We finished the kitchen.
When it was done, working in this kitchen made cooking like performing ballet.
In my head, it felt like ballet of the professional kind, not three-year olds doing squats and hops on a gym stage.
It could’ve looked like toddlers’ ballet in there, but it felt graceful and smooth.
I’ll concede that sometimes I didn’t have my shit together. There may have been a sloppy grand jeté or two across the room to get something I didn’t have ready when it should have been.
I miss this kitchen.
I miss it because we’ve moved.
We took all of those pots and pans (well, I did give one of my three[?!] woks away) and moved the family to New York.
Our new house is beautiful. The kitchen is so pretty. I am already cooking daily, figuring out appliance temperaments, fishing out particular cookbooks from the thirty boxes of books still awaiting unpacking.
Still, I am sad. I am sad to have left a kitchen my husband and I built for us– for me mostly.
There is a small, shallow mourning happening of which I am ashamed. I am fortunate to have what I have but here I am, in a very nice kitchen in a house we fought hard to buy, moping over my old kitchen.
We are not decided on what we will do in this new house. The kitchen has been updated in the past 15 years but I find myself fumbling and cramming, even when I thinned out the troops before moving. We are talking about walls, beams, and stovetops but have yet to say ‘ok, let’s do this.’ The house is old and we are concerned about losing character with a renovation.
For now, we will make the kitchen work and settle in before making plans. We’ll listen to what a 125 year old house has to tell us before we tear out bones. I will kick myself in the ass when I feel sad over losing one kitchen for another because I should be thankful, thankful, thankful.
Last year we were overrun by cucumbers and this year we’re drowning in eggplant. There’s an x-rated joke in there somewhere (a garden-variety one, at that. HA HA HA!).
To make a dent in the nine pounds of eggplant I harvested in one day, I chose a recipe for eggplant stacks from Silvena Rowe’s Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume. Made of chopped sweet potatoes with feta cheese between layers of eggplant, mint, pomegranate, and yogurt are also main components in the finished dish.
Served with the eggplant stacks is a yogurt sauce that uses suzme as its base. According to Rowe, suzme is drained yogurt, or labne. I followed a separate recipe in the book for the suzme by draining whole milk yogurt in the refrigerator overnight.
I chopped fresh mint
and then got out my favorite unitasker for the garlic
and measured out the pomegranate molasses.
If you can’t find pomegranate molasses in your grocery store there is a simple recipe in the book on how to make it at home using pomegranate juice. I can almost always find pomegranate juice at the grocery store but have to go out of my way for the molasses so, in ten years, when I run out of the molasses, I’ll have a recipe I can use.
The yogurt sauce also called for the seeds of one pomegranate. I looked in every store close by and found no pomegranates. I shut my eyes and left them out of the sauce completely. I did not substitute anything for them because I felt that would be doing a disservice to the tart, juicy little things.
Obviously, the sauce would taste like it needed something and the texture wouldn’t be the same, but since I didn’t follow the recipe, any fault in the yogurt sauce this time around would be my own.
The finished sauce went into the refrigerator
and I started after the sweet potatoes.
I had a touch more than the recipe called for but by the time I removed the skanky ends of the sweet potatoes (I got the last few in the bin at the store) I had just enough.
Rowe calls for boiling the sweet potatoes until tender but with no central AC in our house I am selective about when I create a sauna in my kitchen. I microwaved the sweet potatoes exactly like baked potatoes and let them cool before removing their skins.
The instructions only call for the sweet potatoes to be ‘coarsely chopped.’ I would’ve liked a more exact measurement (surprised?) but bearing in mind the pieces would be in between slices of eggplant, I kept the pieces on the smaller side for easy cutting and chewing.
Had I cut the potatoes before boiling I think 3/4″ dice would’ve been a good size for the pieces to allow for a little breakdown while cooking.
I put all the sweet potatoes aside and got out two eggplants.
Rowe calls for two small eggplants in the ingredient list but specifies that you only need sixteen 1/4″ thick rounds for the recipe. Specifying a 4″ eggplant or something in a similar size-range would’ve been a little more helpful (or even two 2″ eggplants. Although, that is an odd size unless she’s calling for something other than the standard globe eggplant. The ingredient list just says ‘two small eggplants’).
