16. Cracking Up

Problems Across the Board

I was feeling a little peckish and started fixing myself a mid-afternoon snack. A little cheese, a couple of pickle spears, a hard-boiled egg and… DAMMIT!

The cutting board has a crack in it. It isn’t all that surprising considering how infrequently I oil it, but it’s still annoying. And potentially dangerous, since cracks are great places for bacteria like Salmonella (which I hope never to have to deal with again) to hide and thrive. It looks like we’ll be needing a new cutting board.

Beth turned me on to the psychological concept of satisficing, a portmanteau of satisfying and sufficing. It’s an approach to decision-making that chooses the first acceptable option it finds. The opposite approach is optimizing or maximizing. Optimizers gather as much data as possible to find the best possible solution.

When it comes to the kitchen and cooking, I am very much an optimizer. I need to do research. I need to learn the pros and cons of my choices. I want to know what other people have chosen and how they feel about their choices. I will read buying guides from trusted1 sources like Serious Eats, The Wirecutter, Cook’s Illustrated, and Consumer Reports2. I can develop intense FOMO if I think there is one more microwave I haven’t considered to replace the one that just died.3

So I quickly started reading about end-grain vs edge-grain boards. The advantages (very secure and gentle on your knife’s edge) and disadvantages (your knife doesn’t glide across the surface, so rocking chops are not possible) of the soft boards used for cutting fish at sushi bars. Looking up local board-makers and reviews of their work. There are some tabs open in my browser. Let’s leave it at that.

It’s said that optimizers, on average, are less happy than satisficers. But there are certainly times when I am glad that I have gone down the rabbit holes I have. That’s mostly when I can help someone else avoid the same rabbit hole and come to an optimized decision in a satisficing amount of time.

A friend recently reached out because she wanted to give her husband a pizza oven for Father’s Day. Which did I think would be a good choice? Having wanted one for years, I had looked into the available choices many times. And now owning one, I had a lot more to say about what to look for and what to avoid. She went for the Gozney Roccbox and reports that both she and her husband are very pleased with what they’ve been making.

Over the years I’ve helped friends pick out knife sets (or rather I’ve talked them out of knife sets and into knives they’d actually use), dishwashers, instant-read thermometers, and more.

And now I want to help you. Is there something your kitchen needs and you have no idea where to start? Do you need to know how to equip your new Airbnb to make it actually functional? Let me know and in a future issue we can share the process with other readers.

If you need help, leave a comment below, reply to this email (if you received it via email), or send a message to mike[at]takasaki.ca. I’ll come up with a catchy name for this feature shortly. I considered Kitchen Aid but the legal department shut me down.

Leave a comment

As for the cutting board, I read that small cracks are easy to fill with food-safe wood glue so I’m going to try that tomorrow. Now I just have to look up all the different ways it can be done to find the best one. It never ends…

Free To A Good Home

Years ago, I used to post what I called Ideas Free to a Good Home. They were what I believed were million-dollar ideas (or at least tens of dollars) that I knew I was too lazy to do anything with. And so I released them to the universe, gratis, hoping they would find purchase in someone’s mind and come to fruition. I’m not going to claim with any certainty that this ever happened, but I will leave it up to you to decide:

My idea for a phosphorescent toilet, posted in 2011 vs Kohler’s lighted toilet seats, introduced in 2014.

My idea for neckties with microfiber linings, also from 2011 vs these, which started showing up around 2014 as well.

For almost all of my life, I’ve been a nail biter. I could go for short stretches without doing it, but it never stuck. When the pandemic started and it looked like randomly and frequently putting unwashed fingertips into mouths wasn’t the best idea ever, I decided I had to stop. On Beth’s advice, I got a couple of crystal nail files that I use to keep them from getting too FloJo-ish.4

Stuck in traffic a few days ago, I realized that my nails were getting a little long and I’d need to do something about them soon. While I waited for the cars ahead of me to make turns, I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel and the light went on:

Emery Steering Wheels.

The entire wheel would not be covered in emery board, of course, lest all of the skin on your palms be sanded away in a single shopping trip. But a couple of strips placed at low-use positions like 9 and 3 would let you do some necessary grooming while waiting for your curbside pickup.

Mark the date and expect to see this as a Revlon/Toyota collab in 2024.

What I’m consuming…

  • Padma Lakshmi’s response to one of the the stupidest of food takes. The most important point she raises is how an offensively idiotic column makes it past an entire editorial staff with no one raising a red flag.

What’s on the menu…

  • This week’s takeout is the new Chinese-American tribute menu from Sunny’s Chinese. I can’t wait for their takes on Sweet-and-Sour Ribs, Beef and Broccoli, and Chicken Chow Mein!

  • This cucumber-based slaw looks very interesting. I have the cukes and tomatoes, but I need to pick up some Calabrian chiles.

1

Not blindly trusted. With so many sources relying on affiliate links to retailers that earn them money, it can be hard to know just how impartial a recommendation can be. But I’ve found these ones to be at least fairly reliable. It’s why I like to check in more than one place.

2

If you have a library card, you can (at least in Toronto) access the entire CR site via your library’s website.

3

The microwave I did choose turned out to be fantastic except for one thing that no review could have prepared me for: the Start and Cancel buttons are in the opposite places they were on the old microwave, so I almost always enter the time and then hit Cancel and have to start again. Or I walk away without realizing that the microwave hasn’t started.

4

I once tried to do a little maintenance during a particularly boring zoom call. I didn’t want people to see me filing my nails during a call so I kept my hands down and out of frame. I quickly realized that while it still appeared that I was doing something, that something was not filing my nails. I stopped immediately.