The little green house on Stable Alley in St. Mary’s, Georgia was nearly perfect. We had 75% of our children (we still call these quasi-adults “children”) with us and the kitchen had a gas stove. We brought an ice chest full of food, packed in like we were expecting some apocalyptic event, or at least a lack of good local restaurants. Our first meal eaten out verified our self-catering strategy and the following morning I woke early to make a big-assed, family breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs, thin pork chops, bacon, grits, toast and peach jam. I had declined to pack my usual traveling chef’s bag in order to accommodate other items that Kitty deemed “necessary” and immediately regretted the decision.

I cook frequently in other peoples’ homes. Before any of those events I get that same pre-apology about how they are sure their kitchen isn’t up to snuff since I’m used to plying my trade in a “fancy” restaurant kitchen. They’re not actualy apologizing for anything, but instead fishing for a complement about their new Viking-equipped culinary museum, but they’re usually right about only one thing. Their list of equipment will be lacking, but not how they expect. What they are nearly always missing is a good set of tongs.

In my kitchen, everyone has at least three sets of tongs on their station. They’re used to manipulate proteins, stir liquids, scoop items out of quart containers and six-pans and even as a noisemaker to get the attention of servers attempting to smuggle dishes from the window without authority from the expediter. Everyone has their favorite pair and if you take the long ones from the grill guy’s station, you’ll have hell to pay. In my travel kit I keep two short one-piece and two medium two-part tongs. They’re both the heavy duty variety, but even the thin ones will do in a pinch. I don’t know how people get through a meal prep without them. But apparently they do.

The drawer to the left of the sink in the little green vacation cottage had three crappy vegetable peelers, a collection of spatulas (including an offset icing tool), two pasta fork/spoon thingies and a loosey-goosey failure of twisted coat hanger wire that some would describe as tongs. Despair.

I made it through the breakfast and everyone got fed, but I wasn’t going to stand for such tomfoolery. After we ate, I loaded the boys up in the rented Chrysler Town & Country and directed Siri to find me a big grocery store. As is our tradition, every kid got to pick out their own box of cereal and I got two sets of half-decent tongs and saved our vacation. They are still there. If you ever stay in the little green house on Stable Alley, you have me to thank for tongs.tong-scale