Last Call: Alternative uses for kitchen tools

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Photo: Lisa M. Robinson (Getty Images)

I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of my roasting pan lately. Each time I go to wash it, there aren’t pan drippings or layers of oil to contend with, but rather a fine layer of cardboard dust. That’s because I’m not using it to cook—I’m using it to sort puzzle pieces.

Jigsaw puzzles have been a source of comfort to many people during the pandemic, and even if you can’t stand puzzling, it’s not hard to see why it might appeal to people stuck at home: it’s something to do, it’s time-consuming, it’s cheap, it can be enjoyed solo or in groups, it makes you feel like you accomplished something, and you can swap with your friends when you’re done, exchanging a 500-piece Starry Night for a 1,000-piece Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. (Or, you know, various collages of puppies and kittens. Whatever floats your boat.)

But lots of puzzles are sold in tubes rather than boxes, and this, in my opinion, sucks. Tubes don’t store well in a closet. They don’t stack neatly. They don’t display the image in a way that is easy to reference as you complete the puzzle. And most importantly, they don’t provide any visibility; you have to dump the pieces out of the tube in order to see anything at all as you hunt around for edge pieces or patches of blue sky. For those of us with pets who think of puzzle pieces as tasty snacks, a table full of loose pieces is a no-go.

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Hence, the roasting pan. It’s wide, with high sides that approximate a puzzle box, and it’s white ceramic, so the pieces contrast nicely with their surroundings. I tried a cookie sheet first, but the shallow sides meant that pieces kept spilling over onto the floor. And my tablecloth, which typically has no reason to adorn our dining space, has become an indispensable tool for covering up puzzles in progress so no household terriers go wandering around on top of them, kicking stray pieces out of place. (Yes, the dog enjoys lounging on the dining room table, and no, there is not a trainer on this earth who can stop him from doing what he loves.)

Do you find that items in your kitchen are useful in other non-cooking-related capacities? I know that some crafty people, for example, use ice cube trays to sort buttons and beads. I hope there are thousands of clever ideas I’m not yet clued in on.