- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Ask a variety of people about a favorite timesaving device or product that helps make life more manageable, and the answers, naturally, reflect their varied domestic arrangements.m A busy bachelor lawyer relies on his mother's gift of Tupperware, which he uses almost as one-stop storage and dining vessels. An art historian, whose eye is trained

to appreciate form and color, names as her favorite meal-on-the-run the clementine orange, an especially attractive fruit that she says she can eat without fuss and never have to worry about spillage.

• A marketing executive with a busy home life reaches for the ubiquitous plastic or metal clips that close food and clothing storage bags in a literal pinch.

Time and its constraints affect nearly everyone, no matter how many New Year's resolutions have been made to cut down, cut back, ease up and otherwise organize an overcrowded schedule. The examples represent just some of the imaginative resources used by busy Washington-area professionals.

Not surprisingly, many of them have to do with food preparation and storage because that often is the part of daily routine people tend to pare down, especially if they live alone.

Hardware stores are full of handy gadgets and potions useful in chores throughout the house. Goo Gone, for instance, gets rid of such sticky stuff as errant chewing gum in a hurry. An impatient journalist who likes to cook and doesn't want to waste time researching cookbooks has the habit of ripping a recipe out of her newspaper's food pages and clipping it to a small plastic snakelike device she keeps handy by the stove.

Professional chef Alison Swope, co-founder of Andale restaurant at 410 Seventh St. NW, takes a different tack by making almost daily use of a Mexican device called a molcajete. It is the equivalent of a mortar and pestle but is made of volcanic rock instead of the stone, ceramic or marble found in commercial versions. It's a timesaver, she says, because without it she might end up cutting up ingredients by hand to achieve the "rustic" texture she wants.

"Maybe time-wise, a food processor is the answer to everything, but to get the texture I need, the molcajete is better for the final product," she says. "It's rough and porous and great for doing sauces and, of course, for guacamole. I can make them faster, even though the method is basically rustic. When I changed the restaurant in early September from 'new American' to contemporary Mexican, I had gone to Mexico for the first time and was inspired."

The heavy brown rock bowl is used "for everything that needs to be squeezed together: roasted garlic; mustard Dijon; lime or lemon juice and olive oil any sort of puree." To prove her point, she sets to work in Andale's kitchen and within five minutes makes a sauce for a tamale out of fresh grill-roasted tomatoes, chipolte peppers, garlic and cilantro.


Similarly, art historian Diane Tepfer has developed a personal method for meeting her goals of eating healthy food and losing weight. Her ideal is the clementine orange because, being virtually seedless, it is eminently portable and produces little waste. "You don't even have to remove the white membrane," she says. "You can peel it as you walk because the flesh comes away easily from the fruit. I certainly save lots of time over eating oranges and grapefruit."

This bright little orange sports the nickname "the kid-glove orange," she reports, "because it was said that a lady could eat the fruit without soiling her hands."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently banned from sale clementines imported from Spain after larvae of the Mediterranean fruit fly were found in some of the fruit. According to the Associated Press, the ban is believed to cover only areas of the country where the weather is warm enough for the insects to survive.

Marketing executive Stephanie Orton Lynch relies on what are known popularly as "chip clips," especially the plastic or metal clips that are magnetized on the back. The magnet allows them to be kept for easy access on the front of a refrigerator.

"I use them to reclose everything," she says. "Potato chips or really high-quality chips would go stale otherwise. You just fold the top over and close." She is so fond of them that she bought a bunch for her brother and sister-in-law for Christmas this year.

Crate & Barrel has an exclusive triangular-shaped silver-and-black clip in stainless steel that is elegant enough to look like a piece of sculpture afloat on the refrigerator door. The store also carries silver clips in the shape of clothespins; a set of four sells for $6.95.

Joshua Kern laughs when telling of his regular Sunday cooking sprees, after which he stores food in a single plastic Tupperware container for the rest of the week.

"I do a lot of stuff with chicken," he says. "I rarely use recipes; I do it the old-fashioned way, by instinct."

The lawyer, who recently was named Young Lawyer of Year by the District Bar Association for his work as a founder of the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School, remembers fondly how "mom gave it to me just after I got my MBA from Tulane and was coming to Washington for law school."

Hair colorist Krista Depeyrot and her stylist husband, Philippe Depeyrot, are confirmed pressure-cooker fans and constantly use the item one of the oldest and most reliable timesaving devices in the kitchen so they can spend more time with their son, Julien, 2. "After work, I can make meals in three to 20 minutes for my entire family, including the nanny," she boasts. "It's a French product, made of iron, with a regulator on top. My husband's stepfather, who is in his 80s and French, makes ratatouille in 20 minutes. Cassoulet, too.

"I love it because in three minutes I can have a stew ready: potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes and tarragon. Flavors are concentrated because of the intense steam method. I can do beets in 10 minutes, a risotto in less than eight. I've even got a book that is titled 'Vegetarian Cooking Under Three Minutes With a Pressure Cooker.' "

• • •

In the realm of hard-metal mechanical must-haves, cabinetmaker Gary Humfelt recommends that no homeowner be without what he calls a "drill driver" and Ed Copenhaver, co-owner of Frager's Hardware on Capitol Hill, simply regards as a screwdriver. It's battery-powered and designed to be placed in a permanent position on the wall, wherever is most handy. The tool saves time and trouble when one is hanging pictures or performing any operation that requires drilling a hole before inserting a screw. "The $29.95 lower-priced model is ideal for unpacking computers," Mr. Copenhaver says.

Special-events coordinator Joan Carrese won't go anywhere without her miniature Swiss Army knife, a tiny black device she carries on her key ring (anywhere, that is, except onto airplanes these days, for fear it would be taken from her during a routine screening for items considered potential weapons). She bought it 15 years ago after becoming intrigued by its practical and aesthetic value. No bigger than a little finger, the device contains tiny tweezers ("good for pulling up zippers on models who can't fit into the Valentino dresses at a fashion show"), a knife, a nail file, scissors and a toothpick.

"That thing has saved my life," she says. "A perfect example is when I used it to start up an old beat-up Toyota hatchback that I once owned. It had 250,000 miles on it and always had little things going wrong. I was doing an event at the National Building Museum and remembered that sometimes it's the little things that cause the most trouble. I took the nail file and tightened some little notch screws in the engine, and lo and behold, I got the car going again."

Free-lance photographer Kyle Samperton doesn't use what properly would be called a device. Rather, his suggestion might better fall into the category of timesaving methods. In his case, the method is a way of organizing a wardrobe so he is appropriately dressed for any occasion that arises from dawn to dusk and later because he easily could cover breaking news events and a White House state dinner all in the same day.

"It's a wardrobe that can go all day long and be embellished along the way," he says, describing his three main choices, all black. One is an Armani suit he treasures. Another is a three-button blazer from the Banana Republic, which, given a colorful or distinguished shirt and tie, can "walk right through the door anywhere."

The combination that he says carries the most weight in any situation, however, is a pair of black velvet jeans topped by an old Salvation Army general's jacket.

"It looks dressed up whether worn with a tuxedo shirt, tie and studs or with a simple black turtleneck because the jacket has presence," he says. "It's long in back, has a high collar and has gold embroidered crosses on the sleeves."


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