Resolutions are funny things. I resolved to buy fewer sweets, then found a store full of them yesterday at NH Restaurant Equipment in Manchester. Aisles as long as a bowling alley – up to the ceiling with every conceivable cooking utensil and apparatus you could dream of. And then some. It’s not the cavities I’m worried about. I’m afraid I’ll outgrow my kitchen. Again. It’s been remodeled three times since 1992. (Three and a half times if you count the additional shelves I had installed in 2008 to hold more cookbooks.)
When I saw that glistening wall of stainless steel ladles and giant slotted spoons and whisks, shelves brimming with white French crocks and every kind of baking pan, displays of woks and pots and cutting boards, I felt giddy with a “sugar rush” no Ghirardelli could touch. And I wanted it all – to get this year off to a great cooking start, full of delicious aspirations.
It’s a lot to chew on, this calendar of culinary twists and turns ahead of me. Like a blank page or canvas, a blank menu is intimidating. Especially when the pressures of life surround us in these days and in these times. Like the cost of food continuing to rise even when gas prices are falling like failed soufflés. The USDA 2015 Food Price Outlook Report estimates an across-the-cheese-board increase of 3-to-6 percent. California’s Biblical drought and its effect on produce; likewise, drought in the Midwest and the domino effect on feed grains and the cattle industry followed by near epidemic porcine disease; regulatory changes in the egg biz; and all around farm expansion due to lower fuel prices ironically fuels higher dairy prices at the register. Warning: road to kitchen table peppered with pot holes.
And I know I’m not alone when I say I’m working harder and longer for the pay. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) projected that the average American worker will enjoy a 3 percent salary increase this year. I got 2 percent. So what’s it going to be?
A.) Am I going to go in debt spending on food?
B.) Should I use the savings from the gas pump at the grocery store or put it towards retirement?
C.) Must I sacrifice my 2015 cooking aspirations or do I have the creative imagination and chutzpah to make it a flavorfully memorable year nonetheless? I think you know me well enough by now.
But I’m not going to lie. With long hours comes the temptation to cheat. To look both ways before running into the arms – in this case, doors – of an old lover and grabbing a quickie from the frozen food case. Yes, even a good-looking, organic one. It happens. From time to time. I’m not going to beat myself up over it but you can bet that whatever I manage to cook up following my little affair(s) more than makes up for the indiscretion(s).
“Wow, Mom, you made coq au vin after covering Gov. Hassan’s second inauguration for WYCN-TV?” or, “Honey, to what do we owe this incredible chiles rellenos?” A guilty conscious.
Which brings me back to NH Restaurant Equipment on Second Street in Manchester. Cooking is so much more pleasurable and motivating when using nice tools of the trade. Granted, you can easily find anything you need or want on the internet, but nothing satisfies that sense of culinary exploration for me like being in the thick of things and that exactly where I was, somewhere between the pop-over pans and the taco holders, the Waring blenders and the stock pots.
All sorts of lofty and if not-so-lofty then logical ideas came to mind as I surveyed the kitchen booty. Why not try more game? Rabbit perhaps. Or find a NH source for grass-fed, organic delicacies like liver. How’s about making my own pasta again? Haven’t done that for years and think of all the money I’d save. Gather the courage – and the equipment – to make a respectable vegetable terrine using my own produce from the garden. Jam, too, from my raspberry patch. Why, I’m embarrassed to admit, haven’t I ever dared to cook a whole fish?
I easily fell for a fish spatula, pie marker, pastry brush, and over-sized mesh sieve but what really won me over was meeting the owner, Badger Drewes. When I told him that I wanted to feature NH Restaurant Equipment in “The Barking Tomato,” he shot me a broad grin, a burly handshake, and an invitation to make myself comfortable in his office. After 38 years of blood, sweat, and tears as a line cook in Concord, followed by some unsettling years in the restaurant equipment rehab biz, he branched out on his own some 15 years ago and has never looked back or been happier. It shows. With eight equally happy employees – he calls them “family” – and a list of restaurants as long as his arm that he’s accommodated, from equipment to seating to cleaning supplies, Badger is a “salt of the earth” sort who says “old-school personal service” keeps the business humming. That, I think, and that undisguisable twinkle in his eye. I know I’ll be back.
NH Restaurant Equipment
783 Second St.
Hours: Mon.-Fri, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. -1 p.m.
About The Barking Tomato: Carolyn Choate loves to chew on food. Literally and figuratively. In the kitchen from her garden in Nashua or her favorite market, a restaurant across town or across the globe. When not masticating, Carolyn is likely swilling wine or spirits as neither is far from her heart – or lips. Forget diamonds and Louboutins, she’d rather blow a wad on Pinot Noir and grass-fed filet with fresh sautéed morels. And write about it. You taste the picture: The “Barking Tomato” aspires to push your “foodie” button. Carolyn’s day job is producing local affairs programming for WYCN-CD. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.