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If You Had to Pack Your Kitchen in a Suitcase...

Two dear friends of mine just moved overseas rather suddenly, taking only four suitcases between them for a job posting that could last more than a year. They're a young couple who had been sharing a studio apartment here in D.C., so they didn't own much to begin with, but they still had to put a l...

Two dear friends of mine just moved overseas rather suddenly, taking only four suitcases between them for a job posting that could last more than a year. They're a young couple who had been sharing a studio apartment here in D.C., so they didn't own much to begin with, but they still had to put a lot of things in storage.

Vintage suitcases, courtesy Flickr user mollypop

The hardest things to part with weren't clothes—they can buy more of those overseas since they'll be in a different climate anyway—or furniture, which they'd mostly gathered at yard sales. It was the kitchen where they faced the toughest decisions. The faithful, but massive, KitchenAid stand mixer clearly couldn't come along, nor the familiar sets of dishes and glasses (although there will be dishware, pots and pans, etc. in their temporary housing). Coffee maker, blender, spice rack, decanter, tea pot... nope. Gadgets? Maybe. Depends on size.

In the end, they selected their two favorite coffee mugs, two good knives, the handheld immersion blender, a microplane zester, a citrus squeezer and a garlic press. Wow, that's really narrowing it down, alright! I would make similar choices in the same situation.

Here's my top-ten list for kitchen stuff I consider most essential (and portable-ish). What's on your own list?
  1. A good, sharp knife—preferably two, a paring knife and a larger chef's knife
  2. Handheld immersion blender with blade and whisk attachments
  3. 10-inch stainless steel, non-stick skillet (because "pots and pans provided" doesn't mean GOOD pots and pans...)
  4. Silicone spatula
  5. Microplane graters/zesters (in three sizes. Hey, they're small.)
  6. Mesh basket tea strainer (because it can, in a pinch, also be used for sifting and skimming)
  7. Toaster-oven sized baking sheet and Silpat mat
  8. Vegetable peeler
  9. Digital kitchen scale (it's small, and can replace measuring cups)
  10. Bialetti stovetop 4-cup espresso maker
And a wine opener would be a good idea, too, but I left it off the list because I was thinking about the specific context of my friends' move—to a teetotaling culture. (That might be the toughest sacrifice of all, from my perspective. At least there will be coffee...)

Bon voyage, J & W!
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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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