Today’s Daily Prompt asks:  Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.

I could write about the sharp aroma of garlic wafting out the doors of a tiny corner family restaurant down in South Philly . . . .

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Or the early morning wake-me-up scent of fresh coffee beans being roasted at the independent gourmet coffee shop I lived above in Englewood . . .

mile high sign

Or the fragrance of mint, of ginger, or roasted Hatch chili peppers in September. . .


After all, this is my cooking life.

But today my answer is not in the kitchen. Unless you consider the linen kitchen towels or the brightly colored cloth on the kitchen table. Or the clothing I cook in.

That is, If they were hung to dry on the clothesline on laundry day.

That fresh, outdoorsy, clothesline-dried smell! It’s like no other I can think of

Transport me it does.

To my childhood in Michigan when Mom and I would hang everything outside and I would play hide and seek with my neighbor David weaving in and out of the drying clothes, the wind flapping them up into our bright and giggling faces!

The irresistable smell of a freshly made bed of linens brought in from the line made naptime almost desireable and offered an invitation to the sweetest dreams at night.

I was transported just yesterday by the mere mention of clothes on a clothesline and a cute little photo of them that my friend included in her blog.

She lives in Michigan. And I was a child again running through the flapping cloth.

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And this year’s Lifetime Achievement Kitchen Inspiration Award goes to . . .

Claude is looking a little down in the mouth lately.  And who could blame him?  He’s been hanging around in my kitchen for at least twenty years.  Here I am going on and on in my blog about all the people and things that inspire me and how I am the big-time cooking expert and I never once even mentioned Claude.

Before I introduce you to Claude, believe me when I say I am dead serious about the important place he has in my cooking life.  A day without Claude would be like a day without a stove to cook on or a spoon to taste with.  I would be a lost soul without Claude.

Claude is dedicated.  Who else do you know that expresses his love of food and cooking by wearing a sweater with a big orange carrot on it every single day?  He’s downright insouciant, that’s what he is!

Walt Disney’s Ratatouille has nothing on Claude.  True, they are both French.  Claude has been inspiring great things from my kitchen for two decades and has never taken a bow or taken credit for his work.  In fact, more than likely the famous Disney character was inspired by Claude.  I’ll have to do the research on that.

So without further ado, I’m announcing the recipient of the Lifetime Kitchen Inspiration Achievement Award, Claude!

[Claude accepts]

Merci. Merci.   Je suis tellement honoree!

[more applause]


“Thank you very much. [Nods humbly and squeaks] I am overwhelmed by theez enormous gesture of acknowledgement.  What a suprise to receive theez wonderful award and theez beautiful toaster!  I hardly know what to say.

“Meez Patty, eet has been mon honneur to leeve in your kitchen and to be a part of your legendary creativity in zee field of cooking.  I have always wanted to inspire greatness in others and my lifelong dream has been fulfilled by your generosity, your kindness, your devotion and of course, your unmatched culinary skill.  I am truly grateful for zee opportunity you have geeven me and I dedicate myself to you and your unequalled–je ne sais quoi.  I am your humble servant tousjours plus.

[Four-minute standing ovation.  Applause, whistles and “woot woots” heard throughout the auditorium.  Patty blushes and bows demurely.]

“I weell never forget zee day I met Meez Patty and she took me home.  That eez when my life really began.  Watching her and oui, inspiring her as best I could, I have seen amazing meals emerge from Patty’s cutting board and stove.  You seemply haven’t leeved unteel you’ve tasted her cooking!  Once you try eet, you weell NEVER go back.  I promeese.

“Of course there have been rough times.  I remember zee many times Meez Patty  managed to burn water.  Mais oui, eet eez possible to burn water.  They always say ‘a watched pot never boils.’  But once eet starts boiling you should watch eet.  Fortunately, we only lost one pan that way, zee rest were salvaged.  Patty eez nothing eef not persistent.  And even though I know she hates washing pots and pans, she has been no less than heroic een saving most of those burnt pots no matter what she burned een them.

“Then there was zee time when Patty put boiling-hot cream of asparagus soup into zee blender to puree eet and she filled zee blender tres full.  I was so fortunate not to get heet when that blender exploded.  Not so for Meez Patty.  Trooper that she eez, Patty was on zee front lines and didn’t escape zee burning asparagus shrapnel.  [Teary-eyed, sniffling] She still bears those scars on her chest, like leettle medals of honor.  Je remerci Dieu Meez Patty eez alive today!  She suffered emotional scars aussi and never made zee cream of asparagus soup again.  C’est la vie, Patty.

“And speaking of explosions, you have never seen anything like a pressure-cooker explosion.  Brown rice all over zee ceiling and everywhere else!  That time Patty was lucky because she ducked just een time before getting decapitated by zee flying pressure-cooker leed.  Deed that stop Patty?  Of course not!  She freaked out and got someone else to clean up zee mess and then got right back eento that kitchen with another pressure cooker!  Zee brown rice has never been more delicious.  Since then.

“When I think of Meez Patty’s kitchen and all zee exciting times we’ve had together, I can only hope that her millions of devoted followers will one day have zee opportunity I have been so lucky to endure.