I took a tape measure to the eggplant to make sure I was cutting at an proper thickness
starting after the metal tab on the tape measure since that thing is just annoying.
I switched over to a mandoline after my first slice looked like this.
The mandoline sliced most of them a hair under 1/4″, but the difference in size was negligible.
When building the eggplant stacks a few steps later in the recipe, Purple Citrus instructs you to stack the eggplant slices in ascending size.
Since I had extras thanks to my one big eggplant, I cherry-picked the pieces that were most equal in diameter instead of making eggplant pyramids
I salted, peppered, and floured the chosen
then fried them in a bit of olive oil.
I refried two in this batch as they didn’t look like they absorbed enough oil.
After each batch finished frying I drained them on a naked plate.
I generally forego paper towels when draining fried food because I’ve found the towel causes the food to lose crispness. My bacon has been much crisper using this method but my arteries are probably crispier, too.
While batches of eggplant fried and drained, I made the filling for the stacks.
I broke the feta cheese apart into pieces roughly the same size as the sweet potatoes
and added mint to the mix.
The eggplant was done by the time I had crumbled and chopped things for the filling, so I did a quick wipe of the pan, melted a tablespoon of butter
and then dumped in the mixture.
Immediately after stirring it looked like this
but got less crazy after gentle mixing.
The cheese, potatoes, and mint only needed a brief time on the stove and after they were combined I started making the eggplant stacks.
They came together quickly and when I was done I had four very pretty vegetable towers:
As instructed, I placed everything in the oven to warm through before serving and when they came out they were ready to eat.
I served the eggplant as entrees with two per person but they’d work as a substantial side just fine.
I would’ve liked the recipe to be more specific about eggplant size and cut-size for the sweet potatoes. On a positive note, I was happy that I did not end up with a mountain of filling leftovers. When a recipe is for filled or stuffed foods, I often end up with excess filling or not enough. Happily, this recipe left me with only a small amount in the bowl after putting together the specified yield (four stacks). Since I had eggplant rounds left over from my big eggplant I was easily able to make two more stacks. Based on the amount of filling leftovers and typical eggplant size I would change the recipe yield from four to six stacks.
I’m not saying that a bigger yield of these vegetable towers is a bad thing at all. They certainly were as nice to eat as they were to look at.
I’ve had Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe for a year and have yet to cook out of it.
Published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, with 256 pages and over 130 recipes, it came in the same package of books as Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams but didn’t get the same attention as the others in the lot.
There was no good reason to ignore the book, I simply had other books that I kept reaching for. After a year of waiting I think it’s time to use this book. The need to use Purple Citrus is directly tied to the fact that I have a glut of eggplants in the garden and the book has a long list recipes for them.
I’ve never been to the Mediterranean, much less the Eastern Mediterranean, but I am continuously drawn to its food. I think much of it has to do with the area’s amount of negative news coverage. Exposing violence is necessary but culture and beauty always seem to get lost in the avalanche of dark news stories. I want to see the good, the beloved, the comforting. I want to know what quiet moments hold for a person when the focus is on creating something lovely.
I wonder how someone could not want to know more when Rowe writes in her introduction that her recipes combine “the sweet and the sour, the fresh and the dried, honey and cinnamon, saffron and sumac, scented rose and orange flower waters with the most magical of spices.”
Hot dang, I’m ready to cook.
Rowe explains in one of her videos that the “purple citrus” part of the book’s title comes from the qualities of sumac. Sumac is indeed a deep purple spice with a citrusy, floral taste. It can be difficult to source in-person if you’re not in a metropolitan area. The fact that Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume calls for some hard-to-find ingredients is a popular ‘con’ in recent reviews.
Complaints or raves over books are a tiny factor in my buying habits. I am disgustingly frustrated when someone reviews a cookbook without cooking from it. Unfortunately, when you start digging through cookbook reviews this is what you find the most.
Could you imagine someone reviewing a novel the same way? “Well, this paragraph sounded good and there are some nice looking illustrations and photographs, too. What I didn’t like was that there were some big words and I had to get out a dictionary or use surrounding context to figure them out.” Read the book, cook a handful of recipes as written, then make your assessment (YA JACKASS).
While there is no good substitute for sumac, there is a helpful section in Purple Citrus called The Eastern Mediterranean Pantry. It offers substitutes or recipes for many ingredients and information on other common pantry items.
