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What Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen Can’t Live Without

Photo: Christine Han

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Smitten Kitchen Every Day, about the hand cream, luggage, and cheddar cheese she can’t live without.

Like everyone who cooks, I’ve got my preferences (down with silicone baking mats, and please don’t make me cut fruit on a cutting board that smells like onions), but in general, I can make do with whatever is in front of me. It’s that much easier, however, if everyone can agree to throw away all spatulas that are not flexible fish spatulas, whose thin edge is perfect for everything that needs to be loosened, lifted, or turned.

I once heard that every woman needs a perfect red lipstick and I didn’t have one, so I walked into NARS and they pointed me to Gipsy, and I’ve been using it since. It’s perfect for me because it’s a little translucent and very moist, and I can wear it every day but also layer it a little when I want more of an evening look. I mean, the going-out kind, not the sitting-on-the-sofa bingeing on The Crown kind.

I bought the Lipault Paris Plume Wheeled Weekend Bag in black during my first book tour and used it exclusively during my second. It looks like a weekend bag, but it holds so much, I even used it for a ten-day trip. (Okay, I was an outfit short, details.) Plus, it weighs very little and can be shoved into the overhead compartment in all regular-size airplanes, even though they won’t believe you and will tell you that you need to gate-check it. Stand your ground and cross your fingers that you’re not wrong and end up being that person who has to walk off the plane back to the gate, annoying everyone. (Yes, it was me.)

I’ve been using Aveda Hand Relief lotion for 20 years and keep a bottle by every sink, in my gym bag, in my makeup bag, handbag, and even bought it for my mother-in-law basically so it would be there, too, so you could call this a totally normal, healthy level of fixation. It has almost no scent. It just feels really smooth and dry on my hands, and I can use a pea-size dollop and really rub it in. I can’t stand when my hands feel grimy or greasy. It’s a thing. If I use another lotion in a hotel or restaurant, I’m always like, “I have to wash this off.”

My best friend taught me years ago to always buy and bring your own nail polish if getting a manicure. This way, I don’t have to look through 100-plus bottles for the color I want or that I used last time on my toes, but mostly because at least 97 percent of the time, I smudge my nails on the way home and this way I can fix it. Butter London (of course I love a brand named after food) has awesome colors; I am currently wearing (cough) Come to Bed Red, and have been on a four-year Fruit Machine kick in warmer weather.

I do not have very exciting or expensive tastes in handbags; I just need a bag with a handle drop length, so I can shove it over my shoulder while wearing a puffy jacket that holds a laptop, water bottle, and all the toys my kids swear they want to play with that I get stuck carrying home. So basically I need a black garbage bag. I’m on my second or third Madewell Transport Tote, but this most recent one, in pink (sorry, “antique rose”) — but, like, the perfect pink — is definitely helping offset the winter doldrums.

I actually always carry some of these with me because I like the fine-point ones, but only when they’re newish and haven’t become Stubbies (I think I’m hilarious, thank you) — but not the ultrafine ones that are like pens. It’s mostly because I did a lot of book touring last fall. To express this to a store or venue that is nice enough to host you, you sound like a seriously high-maintenance, crazy author, and it usually leads to some employee having to run around checking marker points at every register to find one to meet your satisfaction, and do you know what’s a lot easier? Buying a dozen for $7.

Figuring out how to make good coffee at home with a minimum of equipment or counter space required was one of the great triumphs of my adult life, or at least the last few years. I have the Bialetti in a three- and six-cup size. I have the classic silver. I tend to like things very neutral in the kitchen because my kitchen’s small, and I kind of want everything to be white or gray or fade into the background as much as possible.

I’ve been using Smith Minted Rose lip balm for probably 15 years. It’s perfect, not too thick or goopy, and definitely not medicated, which is good if you’ve ever lived through the dark times of a Carmex habit.

Does a favorite cheddar count as something you can’t live without? I’ve decided, for me, it can. Except I have two. If I’m at a grocery store, it’s Cabot Alpine Cheddar, but if I’m by Murray’s or another cheese shop, Montgomery’s Cheddar is about as close as I’ve found here to English cheddar perfection. My husband recently told me that he’s not that into cheddar cheese and I pretended to be disappointed, but mostly I’m thrilled because this means I don’t have to share anymore.

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What Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen Can’t Live Without