“We in zee Kitchen Inspiration Industry understand that we do not work alone.  Without zee rest of zee team, we are nothing.  I would like to thank my manufacturer–zee Boyd’s Collection, Ltd, thanks also to zee personne who kneet me my tres fabulaux carrot sweater (I could not inspire without eet), thanks to le secteur Francais de la Chine–China–where I was born, and of course my deepest respect to zee most infamous–non, I mean famous–home cook een zee world (Excusez mon Anglais), zee personne whose cooking cannot be equalled, zee woman every mouse or man wants to spend their time weeth een zee kitchen, my mentor, my teacher, my friend, my fellow artiste and homemaker extraordinaire, (and she would never say theez about herself so I am saying eet for her) LE MEILLEUR CUISINIER DANS LE VASTE MONDE ENTIER –ZEE BEST COOK IN ZEE WHOLE WIDE WORLD–thank you Meez Patty–mon amie, merci! My life has truly been blessed by your existence.

Vous . . .

Me completer.”

Conveniently Impractical

Compared to some people, I just don’t keep up with high-tech gadgetry.  I do have an Android phone (but don’t know how to use most of the features yet – to me it’s a phone) and this past Christmas I got my first iPod which I do enjoy.  (Before that I was listening to music on a big boom box CD player that I’ve had for twenty years and I have to be in my kitchen to do so.)  I’ve barely managed to learn how to use my new toys with the help of my husband and advice from Joe, my “technology life coach.” (I keep telling him he could have a career being a technology life coach and charging people like me for his consultations!)

As for high-tech on the Internet, I’m certainly not against it.  I enjoy having multiple channels to rapidly communicate on.  After all, I’m blogging aren’t I?  But if I want to know how my friends and family are doing, I like visiting them.  And I still write real letters and mail them.  I refuse to use that snide term, “snail mail.”  Most people would love to get something in the mail besides bills and advertisements!  There is nothing like a handwritten letter or card.  (Please write to me if you know my address–a personal letter amongst those bills is so refreshing!)

My best friend from college, Martha, persistently begged me to get onto Facebook and finally I did.  I found out that even though there were “posts” to read nearly every day, this was by no means a way to truly catch up with her and her life except for photos when they’re posted.  It is too contrived or something.  And too public. So I traveled to Virginia to see her and then started writing her real letters.  So much better and much more personal and satisfying.

In my cooking life, I’m also not high-tech when it comes to kitchen gadgets and for much the same reasons, I think. Over the years I have seen new and improved kitchen and cooking gadgets come and go without even a thought of buying them.  Not that they’re all bad–I do have a few favorites–but really my basic cooking tools do the job and for the most part I don’t need choppers, grinders, processors, slicers, dicers, “bullets,” electric grills, yoghurt makers, or a Darth Vader bread-imprinting toaster.  I don’t even want or need a microwave.

Yes.  I said NO m i c r o w a v e  ovens for me!  (In my opinion, they aren’t “high” tech — they’re OUT tech!)

Give me a good knife, a cutting board, some cast iron and stainless steel pots, a gas stove and I’m good to go!  I do love a high-quality sharp knife which is a must for cooking.  Cheap or dull knives in the kitchen are dangerous and you will never get a consistent, aesthetic product with them.  My current favorite knife is the Shun Elite and I have a big vegetable knife and a smaller paring knife.  This is practical and convenient.

No fuss, no muss julienne carrots

Me and my knives can take on any chopper-slicer-dicer thingy.  I can julienne carrots like nobody’s business, cut dozens of paper-thin cucumber slices or dice an onion faster than you can load your slice-a-matic.  Cole slaw?  No problem.  And my clean up is a wash off of a knife and a few swipes of the cutting board–nothing to disassemble, get into the corners and crevices to clean, dry all the parts and put back together.  Who wants that mess?!!

If you learn to use your basic kitchen tools right, you will find they are the quickest and most convenient way to get a great meal prepared.  It is also the way to get the most aesthetic and delicious meal.  You can’t exactly imbue a lot of “life” into food when you’ve trapped it into a set of electric-powered blades and mowed it down to size or scrambled its molecules all to pieces in the nuker.  Using a good knife and hand-cutting vegetables is an art which allows you to implement your intentions and creativity in a way that really communicates in your finished dish.

Not that my cupboards are completely devoid of any type of kitchen gadget.  I do have a few favorites that amuse and entertain me and work well enough that I’m willing to pay the price of having to disassemble and clean them:

1.  My mother’s food mill.  This is by far the best kitchen gadget for mashing things.

Easy squeasy

2. A plastic lemon juicer that came free with coupons and purchase of a popular salad dressing mix.  A former roommate got it and I inherited it.  You can’t beat this thing for getting a lot of fresh, seed-free lemon juice fast.

3. The Garlic Pro E-Zee-Dice.  Mostly I use my knife and regular garlic press to prepare garlic.  But this thing dices so much garlic so fast it is amazing!  I use it because it works oh so well and I LOVE garlic.

None of these things are electric but all of them are time-consuming to clean after use. For the most part, gimme my good knife and big ol’ cutting board.  That’s my idea of high-tech in the kitchen.  That’s how I roll.

Got garlic?

So where do you stand on the whole kitchen gadget situation?

And do you ever write letters?