Like sumac, there are a few ingredients used in the book that have no substitutes. Many of them are fresh ingredients like passion fruit, pomegranates, nettles, and purslane. However, I’m not going to cook out of the book every day and I can make the recipes when the ingredients are in season or show up in stores. I don’t live in the Eastern Mediterranean and don’t expect to find everything at my grocery store down the street, especially when I’m cooking from a book that deals exclusively with food from completely different countries.
Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume is divided into several main recipe sections: Mezze (a series of small shared plates); Starters; Boreks (filled pastries), Pilafs and Salads; Meat and Poultry; Fish; Vegetables; and Sweets. Paging through the book, the meat section seems to lean heavily on lamb (unsurprisingly) and the sweets section has several of recipes calling for roses, which is charming to me.
There are a few folktales, poems, and anecdotes throughout the book, breaking up the stream of recipes.
When headnotes are included with a recipe Rowe gives substitution advice, where she got the recipe, or a story setting up the dish’s origins. The headnotes are mostly utilitarian although there are some touching insights here and there.
The book’s photography is by Jonathan Lovekin, the same person who photographed Nigel Slater’s Tender and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, among other titles getting a lot of attention lately. I couldn’t find any information on the food stylist, but the photographs in Purple Citrus have a jewel-like quality.
Perhaps it has to do with all of the pomegranate seeds on plates, jade pistachios, and olive oil.
There is an official Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume flickr stream for a look at more photos.
Like Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Sweet Citrus lays flat
making cooking from the book easy.
My edition came with a dust jacket and let me tell you, I’m almost off of the fence about dust jackets on cookbooks.
I’d rather ribbons for place markers and a surface that is easy to wipe off should I lay the book down in a puddle of broth.
The actual book cover is QUITE PINK. It has a glossy surface, making broth puddles a little less threatening if the book is naked.
Along with the presence of a dust jacket, the other niggling thing I can’t shake is that the page numbers are close to the spine instead of on the outside edge of the pages.
To consult the index and then go to the listed page you have to open up the book up all the way to see your page number instead of be able to quickly flip through the edge of the pages.
A small thing, like I said.
Page numbers and dust jackets aside, Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume is an impressive book to pursue but let’s allow the recipes do their thing and see what the book is made of.
I’ve not been compensated or asked to write about this book in any way. I couldn’t find a lot of information about it online so I decided to write about it in depth for others who may be interested in what the book holds.
Our garden is almost in full swing. Almost because the big tomatoes aren’t ready yet (the cherry tomatoes are coming in at the painful rate of one or two a day, though) so really, I’m just unimpressed by the whole thing.
We’ve gotten lots of lettuce and I’ve already pulled what has bolted and started another crop. Not much beats fresh lettuce, except tomatoes. Tomatoes beat all.
Trevor finished laying the big stones in the garden but we’ve yet to put down the small pebbles in between. It’s on the project list, just not very high. A time lapse of the garden, starting where we left off:
May 31, PLANTIN’ DAY!
Later that same day
The front right bed has been cleaned out of most of the lettuce. Most of the lettuces bolted after a few weeks so I removed what we hadn’t eaten to make room for new seedlings and seeds. In the front left bed I pulled out a cauliflower plant that seemed to be doing nothing more than lounging and taking up too much room while it was at it. One head of cauliflower is not worth that much room in the garden. Zucchini, cabbage, cucumbers, broccoli and San Marzano tomatoes make up the rest of that bed.
The back left raised bed holds a tomato forest and two tomatillo plants, while the back right bed has peppers, eggplant, brussel sprouts, and rainbow chard.
Here’s a closer look around the garden throughout its change and growth this year:
Close-ups of Trevor’s hard work.
A happy mix of greens.
Tiny frog umbrellas?
Grow, grow! These will be yellow pear tomatoes.
Lettuce seedings when they were first planted and strawberry runners making a dash for it. Don’t mind the weeds.
The same seedlings today.
The chard is quite out of control.
The main difference between this year’s and last year’s garden is that things are growing slowly this year. It has been much cooler than last year, to be fair. Our tomatoes are looking more productive although we’ve lost a few to blossom end rot.
Oh boy, look at those mortgage lifters.
