Octopuses use coconut shells to make shelters. Crows and woodpeckers use twigs to spear larvae from tiny nooks and crannies to gobble them up. Bottle-nosed dolphins in Western Australia use sponges to stir up silt and protect their beaks as they forage for food. Elephants, wasps, ants, monkeys and macaques all use tools to make their livin' easy.
Even Darwin recognized that the old dictum of tool use as something that "set us apart" from nature was a load of hooey. Tool use can happen in a surprising number of places, but in the kitchen it can make all the difference between the joy of cooking and a firestorm of frustration.
I've said it here before and I'll say it again: My favourite kitchen tool is a good rubber spatula. Few things are more satisfying than using one to scrape, like, one more dollop of luxurious chocolate sauce out of the bowl, sauce otherwise destined for the drain.
Using a fave kitchen tool is more than a delight—it can also make good sense. So read on, dear readers, to learn about kitchen tools that are favourites in this totally unscientific sampling of some of the wonderful souls who make Whistler Whistler. You'll even find another fan of the humble spatula.
Maybe their ideas will help you get more joy out of your cooking—or at least make you better appreciate your favourite kitchen sidekick.
Wok like there's no tomorrow
Brandon Barrett may be a little biased, because he doesn't have a stove or oven—all his cooking happens on an electric hot plate! His kitchen tool of choice? A wok. "I've surprised myself with the things I've been able to make in a wok," he says with a laugh. Besides the usual stir-fries, weird casseroles (or was it lasagna?), grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs and meatloaf have all been cooked to perfection on his trusty wok. "Anything I buy that is supposed to go in the oven I just do it in the wok." So far, that hasn't included a cake, but don't rule it out. "You can do a cake in a slow cooker so I don't see why you couldn't do it in a wok."
Brandon, originally from Guelph, Ont., has been living in Whistler for six years, reporting for Pique and the Whistler Question.
Keep it simple
Eddie Rowcliffe cheerfully describes himself as a simple man. His favourite kitchen sidekick is a frying pan, one he got at the Re-Use-It Centre, for one simple reason: "You can cook everything on it, other than the microwave, I guess."
Eddie is from Hamilton, Ont. A clerk at Whistler Hardware, you could call him a tool expert.He's been in town almost seven years.
Kaley O'Brien's favourite tool in the kitchen is a food processor, one her dad gave her about 10 years ago when she first left home. "I have some dietary restrictions and a lot of the recipes I find to make that are quick and easy involve a food processor, so I'm very glad I have one," she says. Kaley is gluten-free and tries to restrict dairy, so condiments and sauces are key to making good food fast. Maybe pesto made with kale, basil, nuts and garlic, or blending up sundried dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts to add into a meatloaf. Yum!
Kaley is the youth services librarian at Whistler's library. She's been in town a year, lives in Squamish and is originally from Calgary.
One person's orphan is another's joy
Jeremy Allen doesn't hesitate when asked to name his favourite kitchen tool. "I have to say, recently I've actually been getting into my own bread-making, so I've found this profound love for this bread machine because I put it on before I go to bed and I wake up to the smell of fresh bread. It's almost like waking up to a cup of coffee, if you know what I mean." The amazing thing is Jeremy and his partner found the bread machine in their cozy cabin when they moved in—someone left it behind. Bonus: "It's not like I'm saving a lot of money making bread. It's more about the fact I know what I'm putting in my food." Raisin cinnamon bread for Nutella toast, anyone?
Jeremy is a photographer, originally from Montreal. He's lived in Pemberton four years and won the Chamber's "Most Stoked Local" contest in 2017.
Covering the bases
Ask a chef what his or her favourite kitchen tool is, and the typical answer is a good knife. But James Pare will surprise you. Sure, a knife is obvious, but for him a rubber spatula is key. "It's one of my favourite things in the kitchen because you can't go without it—a good quality Rubbermaid rubber spatula ... When you use it and you're getting that last bit of sauce or whatever, I feel like you are covering all the bases, not only of cost control, but also making sure everything is clean and organized ... from keeping the sides of your pot clean, to making sure it never burns or caramelizes." On the home scene, a spatula is right up there, too, but it's his espresso machine that wins. "It's the first thing I (use) in the morning, and it's pretty much my favourite thing in the kitchen."
James is the executive chef and co-owner of a longtime Whistler fave, Caramba. He grew up in Chilliwack and has lived in Whistler on and off since 2000.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who sometimes plays favourites.