I've been working on my kitchen.
My knife collection now boasts both a santoku and nakiri, which I display alongside various chef's knives on a magnetic strip near the stove. My Japanese rice cooker sings a little song when dinner is ready. My trash can — a polished Simplehuman — opens by itself. And my hand-casted skillet has developed that glassy layer of seasoning you only get from cooking a disturbing amount of bacon. It's a project.
But in the realm of practicality, these treasures don't handle a candle to my kitchen's unsung hero: a squishy 24- by 36-inch piece of polyurethane foam called a WellnessMat ($140).
Simple in premise, this anti-fatigue mat does exactly what you think it does — provide a cushion between your feet and the floor. People use them for all sorts of things, like working out or simply working. But they excel in the kitchen, where they not only offer relief against tired feet, legs and backs when you're trying to put dinner on the table but also protect floors from spills and surface stains; my WellnessMat has an anti-microbial surface that's easy to wipe clean with nothing more than a wet paper towel.
Do you need one to cook a good dinner or breakfast? No, of course not. But to all my fellow amateur cooks, if you spend a lot of time in front of the stove, an anti-fatigue mat can help you focus on the pleasures of cooking rather than the burden of it. For me, that means chopping vegetables with expensive knives and frying up a few strips of bacon for the hell of it.