What’s the difference between a strainer and a colander?
I know you’re expecting a hilarious punchline, given the comedic potential of that setup, but actually this is something I’ve always wondered. The fine-mesh bowl with a long handle that’s hanging on my wall is definitely a strainer, and the big perforated stainless-steel bowl gathering dust on top of the Ivar is clearly a colander.
But what do you call these?
The answer is, of course: who cares? I call them the best strainer/colanders in the business, and I paid three whole dollars for mine, whereas you can easily spend $30 for a metal colander which is not superior in any way. These are available at any large Asian grocery or at Sur La Table. You can also order them from Amazon.
Their only drawback is that they’re a bit hard to clean. If you’ve used them to strain anything messier than pasta water, you’ll have to blow a bunch of dishwasher space, or get out your jumbo sized can of elbow grease (or, if you’re all out of elbow grease, whoop-ass will do in a pinch). This is no less true of metal colanders, though.
I have it on good authority that the folks at Cook’s Illustrated and Consumer Reports throw an orgy when they’re able to award top honors to the cheapest product in a review lineup. So get happy! And do not drain pasta while naked.
Let’s talk about bibs.
First of all, let’s talk about why adults don’t wear bibs. Seriously, why is it only socially acceptable to wear a bib when eating lobster? There are plenty of foods messier than lobster, and all of them have ended up on my shirt. I don’t buy white t-shirts anymore. The last time I bought a white t-shirt, it was a Pernice Brothers t-shirt with a picture of a sandwich on it. The first time I wore it, I had spicy Vietnamese beef soup for lunch. That was also the last time I wore it. I guess if I had spilled mayonnaise from a banh mi on it, that would have been poetic.
It’s not like I’m a total klutz, although now that I say that, it reminds me that the other day I was getting out of a car and started to slip on something on the grass. I looked down, fearing dog poop, and saw that it was an actual banana peel.
Anyway, there are many makers of baby bibs out there, and one is clearly bald head and tiny shoulders above the rest: Bumkins Waterproof Super Bib. They’re also cheap: here’s one web site selling them for $5 each. Be forewarned that Bumkins makes a dozen models of bib and it’s only the Waterproof Super Bib I’m talking about.
Bumkins are the best because they’re made of thin but nonporous plastic. Lots of bibs are made of cloth or have a terrycloth backing. I guess the idea is that this will absorb spills, but the downside is that it will absorb spills. It won’t keep spills off the shirt, but it will keep sending you to the laundry. The Bumkins, on the other hand, wash up in one minute at the sink and–more important–dry fast. They’re also extremely durable: we have three bibs and use two of them in a typical day, and they’ve lasted over a year with no sign of wear.
Bumkins also makes a smock bib. It costs a lot more, but it adds arm protection. (I’m starting to feel like we’re talking about Kevlar vests.) We tried one of these, but the time when Iris most needed it was also the time was most allergic to putting on sleeves of any kind, and the bib had very small wrist holes. Worth a shot, if somehow you’ve drawn a baby who is blasé about sleeves.
Welcome to an occasional feature: the Gold Niblet Award, highlighting products I consider the cream of the crop. Today’s subject: cake pans.
If cake pans aren’t a subject of religious importance in your family, then you’ve never held a lumpy and unevenly browned cake layer in your arms and shed a silent tear as it breathed its last. I’m talking about the relatively deep, rectangular or round pans used for baking cakes and bar cookies. You probably have a 9×13 Pyrex pan–we do, and it’s fine for lasagna and the like, but it can’t compete when it comes to sweets.
For that we turn to Magic Line. Usually, even my favorite kitchen implements have some annoying flaw. I’m pretty loyal to All-Clad pots, but the handles are lousy. In the case of Magic Line, though, I can’t think what could possibly be done to improve them. They’re made of sturdy aluminum, come in a huge variety of sizes, don’t cost much, have handles on all four sides (the rectangular ones, anyway), and produce perfect results. We have 9×13, 8×8, and 9" round Magic Line pans. Plenty of professional bakers use them, and right now they’re wondering why you don’t have any.
You can get Magic Line pans from Sur La Table, either in the store or online. If you’re ordering online, for some reason they don’t use the Magic Line brand name anywhere on the site. These are the square pans and these are the circular ones (which are also available 3" deep or with removeable bottoms). I can’t find the 9×13 pan on the web site.
Future installments of the Gold Niblet Award will cover digital scales, timers, spice grinders, and anything else I can dig out of my closet.