Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Dollar Store Kitchen

I remember my Dollar Store equipped apartment kitchen fondly since cooking at the time consisted of boiling water and heating up a frozen pizza when I was really famished. At 26, when I finally decided that being helpless was no longer cute and realizing that knowing how to cook was a basic life skill likened to knowing how to wipe your own butt, the state of my kitchen utensils, skills and love for cooking gradually matured. Fabulously useful and expensive cookware usually appears on either a wedding registry or a carefully crafted letter to the jolly one at the North Pole:

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is a Vitamix. I like my margaritas and gazpacho much smoother than the hand-me-down blender from 1972 I have now can make them.

                                                          Sincerely Yours,


P.S. I left you cookies and beer on the mantel. There’s vodka in the freezer if you prefer.

After some answered letters AND a wedding, I was equipped with a kitchen fit for a functioning, middle-class adult and then some…that is until the bearded husband and I recently moved to Dallas.

I’ll spare everyone the details of the actual moving process because it sucked a lot and not in like a funny, shit hit the fan kind of way…more like it might have permanently mangled my soul kind of way. Long story short, we’re building a house, it’s not done yet, we’re now living in a temporary furnished apartment that costs more a month in rent than our mortgage and everything we own, minus a few essentials, is in storage.

It was not easy to come by and we didn’t get the luxury of actually seeing where we would be living for nine weeks in a brand new city before we were actually living in it. Not even pictures. The sweaty hike up the three flights of stairs after our 13 hour drive consisted of us both chanting, “Please don’t be a shithole, please don’t be a shithole, please don’t be a shithooooooole,” cringing as we turned the doorknob, then letting out a breath as it turned out to not be a shithole.

It’s the basic apartment that everybody lived in with a roommate when you were 23. The laminate countertops were meticulously splatter painted by a 3-year-old to mimic granite. The fake and poorly executed crown molding was surely a selling point for rent hikes in the early ‘90s. The walls have cracks in them from the many miniature earthquakes, which was quite surprising the first time it happened and I realized what actually caused the cracks (OK, so maybe that one isn’t typical). The furniture is courtesy of wholesale upon wholesale and maybe mom’s basement and the minimum two-flusher toilet in the hall bathroom prompted the need for this sign courtesy of the bearded one when we had guests last weekend:

About 3.4 seconds after we walked in, the air conditioner broke (Did I mention Texas is a tropical rainforest?) and then I morphed into the Hulk and ripped the handle off the toilet in the other bathroom:

But, my favorite part of our magnificent temporary abode is the kitchen. The complex promised us a fully stocked, useable kitchen. Let’s just say my Dollar Store kitchen days have come back to haunt me in full force.

During our most recent house hunt, our realtor spotted a knife block on the countertop of the home we were visiting.

“I really hate it when people leave the knife block on the counter,” she said. “It messes up the Feng Shui.”

“It pierces the heart of the home,” she added, matter-of-factly.

The bearded one and I just looked at each other. Really? Is that really a thing? Where the hell else do you put the knives? Then at the next house, we saw a knife block on the counter and almost simultaneously clutched our chests and croaked, “It’s piercing the heart of the home!” because we are incorrigible assholes.

She just shook her head and said, “I should have never told y’all that.”

She’s your quintessential lady Texan. I absolutely adore her.

Well, our apartment knife block won’t be piercing the heart of the home or anything for that matter. After a couple weeks of terrible eating habits brought on by packing, moving and traveling, my arteries were crying out for a vegetable, so we made our first attempt to cook in our new place. It was vegetable risotto…or a least it was supposed to be as I used a coffee cup as a ladle and chopped everything on the lone, envelope-sized cutting board.

I labored over the vegetables, sweating profusely while trying to saw them into rough pieces with the equivalent of a clear plastic cafeteria spork. I might as well have been beating them with a club like a caveman it was working so well. When they were furnishing this apartment, I imagine that some guy in the main office said his kids no longer played with their set of Fisher-Price knives, so he’d be willing to donate them to the corporate unit.

