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4 Kitchen Tricks To Know Before You Turn 50

I love to cook. I used to do a lot of it. In my 40s I learned a few tricks that made the type of cooking I like to do – Cal/Asian, Cal/Italian, lots of chopping – easier. I thought that in the spirit of the High WASP sturdy gal I would pass them on to you. Style is about ease. However and wherever you find it.

These, by the way, are not the kinds of tips you find in Real Simple. You know, those “Aha! uses?” As in, take some sort of oil (which you might not have) and apply it to god knows what (which you might not have either) in order to create some effect (which you would never thought you cared about)? No. These tips are for the stuff we have to do, using things we already have. I am not trying to help you be perfect. Just to avoid unnecessary mistakes. Perfection, risk, voyages, that’s another world.

1. What To Do With The Rest Of The Bunch of Parsley?
Say you need parsley. Unless you have an herb garden, you buy a bunch. And you never use it all. If you put it back into the plastic bag, it turns to slime. So cut the bottoms off, and put all your leftover stalks into a bowl of water. Then eat a little bit when you pass it. High in Vitamin A. Good for breath freshening.

2. How Do You Peel Garlic Easily?
Simple. You probably know this one already, but just in case. Put a clove on your cutting board. Smash it with the flat side of your knife blade. All the skin breaks and you can slide it off.

3. What To Do With The 1/4 Leftover Lemon?
Put it in the refrigerator and you will probably find it fossilized a week later. Instead, put it on the sponge next to your sink. Every time you put something down the garbage disposal, slice off a chunk of lemon and throw it down your drain. Also squooge a little on your fingers so they smell good. One can never have too much smelling good in one’s life.

4. How To Cut Up An Avocado?
Slice the avocado open lengthwise with a paring knife. With a large spoon, scoop out the entire pit-free avocado half. For the other side, whack the pit gently with your knife. Be careful not to let the knife slip, and keep your hands out of the way. Just saying. Pull the pit out. Slice your avocado. This I got from Livin’ Lousiana, (who also sells these nice fleur-de-lis coasters). In my 50s. See, I have just given you two decades worth of knowledge. I’m sure I learned some other things in that time, but they might not come with such a strong guarantee to work.

The sturdy gal likes things that are guaranteed to work. She has little patience for fol-de-rol. Or wisdom that relies on Freud. Sometimes her way is helpful, in modern times of doubt and anxiety. Just scoop out the avocado. Fast. Smooth. Good for the soul.

28 Responses

  1. I've loved avocados ever since I read Isadora and her avocado plant in Seventeen magazine, way back when . . . I also learned about hope chests (or Lane "love chests") in Seventeen magazine. As a high WASP, did you have one? (I alas, did not.)

  2. Hmmm – I rarely slice avocados; they seem to go straight into guacamole when I get my hands on them, so this is good to know.

  3. or, you could squeeze that left-over half lemon over half of the avocado & save it for tomorrow's lunch…

  4. mmm…..avacados and lemons. I would probably slice the lemon up and stick it in a vodka and whateverisinthefridge drink, then stand there eating the remaining avocado with a spoon.
    I like the herb tip. I do that with a bunch of different herbs.
    But then again I only have 42 years of experience! H'yuk!

  5. "Style is all about ease." Now THAT I can live with; maybe I am becoming a sturdy girl with age.
    All these tips are good. I want to actually cook more when the kids are all gone; they are picky whiners when it comes to food.

  6. You can also do the same with basil — it will keep a while in water in the fridge. My parsley kept for almost a month in water. I finally made pesto out of it on Saturday.

  7. Ummm… we truly did not know the avocado one, so we are extra appreciative of the how-to photos! The other thing we do with lemons is cut off 1/2" (or so) pieces and run them in the garbage grinder for 10 second with cold water, another nice scent.

    Thank you for sparing us another "Things you will never do with items you will never have" list.


  8. I recently went to a party where someone served guacamole with the avocado pits IN the dip. I must have made a face, but the hostess insisted that the avocado will never turn brown in the bowl when in proximity to its pit! So can I add that when you only want half an avo, keep the pit in the other half and it will stay fresh as a daisy/avocado until you want to munch the rest!

  9. I am so proud of myself…I knew every tip except the avocado…because I don't eat those:)

  10. these are great pointers and the one about the lemon is such a no-brainer now that you pulled the wool from over my eyes!

    thanks for sharing :)


  11. So, push comes to shove, does the lemon go into the disposall as per the Princess or into a shot of vodka as Plus Size suggests? Depends on the day. Does the avocado get smashed immediately, satisfying into the guacamole as Jan suggests, or covered in lemon juice, with dignity, and saved for tomorrow's lunch, as Barefoot reminds us? Depends on the day…As for the pit, in the 70's we grew them into plants. I have no idea why. Mark Bittman says the pits do keep the guacamole from browning, others say it's an urban legend. My guess? Depends on the day…

  12. #3. Leftover Lemons
    I use them to whiten my fingernails. I hold the lemon in one hand, put the fingertips of the other hand in the lemon and twist.

    #4. Avodaco
    One of my favorite Martha Stewart 1/2 hour episodes on PBS was with the "Avodaco Lady." This woman was in no way intimidated by Martha and Martha was in awe of her. I learned how to cut an avocado from this show. To your instructions I would add:

    Cut avocado length-wise AROUND THE PIT AND TWIST HALVES TO SEPARATE. For the side with the pit remaining, hold the avocado half in one hand (or on cutting board) and carefully WHACK THE BLADE OF A LARGE KNIFE INTO THE PIT. TWIST KNIFE TO REMOVE PIT. Cupping avocado half, scoop out flesh with large spoon.

    It's fun, isn't it? Very fast and efficient!

  13. and in the case of leftover limes….go to the corner store and but more Mexican beer.
    I ain't sayin…I'm just sayin….

  14. decades ago, taking a "Whole Foods" class (okay, it was the 70s, really, decades ago!), I was amused by a woman who collected the avocado shells discarded by the instructor. She wanted to use them as part of a home-style pedi, to soften her heels, which they apparently fit perfectly. I must have interpreted this as fol-de-rol rather than sturdiness because although I've remembered the incident several times in the ensuing decades, I've never once been tempted to try the kitchen-to-bathroom technique.

  15. Love the suggestion about the parsley…will definitely have to try that. And, I cut a piece of lemon last night to place in the disposal – it gave off a nice lemony scent in my kitchen!

  16. Who knew that Martha Stewart invented the avocado trick? So sneaky that woman. I am never going to put avocado on my feet. Waste of good food. I might put lemon on my fingernails though. Real Simple is evil, to my way of thinking. Because nothing they write about is that, real, simple. And 24, by the time we got to my generation the hiring a cook thing was done. Not even my mom did that, except for big parties. Cooking well became part of the California High WASP culture. California, sneaky just like Martha Stewart…

  17. I agree wholeheartedly about Real Simple being far from simple! You were wise to warn us to be careful with the avocado pit whacking business. I whacked my hand last year with a large chef's knife whilst attempting the very same kitchen trick that my caterer father taught me. It was NOT pretty!

  18. I don't know how to cook anything!

    I plan to learn next summer. I'll definitely keep your tips in mind :)

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