I SEE YOU BLUSHING THERE.
Sweet 100s taking their time.
The San Marzanos we ordered online.
The San Marzanos were worth the extra expense of online ordering. I kept on top of pruning them, but they are producing so much more than our plants last year.
Tomato-drooling aside, I think vine-borers found our zucchini.
I think it will give us a few more fruits but I should probably start making funeral arrangements.
Our broccoli did battle with some caterpillars, but Trevor took a(n organic) spray to it that seems to have stopped them in their little inchy tracks. We have some additional seedlings planted that should give us another broccoli harvest before winter. You can see them here to the right of the napa cabbage:
To sing happier songs, the flea beetles are nearly non-existant this season and I’m thinking that planting six eggplants may have been overcompensating for the sad, sad harvest we got last year. It looks like it’s raining eggplants if you look under all the leaves.
We’re not overrun by cucumbers this month (but I’m going to quietly whisper that we could do with a few more [BUT NOT TOO MANY MORE, THANKYOU]).
Our second year with this garden has been more organized. We’ve planted another round of plants instead of leaving bare spaces in the beds once we’d eaten the crop, I kept on top of the tomato pruning (uh, well, I’ve been taking it easy this week and the tomatoes are getting verrry tall), our tomato trellises are much better this season, and we had several different lettuces that we ate and loved. We’re not master gardeners by any means, but we know a little more this time than last.
This year it is a little difficult to weed the beds with this basketball under my shirt, but Bun (as we call the growing baby) lets me work for a little bit before protesting too much and kicking or stretching on me. Tiny comes out to help me weed by putting the discarded plants in a bag or by picking the red (NO THE RED ONE NOT THAT ONE THE RED ONE) tomatoes.
Undoubtedly, Tiny’s greatest discovery about the garden was the fact that it grew food, and strawberries (‘bawbaws’) at that. Trevor taught him how to pick strawberries and we attributed the sad ratio of what we managed to bring in to what grew in the patch to our small gardener.
He didn’t even need instructions on how to pick off the tops.
He knew where the good stuff was.
Truly a man on a mission.
The strawberries stopped producing a few months ago but every now and then Tiny will wave his hands through the bush looking for more. The plant is ‘everbearing’ so we should be getting another crop in August. I’m sure Tiny will be the first to alert us to their presence (or he will eat them all before we even know we have berries there).
Tiny’s excited about strawberries, Trevor gets excited about the lettuce, but I will be most excited about the garden when the tomatoes are red and the peppers have deepened into their ripe colors. I think we’ll be there in a week and I can almost taste it.
I haven’t been cooking very much lately. Instead we’ve been working on growing.
Growing our garden
and remodeling the garden.
Last year we had down newspaper and straw in the walkways:
It looked fine at the beginning of the season, but after rain and a hot summer we were left with slimy, half-decomposed strands that slipped around underfoot. We decided this year to upgrade to something that would be more welcoming to bare feet and multiple visits in the garden a day.
Trevor dug out about 4 inches of dirt, laid crushed stone, and is in the process of laying flagstones.
Tiny is fully supportive of our decision and decided to help every step of the way.
With all of Tiny’s help, the garden walkways started to take shape.
The rock pile dwindled
and on this rainy Saturday the garden looks like this:
We need more crushed stone and more flagstones, obviously. River stones will go in between the flagstones and we’re ready for Tiny to undo our work every day by transporting the small stones around the yard. But that’s a baby’s duty. We will try to keep him corralled to the garden when he’s interested in playing with rocks so we’re not constantly picking up small stones out of the grass.
Our seedlings are growing and growing
but not quite fast enough for my liking. I had hoped they’d be twice this size by now since we’re planning to plant them in only a few weeks. Last year we bought plants and put them in the garden but Trevor wanted to start them all from seed ourself this year.
Even if our seedlings are a little small and slow, our strawberries are quietly promising us berries in a few weeks.
While I’m not cooking much lately, we are growing and growing. By the time the garden slows down for the fall we’ll have a new sprout of our own.
Since he was such a big help with the flagstones, we’ll have to talk Tiny into helping with midnight feedings. He can warm up a bottle for his sibling, right?
