Towels: Your Kitchen Wingman

If you really want to make a statement while cooking for that special someone, then dress the part. Professional cooks wear a smock and a fancy hat, mostly because of hygiene requirements rather than an attempt to impress eaters. At home, it's okay to be more relaxed. You don't want hair in your food, but there's no need to wear a hat while you serve your main course, and you'll have more time than a sous chef who's scrambling to plate a six-top (a table with six customers).

What I'm getting at here is that you should have a companion in the kitchen to help you. The companion I'm talking about, of course, is the towel. The towel is the most important tool you can wear in the kitchen. (Yes, wear it!) Don't wear it around your waist, unless you're cooking bacon naked. (Take my word for it: The last thing you want to be explaining in the bedroom is a skin lesion on your sausage or lasagna.) Instead, toss it jauntily over a shoulder. This says, "I'm confident that I'm not going to spill down the front of me."

The towel is far more than a symbol of cleanliness — it's subtle, even debonair. When I picture James Bond in the kitchen, cooking foie gras for a honey named Pussy, I picture him with a towel tossed casually over his shoulder — exactly how you should wear it. I owe the pleasure of this trick to Marty, a friend's father who, at one time, probably was a secret agent; his wife sure is a lucky woman.

Jonathan McNamara


For C.M. Redding’s towel tips, visit our food blog, Chow Bella.

The towel, unlike the lowly apron, is inconspicuous. While an apron can be funny, especially when bears a slogan such as "Kiss Me I'm Irish," it says you are too eager. And, really, it covers up too much of your ensemble — keep in mind you should be dressed to impress. Along the same lines, a chef's hat says only, "I haven't been laid in ages, but hopefully this monkey trick will make you want to kiss me."

The towel speaks of confidence. You can casually wipe your hands on it while talking about your recipe, and it serves as a great mitt to wrap around your hand while pulling hot delicacies out of the oven. (Side note: Make sure your whole hand is covered with the towel. You want your hands to be protected yet nimble. The last thing you want is a wounded finger while trying to unclasp an undergarment.)

Believe me, a date (especially a woman) will be watching you in the kitchen. She will notice when you wash your hands after you touch any food (which you need to do — wash before touching anything, especially yourself, if you've been working with habaneros). Your guest will be excited that you're conscientious about keeping your hands clean.

Your towel will come in handy later, after the dishes are in the sink and you've retired to the couch with a bottle of champagne. Use the towel to gingerly inch the cork out of its hole — never let the cork shoot off, as though it were an excited schoolboy. The last thing you want is to prematurely blow it. The bottle should let out a husky sigh, not a loud, gushing pop (even though that can be fun, in the right setting).

So, there you are: on the couch, fumbling with something like buttons or lace as you laugh and touch. The scene is set and all your hard work in the kitchen has paid off, but the next move can be dangerous —unless, of course, you have your trusty towel.

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Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Honestly though, I sometimes feel as though the C.M. Redding appearing in the columns of Phoenix New Times is but the merest eidolon; that he actually left us long ago, and that these writings appear in the manner of postcards sent by a stolen lawn gnome.

What's become of ReddingSince he gave us all the slip,Chose land-travel or seafaring,Boots and chest or staff and scrip,Rather than pace up and downAny longer London town?

(Apologies to the poet Browning)

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

"A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough."

Though I wouldn't use a dishtowel in lieu of an oven mitt if I didn't want to be burned.

I'm not sure if C.M. Redding is still travelling (at first I thought that was a euphemism for a sojourn in the Betty Ford Clinic, but then I saw the river-rafting photographs in the last issue). Perhaps he's in someone else's kitchen. The blinds appear to be closed to render the locale unidentifiable. At first I thought that was Cyrillic lettering on a large can on the shelf (fellow-travelling, eh, comrade?) but then decided that perhaps it was the terminal "CH" in "PEACH". Odd camera angle, most likely the result of framing by one of New Times' editors who thought it looked "edgy" that way.

I do hope that's a large bottle of olive oil on the counter, and not Jagermeister or some such. Or is this an old photograph?

Incidentally, foie gras traditionally comes fully-cooked. However, it is available in raw and semi-cooked varieties, so I suppose Redding is OK on that point.

Amusing column. "Yes, wear it!" Capital.