoothie for you while you stir the pot.
• Knife Set The chef's knife you bought when you moved into your first apartment should still be holding strong as long as you've kept it sharp. Now it's time to buy a whole set: bread knife, Santoku knife, cleaver, honing steel—go wild.
• Specialized Tools As you start to broaden your catalog of recipes, you’ll need a few single-purpose tools and utensils. Amateur and intermediate cooks should find it useful to have at least some of these items, including: collapsible steamer, tongs, splatter guard, pizza cutter, garlic press, corn holders, pizza rack, cheese grater, and stainless-steel mixing bowls.
Gettin' the Food to Your Mouth
You may have lasted this long with only a few plates and bowls, it’s time to upgrade. You need more of everything that you already have. More utensils, more plates, more bowls, more mugs, more glasses. And while you’re at it, get a new set of wooden spoons if you haven't replaced them since college.
Someday, you'll have guests at your home, and they will all appreciate a classy presentation at dinner. Add a few items for instant panache. Just be sure everything matches!
• Tablecloth Keeps food stains off of your tabletop, and looks classy. Cloth is best.
• Place Mats Like mini-tablecloths for your tablecloth.
• Butter Dish Less barbaric than leaving butter in the wax paper.
• Napkin Holder Stops napkins from flying off the table accidentally.
Buildin' the Bar
In your first apartment your bar probably consisted of… well, a half-empty bottle of Seagram’s and a few Solo cups. Now that you’re older, wiser, and have better taste, you can afford to upgrade. Here are some basic bar amenities.
• Cocktail Shaker and Strainer Some drinks really need to be mixed, and a shaker handles the job better than a straw or stirrer.
• Corkscrew Stop stabbing the cork with a butter knife. Wine tastes better without something floating around in it.
• Ice Bucket More convenient than running to freezer and grabbing a handful of cubes from the bag.
• Set of Wine Glasses, Pint Glasses, and Tumblers Looks classy, and when used appropriately, makes a drink taste better. There are several varieties of each, so focus on the types meant for your beverages of choice.
• Shot Glasses and Jiggers Glasses for drinking liquor, jiggers for measuring booze to pour into cocktails.
• Muddler To mash herbs, fruits, and spices in a cocktail. Mojito time. Doubles as a stirrer.
• Zester Scrapes some skin from orange and lemon peels for some zest, zing, or whatever you call it.
Of course, you’ll need some booze too, but that's for an even longer discussion. At the very least, skip the plastic-bottle garbage from now on, and step up to the middle-shelf spirits.
Cleanin’ Up Your Mess
Now that you’ve graduated to your second apartment, you need to start living like a civilized member of society. No more pizza boxes strewn about the living room. No more Jenga piles of recycling. No more waiting for roommates to clean the dishes. Take the initiative.
Paper towels and surface cleaner can take you far, but you should invest in a few next-level cleaning supplies to really make your home sparkle.
• Mop and Bucket Those wet Swiffer towels are OK, but a real mop and bucket can clean up bigger messes in less time.
• Broom and Dustpan Those dry Swiffer towels are OK, too, but struggle with larger bits of debris. Brooms make it easy.
• Duster You'll sneeze less, and your shelves will look great.
• Vacuum You can find a fantastic shop-style vacuum for $50 or less these days. You won't regret it.
• More Dish Towels No such thing as too many.
This should put you well on your way to a cleaner, more mature home—one that’s sure to impress mom, dad, and any special guests you bring back. Sure, it’s hard to let go of your youth, but just because you start tidying up your home and cooking for yourself doesn’t mean you have to act like an adult all the time. That's why you built the bar. Cheers!
Photos: Flickr user Lynn Gardner, Creative Commons license; Flickr user Nick Wheeler, Creative Commons license; Flickr user Jepster, Creative Commons license; Todtanis, Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-SA-3.0, GFDL]; Judith Doyle, Flickr