Must-Have Cookware for Serial Expats and Serial Movers
As a family, we've moved several times across oceans. Each time, we've moved on our own, relying on our own muscles and resources. It's definitely more work, but it gives us a good reason to reflect and makes us more conscious about our belongings.
When we packed our things in boxes, we were always amazed at how things we've accumulated got abandoned over time. That nice Turkish coffee set we bought in Istanbul? It's been gathering dust in the cupboard. That Chinese tea set we brought back from our time in Shanghai? Well, two cups were broken during our last move, and we really never have a full-on kung fu tea session anyway. That pair of gorgeous Lalique crystal champagne flutes from our wedding gifts? Honestly, with two kids now, I can't remember the last time we sipped champagne alone at home.
Over the years, we've gradually learned to live with less possessions. Not because simple living is the epitome of chic, but because we've simply got tired of having to resell/donate/haul a bunch of things when we move. Things do secretly multiply in the shelves, so we have to consciously trim down on a regular basis. If you're interested in tidying up, I recommend reading the book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
When it comes to kitchen products, I've learned things the hard way. No matter how many layers of padding you put around glass, stoneware, and bone china, when they're shipped overseas, very often they arrive in pieces. I've since developed an obsession of buying tough, compact, and multi-purpose kitchenware. And since electric kitchen appliances are far from compact, that there are country differences for electric outlets, and that programmed obsolescence is getting ridiculously brief, I prefer owning as few appliances as possible. Sorry, Thermomix and Kitchenaid Stand Mixer.
Here's the list of my favorite kitchen cookware that can stand the test of time and long-distance moving. Some of them come with high price tags, but consider them investment pieces that you won't regret.
1. Staub La Cocotte
This cast iron Dutch oven is perfection incarnated. Staub La Cocotte is one of those iconic kitchen items that are chic and will never grow old. This particular Coq au Vin edition is my favorite. The 5.75 qt. (5.44 l) size is perfect for a 4-6 person meal; the oval shape is ideal for roasting a whole chicken; the black matte color is simply INDESTRUCTIBLE (whereas colored enamel coating does chip over time). This version comes with a chicken (coq) shaped nickel knob for a bit of fantaisie and a classic round brass knob for when you're not cooking chicken dishes.
We got ourselves this cocotte as a wedding anniversary gift. It is an investment piece, and I do fantasize about leaving it to my kids one day. But seriously, with two meals at a French restaurant, this Made-in-France cocotte is paid for. We've definitely been using it for everything: coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, and our current obsession: preserved figs.
2. WMF Perfect Plus Pressure Cooker
I used to be terrified of pressure cookers. The whistling, wobbly regulators scare me, and I picture chilli con carne exploding and repainting the kitchen walls.
That's now a thing of the past. WMF Perfect Plus pressure cooker is now one of my best friends in the kitchen. I used to own an electric multi-cooker and I used it to cook rice, beans, and grains. After the non-stick inner pot got scratched up like an etch-a-sketch, and that we had to move to a country with different outlets, I gave up on this whole electric cooker matter.
Now with this pressure cooker, I can make sushi rice, risotto, and Indian daal all under 20 minutes. I can also make leek soup and steamed carrots for baby food in the same pot within 10 minutes. Furthermore, there's no scary jittery whistle on top, when the pressure rises above normal, the pot merely sings.
And I never have to worry about the non-stick layer chipping off or changing electric outlets again. These German-made pots use a tough 18/10 stainless steel alloy called "cromagan" (WMF trademark), it is super hard to scratch and very easy to clean. I compared with the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic pressure cookers, and ultimately chose the WMF because once you remove the handle (clicks right off), the whole thing can be cleaned in a dishwasher. I happen to prefer the design, too.
3. Magma Nesting Pots and Pans
What's the hardest thing when you put pots and pans in a moving box? The handles always take too much space.
This is why Magma nesting set with detachable handles is such a great idea. The 5 pots fit neatly into one compact unit, taking less than half a cubic foot of space. The set even comes with a bungee cord to secure it all. I wish I had this set every time I moved.
4. Scanpan Crepe Pan
I married a French guy who's an ace when it comes to making crêpes. On weekend mornings or winter afternoons, he'd bust out his moves and start flipping some paper-thin sheets of crêpes with those perfectly ruffled crisp edges.
So last time we moved, as we donated some of our pots and pans (why didn't I have those Magmas!), he insisted on keeping the crêpe pan. I'm very glad we did.
This Scanpan crêpe pan is made in Denmark with some sort of Viking magic... its non-stick coating is made with a mix of titanium and ceramic, and you definitely need non-stick for making crêpes. And the best part? The handle is heat-resistant, so after making the crepes, you can put them on the pan and slide into the oven to keep them warm. You can definitely use the pan for omelettes and pancakes, too.
5. Oxo Stainless Steel Salad Spinner
This is not just a salad spinner. It's a stainless steel mixing bowl, a colander, a salad spinner, salad serving bowl, and a salad storage all-in-one.
I've tried many salad spinning mechanisms, including the rotating knob (not ergonomic), the spinning handle (so tiring), the press handle (how do you not pinch your fingers?), the pulling string (always losens)... this is by far the best and the easiest, even my toddlers can slam on the pump to help spin salad as a game.
6. KitchenAid 3-in-1 Hand Blender Set
If there's one electric kitchen appliance I can't live without, it's this 3-in-1 hand blender set.
This kit replaces the standing blender, the food processor, and the electric whisk. You can make an avocado banana smoothie, puree baby food and soup, chop up your own almond meal, and make meringues with the same kit. It's compact and light-weight, and the price is so reasonable that if I'm moving to a country with different power outlets, I wouldn't hesitate to gift it.
These are my must-have kitchen cookware. What are some of your must-haves?