One of the horrors of leaving your home for a foreign country is leaving a lifeâ€™s worth of accumulation behind. One of the joys of arriving is accumulating anew and realising that a huge amount of what youâ€™ve previously accumulated is ephemera. Left is a photo of the entirety of my current cookware in Cambodia. Most of it is so cheap, itâ€™s practically disposable but in accumulating anew, Iâ€™ve pared the kitchen back to what I consider to be the bare essentials. When you have the rare chance to populate your kitchen with tools in a single hit, you tend to focus on the utilitarian rather than the meretricious.
Only two items are particularly Cambodian. The opaque bucket on the left is a cheap ceramic filter (locally marketed as â€œRabbit Filterâ€) which lets you enjoy the fresh, cholera-free flavour of Phnom Penh tap water without the risk of death. Between the vegetable peeler and the waiterâ€™s friend on the right is a tool to shred green papaya and green mango. The other local element is the quality of the appliances – the combined purchase price of the pictured rice cooker and blender is not more than $30 â€“ and so it is within reason that theyâ€™ll catch fire at an inopportune moment.
Omitted are our set of knives – a full block of Victorinox knives, a single 20cm chefâ€™s knife, and sharpening steel â€“ they were returned to Australia on our last trip in preparation for leaving Cambodia. My predilection for travelling with carry-on luggage only and the airlinesâ€™ aversion to knife-toting passengers are a poor mismatch. I also couldnâ€™t find the bread knife when I took the photo. The remaining knives are the Thai Kiwi-brand cleaver and mini cleaver: these are the tools that Iâ€™ve seen locals do everything from gut pigs to carve fruit with, and so theyâ€™ll suffice for the next few months.
Also missing is the bakeware and turbo oven, a mini convection oven that is a remarkably good oven analogue for a machine that looks like a glass basin attached to a hairdryer. Iâ€™ve recently discovered that the â€œdefrostâ€ setting cooks at just above 60oC which is perfect for toying with meat in a manner that would make HervÃ© This proud.
While it will be heart-rending to part with the 1960s yellow glass dinner set that I methodically collected through a decade of thrift shop trawling and the Mexican iron tortilla press, I can do without much of the kitchen junk that I have in storage. And disposing of it gives me an excuse to acquire again.