Food Hacks

doeverythingbetter.gifAlthough I couldn’t attend this past weekend’s Maker Faire, with its inaugural section dedicated to food, I did have a chance to learn a few new tricks for the kitchen.

It’s not a recent phenomenon for cooks to hack their utensils and ingredients—Homo “Handy Man” habilis figured out that meat on the stick thing, Mongol horsemen multitasked by salting and tenderizing and cooking their meat under their saddles, and my mom catches plump frogs with her pasta colander—but the DIY movement has inspired a whole new generation to explore simple, cheap, ingenious ways to accomplish everyday tasks.

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Meat Cookies


Breaking two cardinal rules in my kitchen—versatility and real-world functionality—my favorite new toy is silly, beautiful, and fun. It can only do one thing: make cookies in the shape of an obscure cut of lamb. A while back, while checking out the display cases at the excellent little butcher shop, Avendano’s, my friends spotted a batch of hand-crafted, limited-edition, copper cookie cutters. For some reason, they thought of me.

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New additions to


If one of the outer circles of hell were reserved for hoarders of kitchen tools, then yours truly already has a place reserved for her to peel and scrape, slice and dice for all of eternity. Fortunately, in my current incarnation, I can write about my habit so that you, dear reader, can choose more wisely.

With two new entries on my “What’s this?” page, I share some simple yet useful utensils for cooks who actually cook.

I’ve also added my latest favorites: a book on traditional Japanese packaging, paper-mache bowls, and a staple from my pantry. All are short and sweet.

Happy spring!


Bento Porn


On display through the wonderful internets are hundreds upon thousands of photographs of everyday lunches. No soggy PB&J’s here, though. One forum, the Mr. Bento Porn Flickr group, posts their collective creative efforts to make mid-day meals visually appealing, healthful, delicious and, yes, a little easier on the wallet. Their cousin site, Diet Bento, includes impressively low calorie counts for those whose 2008 resolutions (for now at least) include trimming down a little of their own belly fat.


Portable meals have been with us for as long as farmers have trudged off to their fields and soldiers have marched on in war. The Japanese took it a little further, of course. Where other countries preferred banana leaves or woven baskets, Japanese al fresco diners preferred compartmentalized boxes. By the 17th century, bento meals became elaborately arranged celebrations of the full moon and cherry blossoms, a leisurely way to enjoy intermission with friends at the theatre or, like the older form of sushi, essential food for travelers in an age before planes and bullet trains.

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The Things We Carry: Portable Chopsticks

When an old friend from high school picked me up yesterday in her sparkling rental car, we were still trying to decide between taking in a museum or heading toward some fun shops. And when she finally nixed an afternoon of art and culture, I was more than happy to direct her to one of my favorites, Flight 001 on Hayes.

While she lost herself among their beautiful bags, a smaller but equally enticing travel gadget section kept me busy “researching.” Some things weren’t worth the box they came in—a portable pasta drainer?! — but one item caught my eye. Collapsible chopsticks.

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