Then the bearded one Hulked out a few days later:

Waaaa, waaaaaaah. Once again, where the hell is that damn super glue?

At this point, we broke down and bought a decent knife, along with a measuring cup, a ladle, a sheet pan and some cutting boards. This fully stocked kitchen is getting expensive.

I spotted this strange object right away and you can probably guess why:

Yes, because I have never seen one of these things in my life.  It looks like a giant version of one of those honey dipper things. Perhaps somebody glued one of those metal balls you put into protein shakes onto a stick and placed it into this kitchen. Maybe it’s a miniature bastard version of a whisk. The apartment complex decided that whoever lives in this unit doesn’t need a full-sized whisk, just borrow one of them there do-dads from Barbie’s Dreamhouse and call it good. Whatever it is, it was simply put here to give the illusion of a real kitchen. I’m fighting the urge to go down to the office, waggle it in someone’s face and ask in my most polite, sweet as sugar, southern tone (because this is Texas and you always mind your manners), “Excuse me, miss…what the fuck is this?” I guarantee she wouldn’t have a clue.

If you were searching for your next throwback to post on Facebook, please feel free to use my kitchen. Hello, 1991:

When is the last time you saw a trash compactor…excuse me, a trash masher? I used to have one in my garage growing up. My dad would put random objects into it, his favorite being burnt out light bulbs, then we’d all stand at the door and listen to see what kind of a crunching sound it would make. It was far more educational than Nintendo, yet one of the best examples of suburban hillbillies I’ve ever run across. While walking through the complex, the bearded one and I have commented more than once that this joint was probably THE place to live in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s…because it has trash mashers, sold!

When this place was being built in the ‘70s, they uncovered an ancient civilization and this object was discovered in the archeological dig that followed amongst several pieces of broken pottery and piles of petrified caveman shit:

The cave paintings revealed that this was once used to peel prehistoric carrots and rutabaga providing a luxury to the people of the village. But, now the only thing it will peel is your finger right off your hand providing a trip to the ER and tetanus. An absent-minded historian misplaced it and it ended up in this apartment. Apparently the Smithsonian has been searching for it for nearly 30 years. They contacted me last week and when I told them I would hand it over for the price of one month’s rent at this place, they declined. I wonder why.

Yes, I did in fact state earlier that this apartment is NOT a shithole. It’s clean…ish, there’s a bed to sleep in, the neighborhood is nice, all broken things were fixed promptly and I have yet to see a rat...inside. It’s just a regression from where we used to be and the feelings of temporary amplify the stress of the situation. My current number one stressor (among about 1,000) is the fact that I couldn’t get a full-time job in my field even if I branded my resume onto my naked ass, donned a set of longhorns and paraded around downtown, combined with the fact that I don’t understand why or how to fix it. But, you know, I’d rather talk about my ridiculous apartment kitchen for obvious reasons.

Whoever said material things don’t matter never slept on a rented bed for two months. I’ve tried to think of this like I’m sleeping in a hostel during some grand adventure in an exotic country because frankly Texas is another country. Unfortunately, that didn’t work, so now I’m just trying not to think about it at all.

What I am thinking about is the fact that we are about three weeks away from closing on and moving into our brand new, gorgeous house. I never thought I would be so excited to live in a neighborhood where all the houses look more or less the same, are about two inches apart and sport backyards the size of my hand, but in reality it’s a new experience for me. There’s a lot to love there.

A close second thought is the fact that our butts will surely look exactly like this when we move out from walking up all those stairs several times a day:

I suppose it’s always good to have your resourcefulness tested from time to time, but I’m ready to be reunited with my functional kitchen where I will make out with my KitchenAid mixer, dance with my incredibly sharp knives that I will proudly display in a block on the counter and snuggle my gas cook top. It’s true that I do remember my Dollar Store equipped kitchen days fondly, but it doesn’t mean I want to relive them ever again.

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