Foodie Friday and this week I want to talk about two of my favorite kitchen tools. You already own them and you’re probably not using them as much as you should while cooking. I’m talking about your hands. I’m not talking about using them to hold a knife or any other kitchen implement. I mean using them to touch and feel ingredients and dishes as you go. Yes, it means getting them dirty and this is why I generally cook with a towel tucked into my waistband – I’m constantly washing them. But let me explain why you should be getting your hands dirtier more often.
I’m thinking specifically about pasta dough. Many people dump the flour, oil, salt and eggs into a mixer and once the ingredients are combined they’ll switch to a dough hook to knead the dough. That’s less effective than using your hands. The warmth of your hands helps to develop the gluten and unless you are checking the dough constantly there is no way to tell when it had reached the right consistency (it should feel like Playdoh, by the way). You can’t feel if it’s too grainy or too dry without working it by hand for a bit.
There is no better tool for mixing ingredients together in a bowl than a hand. You can feel for pockets of ingredients that haven’t combined evenly and it’s almost impossible to mix together a meatloaf or form meatballs without using your hands to do so. It’s an important business point too.
You can’t manage a business without tools but you must get your hands dirty as well. I have worked with managers who considered their staff to be a set of tools that would do the work efficiently and they were right for the most part. However, they never got their hands dirty by getting deeply into the work and two things would happen. The first was that their staff came to see them as detached and aloof. The second was that they had no feel for things. Like the pasta dough, the only way to assess how things are developing is to get your hands into the work.
Anyone who claims they’re a cook and has long fingernails isn’t getting their hands into the food often enough (or is making people sick!). Any manager who sits behind a closed door and reads reports isn’t getting their hands dirty either (which might make the business sick). How dirty are your hands?