Last night, I stood in the wintry drizzle for nearly half an hour (and then another fifteen minutes in a drafty stairwell) to attend the annual America’s Test Kitchen open house at the ATK studios in Brookline. Originally, I had thought I couldn’t make the event, but then my late afternoon meeting was canceled yesterday morning and I quickly R.S.V.P.’d. I dragged Anne along with me, and she was completely shocked by the line snaking outside the door of the brick warehouse across the street from the Brookline Village T stop. “It’s not like they’re real celebrities,” she said to me. “It’s just a show on public television!”
And this is kind of true, but the real appeal of the event was not meeting Christopher Kimball and company (although, they were all perfectly charming as they signed my copies of ATK cookbooks). The most exciting part was touring the facility. When we first walked in, we were greeted by a woman who told me she worked in the marketing department for the magazine. I asked her if she got to taste a lot of samples, and she told me the test kitchen folks were always looking for volunteer tasters and that the fridge was stocked with food that they could take back to their desks or take home for dinner. This made me want to forsake the law for selling magazine subscriptions.
Next, we entered the library, which was probably my favorite part. (A close second, however, were the plates of cookies and bowls of spiced nuts set out in the test kitchen). I mean, I know so many of the articles and television segments start out with “we cooked 400 recipes for Hungarian goulash …” but I guess I hadn’t anticipated that all those recipe resources would be housed in one place. There were issues of Bon Appetit going back to 1971, plus full catalogs of Cooking Light, Gourmet and MS Living. The cookbooks had color-coded spines and were shelved according to subject matter (French, American, Baking, Mexican and South American, Candy). I could have spent the whole night in the library.
And then I saw the model cow and pig, with all the meat cuts nicely labeled.
Off the hallway connecting the library to the kitchen studio was a walk-in closet with a glass door. The shelves were stacked with Pyrex: baking pans, glass pie plates, hundreds of prep bowls. And there was a wall of whisks. The kitchen itself was as it looks on the show, except I could walk around and read all the labels on the drawers: muffin tins, spring form pans (bottoms), spring form pans (tops), measuring cups, tart pans. A freezer drawer labeled “Seafood” was full of frozen shrimp. (Yes, I opened some drawers.) There were open shelves stacked high with All-Clad and close to 30 Le Creuset Dutch ovens. And I was happy to see that the ATK Dutch ovens were as stained and well-used as the ones I have in my kitchen at home.