Home chefs, time to clean up your kitchen!

Eve Wee-Ang
Your kitchen appliances take up space, your pantry is stuffed with infrequently used items, and your tableware is tucked away. It might be time to reconsider.
Eve Wee-Ang

If you enjoy homemade food, then your kitchen must be one of the most utilized spaces in your house. And if you are a home chef, you will agree that there is never enough kitchen space.

First, kitchen appliances take up space, and there are always newer models that promise to make our life easier. So we never stop upgrading them, and discarding their predecessors feels wasteful.

Second, new recipes require new ingredients. Regardless of the fact that only one teaspoon was required, before you know it, your pantry is filled with opened packs of rarely used ingredients.

Third, tableware is usually bought or gifted as a set. Along the way, you broke one of the family members, and now it feels mismatched, so you welcome a brand-new set and forget the broken ones.

Finally, you only welcome guests to your home during Chinese New Year, but your kitchen is stocked like you're running a restaurant.

Sounds familiar? If so, it's time to tidy up your kitchen!

Accept that you will never make waffles at home

Once upon a time, I envisioned myself as a waffle-making mom, so I bought a waffle maker to fulfill my dream. Making waffles was fun, but cleaning the burnt batter stuck in the tiny square molds of the waffle maker wasn 't. Each time I thought of making waffles, the horror of cleaning those stubborn stains haunted me, and before I knew it, years had passed, and I'd used my waffle maker twice.

I have since accepted the fact that some things are better left to the professionals who churn out hundreds of waffles a day and hire professional waffle cleaners to help them. In exchange, I am glad to pay them for the delicious waffles, my sanity, and the freedom of not owning equipment I hardly use.

Wake up all your kitchen equipment that has been sleeping. It could be that sous vide cooker, juicer, soy bean milk maker, ice-cream maker, etc. Thank yourself for the good intentions you once had when you purchased them. Next, ask yourself, at what cost are you willing to go to keep them?

With a little creativity, some things you already own can be multipurpose, like how my ayi (domestic helper) uses the rice bowl to cut out her homemade jiaozi (dumpling) skins. Every item takes up precious kitchen real estate. If you measure against the frequency of use, sometimes it's more economical to let them go and pay the professionals to be served instead.

Mistakes may birth new recipes

When I first learned to cook from my late mother, she gave me this sage advice: Things are dead but humans are alive ― sometimes things don't go our way, but we can be flexible to try another way. As a teenage amateur cook, I was stressed when I had forgotten to buy certain ingredients that a recipe called for mid-cooking.

My mother would retort that there was no need to strictly follow or buy everything the recipe asked for, and she would proceed to coolly pick an alternative ingredient from her kitchen to sprinkle into my wok, much to my horror. Sometimes these experiments tasted horrible (she would chuckle, now we know) and sometimes they were delicious (she would smirk; see, I told you).

The Shanghai lockdown has produced many beginner home chefs who have discovered their hidden culinary talent and are now eager to try new recipes. If you are one of them, don't panic if you miss an ingredient or feel the need to buy every single item it calls for, as seasoned home chefs will tell you otherwise. There are plenty of alternative suggestions online that you can easily swop for from your pantry. If you have ingredients lying around, say, expiring coconut milk that you last used one teaspoon of for a dish, run an online search for recipes with coconut milk.

Have fun experimenting and playing in your kitchen, because, in life, you never know ― your mistakes could turn out to be your best creation.

Celebrate the beauty of one

I used to think that tableware must be purchased and served as a set to look fancy until I broke a bowl and destroyed the family unit. I could replace it with a similar-looking bowl, but the nagging feeling that it's never the same as the rest bugs me.

One day, my husband and I were at a nice Japanese restaurant where we were invited to pick our favorite sake cup. The chef then presented his dinner course to us, served in different tableware made of ceramics, glass, wood and porcelain. Although they were contrasting in designs and textures, they came together beautifully, like art unfolding before our eyes.

It dawned on me that tableware at home need not come in a uniform set, too. There is beauty in one, just like how art pieces are displayed at museums, where our eyes are encouraged to feast on each masterpiece, one at a time.

The bowl with the rooster design, which belonged to your late mother and you adore, the plate with the indigenous prints your husband bought on his travels, the cup handmade by your child in a pottery class. Have everyone in the family pick what they love, including those that you inherited, and slowly curate your family's very own personalized tableware art. Make memories and stories by serving them every day at the family's mealtimes and whenever guests visit.

Because no matter how exquisite your tableware is, it is meaningless if it is buried in a box, untouched.

(The author is a certified KonMari tidying consultant from Singapore and now resides in Shanghai.)

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