I’ve had maple butter bouncing around in my head for a while, a new fun something to make after being told that I must try it. I had no idea what maple butter was, but research explained that by heating maple syrup to 233 °F, cooling to 40 °F, then warming it back up to 60 °F, the syrup morphed into maple butter (or maple cream, if you’re fancy). The promise of a spreadable maple syrup stuck with me since I discovered its existence, but I wanted a yard full of snow before I tried to make something that required rapid cooling. Cold, wet, and messy on their own are fine, but they make up the Trifecta of Horrible when combined. As such, I do everything I can to avoid making an ice bath.
A heavy snow on Friday night and Saturday morning took care of the ice bath problem and I got out the trusty candy thermometer to make maple butter. I confess that my research on maple butter was minimal and that I stirred when I ought not to (during the cooling phase), but everything still turned out, and how.
I kept eating the maple butter off of the spoon and finally had to pack it up so I would leave it alone. The next morning I had my doubts about why I was swooning over this stuff (OH THIS IS NEW SO IT MUST BE AWESOME AND BETTER THAN ANYTHING ELSE), so I compared a drizzle of maple syrup to a bit of the maple butter in oatmeal to see if I was simply infatuated by something bright and shiny.
No, it was true love. Straight maple syrup tasted tinny and one-dimensional but the maple butter was full, toasty, and strikingly buttery. I figured the name ‘maple butter’ referred to its consistency (it is spreadable like peanut butter), but it tasted so buttery that, had I not made it, I would have guessed butter had been added. I went ahead and added butter to the bowl in this photo, just to push it over the top.
What also surprised me was the texture of the maple butter. The maple butter appears to be a dilatant. Like a cornstarch and water mixture, it is solid if you touch it but if you begin to push it around or stir it, it has fluid-like qualities. Dilatants have “a dense mixture of granules and liquids” which makes perfect sense as to why the maple butter acts as it does.
With hopes of finding out more about sugars in maple syrup, I opened McGee’s On Food and Cooking and read how the process of making maple butter is very similar to making maple sugar (his temperatures are a little different from Wikipedia, if you’re fact checking). The difference between making maple sugar and maple butter is the step of cooling and stirring in maple butter. Maple sugar is made by heating maple syrup to above boiling, then allowing it to cool and form sugar crystals. Maple butter is heated, rapidly cooled, then rewarmed and stirred vigorously– instead of ending up with big crystals of maple sugar in syrup, the sugar crystals are very fine and densely distributed in the reduced maple syrup. Maple butter, the great dilatant confection.
Maple Butter (Maple Cream)
Full-flavored, buttery, and spreadable, I have to keep this out of my sight or I eat it straight off of the spoon. I put a pat on a waffle and added it to oatmeal, but maple butter would be great in a milk-based drink, added to BBQ sauce, in a sweet-savory sandwich, between two cookies….
You must use 100% pure maple syrup for this recipe.
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- Prepare an ice-bath (or wait until you have snow drifts deep enough to put a small pot, your call) for a small pot.
- Fit a small, deep pot with a candy thermometer.
- Over medium-high heat, bring the syrup up to 233 °F (112 °C), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, about 3-4 minutes.
- Immediately remove the pot from the stove and set in the ice bath. Stir occasionally until the syrup cools to 40 °F (4 °C), about 5-8 minutes.
- Back on the stove over medium-low heat, warm the syrup to 60 °F (15 °C), stirring frequently.
- Once the maple syrup reaches 60 °F, remove from heat again and stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes.
- Set the pot aside and let stand for 10 minutes. The syrup will begin to cloud and turn a light tan color.
- Stir until the maple butter is smooth and easily spreadable.
- Use at once or store covered in the refrigerator.
This is exactly how I made the maple butter, goof-ups and all. Keep an eye on the syrup since as it reaches 233 °F it boils up considerably. If you’d like to experiment, try leaving the maple syrup undisturbed as it cools, then beat it with a wooden spoon while bringing it back up to 60 °F until it is tan in color and smooth.
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes
Yield: Scant 3/4 cup
This is the final part of a kitchen gift-guide designed to help with giving something meaningful to the cooks and bakers on your list. Most of these can be purchased at the last minute which is handy as we are down to the wire now.
Like the guides before, this is not a comprehensive list of books or subscriptions that I recommend for people. These are things that I like and think would make fun gifts. I’ve not been paid, compensated, or asked to feature any of the following items.
