Monday, December 19, 2011

Twelve Days of Prepping - Day Eight

On the eighth day of Prepping, my Prepper gave to me,

... hand-tools for the kitchen;
... Forager's cooking kit;
... a Diva for the ladies;
...canning jars with rings;
... a cast iron skillet;
... a French coffee press;
... black turtle beans;
... and a sapling apple tree.

The other day I was, kind of, on the periphery of a conversation, mostly just listening. The subject was opening cans, and they were talking about this big can of nacho cheese and how difficult it had been trying to open it, because the can was too big for the can opener.

My hands were in my pocket, and I was holding my keys. On my keyring is a P38 , which is a can opener found in many MREs.

It's this little metal apparatus with a sharp hinged piece that punctures the can, and then, there's a groove that allows the user to move the opener around the can. It's a pain to use, especially on large cans, and if I had my druthers, I'd use almost any other kind of can opener. I keep it, because it's a good survival tool, and it's one of those geeky little devices that I think is cool to have and which I've needed on more than one occasion ;).

So, when they talked about the difficulty of opening this large can, that's what I thought of.

I listened a little closer, and I realized that the problem was not that they were trying to use something as rudimentary as the can opener I have on my keyring, but rather that the can they were trying to open was too big to fit under the electric can opener. My first thought was: Wow! I haven't seen one of those in years. Do people still have those?

Apparently, the answer is yes, and the funny part is that those same people are realizing their electric can openers have some serious limitations, the least of which is that some cans are sized too big to fit under the little wheel.

Personally, I think there are certain things that should never have been electrified, like can openers ... and toothbrushes ... and it seems, to me, to be a real waste of valuable resources to do something with eletricity that can be done just as easily and just as efficiently by hand.

I guess I'd give a break to someone who has limited use of his/her hands, but for everyone else, it's just ... well (and please forgive my holier-than-thou attitude), ... a bit lazy.

I have an ultra fancy Pampered Chef brand can opener that cuts *around* the lid, rather than through the top. It does all of the things (like keep the can lid from going down into the food) that an electric can opener is purported to do, and a good many things that an electric can opener can not do - like saw through a really, REALLY big can. My hand-crank, Pampered Chef can opener will go through those big cans with ease.

Another draw back to the electric can opener ... if the power's out, there's no can opening. My PC can opener has no such limitations.

The fact is that my family doesn't have much use for a can opener anymore, because we don't, typically, eat processed food from a can, due to concerns regarding the BPA lined cans and the potential leaching of health-hindering chemicals into our food.

But not everyone on my shopping list has done away with canned foods, and for those who only have an electric can opener, a fancy-smancy can opener, like the one we have, might be just what they need ... even if they don't know they need it ;).

There are some other, pretty awesome, hand tools for the kitchen, too. I have a food processor, and for a long time, I was using it to grate cheese. Then, one day, it stopped working. Thankfully, I also have a manual cheese grater. It's not, necessarily, faster than the electric food processer, but it is more reliable, it takes up less storage space, and it's easier to clean. I use it to grate all sorts of things - not only cheese, but also potatoes (for hash browns), carrots and cabbage (for cole slaw), and bars of soap (for home-made laundry detergent).

We also have a pretty neat, little hand-crank pasta maker.

I've never used an electric equivalent, but the hand-crank model we have does a pretty awesome job. It came with several blade sizes, including a lasagna blade, and if you've only ever had those watery and tasteless dried lasagna noodles from the grocery store, you don't know what you're missing! There's simply no comparing the dried pasta from the store to what can be made with ease in one's own kitchen.

Many years ago, when Deus Ex Machina and I were first married, we had a couple of pots and pans, some cookie sheets and a set of steak knives. A few years after we bought our house, we finally went out and bought some good knives - a set that included a bread knife. I baked a loaf of bread soon after, and when I took out the knife and started slicing the bread, I was amazed at how easy it was to cut uniform pieces. I commented about it to Deus Ex Machina and he said, in effect, having the right tool makes all the difference.

For my money, that "right tool" in the kitchen is more often than not something that's non-electric, because they're almost always there when I need them, they take up less storage space, and they are easier to clean.

For a prepper, there's no better tool than something small and mobile, and a P38 would be both appreciated and used.

For the non-preppers on your list, a P38 might be a little over the top, but other really nice *manual* kitchen tools won't seem like an attempt at changing their lives. Rather many kitchen tools (like a fancy can opener or a manual pasta maker) actually look more like gourmet cooking tools that will add finesse to their meal preps ... and take them that one step closer to being more self-sufficient.


  1. We have one of those Pampered Chef can openers too, but the wife keeps it in a different drawer so I usually reach for a different hand-cranked can opener (can't remember the make). I have a cheap one at work when I'm making soup or something in my cubicle crock pot. I find that rinsing off the can openers after each use keeps them from getting gunked up; even the cheap one looks brand-new after two years. I think electric ones are harder to clean, even if the arm detaches.

    I love our mandoline — the slicer blade slides out and can be replaced with a grater or julienne slicer. It does get a little hairy when the veggie in question is nearly completely sliced; I nicked my finger once. We also have one of those Saladmaster gadgets, basically a hand-cranked food processor, and I absolutely love it for cutting carrot strings or other hard veggies. I can demolish a bag of carrots inside of ten minutes with that sucker.

    You're right about knives… the cookbook I'm going to write some day will have a section about equipping, and it's going to say something about spending more on one good knife than on everything else combined. I love a good heavy knife for chopping onions.

    I've got a $25 gift card from work, and that pasta machine you linked to is $30. I know what I'm getting myself for Christmas!

  2. My Most used knife is a "Chinese" Cleaver. Cuts and dices just about everything except bread. Learning how to really sharpen a knife ( it isn't really very hard) is the trick to happy knives. I am looking for a manual can opener that will open #10 cans. Right now I use a hatchet which is a little crude!

  3. I have a little MRE can opener on my keychain too and one in the kitchen drawer. I was young/married way before you, and looking back the electrified stuff was hilarious - a potato cooker with metal spikes, a "hotdogger" with spikes for each end, can opener, electric knife, crockpot, mixer, popcorn popper, nail buffer, hot rollers, and I can't remember what all else. The keepers were the crockpot and mixer which have been replaced a few times. There was no interest in replacing the balance and it ended in the landfill. I also make use of an electric roaster and a little rice cooker (both very versatile). Then there's the electric range....... hmmmmm. I've survived ice storms (power outages) for a few days at a time, but I'd still have a lot to do to be ready to go longer term without power.

    I am so enjoying your "12 days..."

    brenda from arkansas

  4. I was shopping in an antique mall one day when a teenage girl came in from the next little store. She and a friend were minding the store while Mom ran some errands. They wanted to heat up some soup for lunch but the can opener was broken. The shop owner lent them a manual crank opener. In 10 minutes she came back in with the opener and the soup. They could not figure out how to work the opener, they had never seen one before. Heaven help us!