The best gifts are ones that give a little bit of happy every time the receiver thinks about them. Subscriptions are my favorite things to gift to people because the giftee gets the present anew all year long.
Canal House Cooking – $49.95 for a one-year subscription, published three times a year.
Strongly reminiscent of the River Cottage cookbooks, Canal House Cooking is my favorite subscription-based food publication. I’m hesitant to call it a magazine as the issues are small, hard-bound books with no ads. It is more akin to getting three cookbooks a year in the mail. Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton self-publish Canal House with a focus on what is local and in season. One of the issues last year was titled “Farm Markets and Gardens” and we used every fantastic tomato recipe in the book. Hirsheimer and Hamilton always manage to keep from sounding as if they’re looking down their noses as they write, though; they devoted a following volume to “The Grocery Store.” It is balanced writing with understated photography in a pretty package.
The contest is now closed. Scroll down for the winner!
This ice cream has always been about pecans.
I came up with the recipe as an accompaniment for pecans
specifically for a pecan pie.
Usually, pecans make me feel mushy and happy because I associate them with home:
my parents have pecan trees growing on their property in Texas
my grandmothers both say PEE-can, tickling me no to end
and while I don’t care for plain pecans, when holiday baking begins I end up eating a treeload’s worth in pecan pralines.
The gooey and sentimental feelings on pecans persisted until a few days ago
right up until the fifth attempt at making a pecan pie simply to photograph under the ice cream.
Five times on top of a burned Thanksgiving pie is past my threshold of Pie Failures in Ten Days.
Just the ice cream photographs, then.
This is part two of a kitchen gift-guide I’m writing as the holidays and their shopping are at full tilt. The first post covered equipment and the following guide has edible items.
Like the equipment guide, this is not a comprehensive list of things that should be in someone’s pantry. These are things that I like and have found that not everyone has them in their kitchen. I’ve not been paid, compensated, or asked to feature any of the following items.
Aleppo pepper – $6.25 for 1.9oz
From Turkey and used frequently in Eastern Mediterranean food, crushed Aleppo pepper also seems to have quite the fan club among BBQ-lovers. I am not a raving BBQ fan but I am sweet on this pepper. When eaten straight it tastes a smidge like an Ancho pepper. It is somewhat chocolatey, but the peppery flavor is certainly there along with moderate heat. I use this in a bunch of recipes from Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean and The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. When I’m feeling fancy I use Aleppo pepper instead of standard crushed red pepper. In less refined matters, I am not ashamed to say that I also put it on pizza in large amounts. In short, it’s good for all occasions.
A handful of people have asked me about what gifts to get for people who love to cook at home, so I thought a shopping guide might be helpful for those wandering the aisles of specialty kitchen stores, sifting through the offering of unitaskers upon unitaskers.
This is part one in a series of posts I’ll be writing in the upcoming week(s) as holiday shopping gets into high gear. Kitchen equipment is first, with Ingredients and Media to follow.
First and foremost, know that this is not an exhaustive list of equipment that someone should have in their home kitchen. You will notice that there are no knives, pots, or baking pans in my list. I’ve not been paid, compensated, or asked to feature any of the following items. I simply love them and, at one point or another (or now), would’ve loved to open a box containing them. I think most other cooking-inclined people would, too.
The prices displayed are from Amazon.com. Prices fluctuate on Amazon a lot, so the prices may have changed since the publishing of this post.
High-Temperature Digital Thermometer
High-Temperature Digital Thermometer– $20.17
I am big on enabling people (in positive things, of course). A high-temperature thermometer, a/k/a a candy thermometer, opens up an entirely new realm of cooking. You can make candy, perfect chicken fried steak, fudge, fried chicken, frostings upon FROSTINGS, and many more things that are not very good for you.
The thing about making and eating things that aren’t very good for you is that when you do eat them, they better be the BEST horrible thing for you that you ever ate. A thermometer will help you get your oil hot enough for stupendous fried chicken. Get your sugar to the correct temperature and you’ll have a syrup or candy or caramel. This is the Number One kitchen gift I recommend (that’s why I put it first. ahHA!). With ONE gift you’ve given the lucky thermometer receiver a million new recipes.
Note: Amazon shows some negative reviews for this particular brand but I’ve never had a problem with mine.