I am not one of those people who insists on keeping their counters clear of gadgetry. Nope, I have an absurdly huge ice maker (the kind that makes the good ice, thank you very much), an air fryer, a fancy toaster, and an assortment of canisters and containers. But the most important thing on my counter is my beloved garbage bowl, a catchall for everything from fresh fruit to cooking refuse.
I originally stole the garbage bowl moniker from celebrity chef Rachael Ray, who has been both extolling its virtues and selling her own for years. On her cooking show, Ray used the bowl to conveniently collect vegetable peels and food scraps as she prepared her 30-minute meals, making them easier to transport to the trash when your pasta bake or chicken pot pie is safely in the oven. Ray’s garbage bowl is typically only employed during the cooking process, and is stored in a cabinet. But getting a bowl out of the cabinet is a pain, especially when you need one in a pinch. As such, my garbage bowl stays out on the counter in perpetuity, just waiting for its moment to shine.
Sometimes it’s empty, sometimes it’s full of the fancy tomatoes I bought at the farmers market, and sometimes it’s the stowing spot for the stash of various candies I couldn’t resist in the checkout line at Japanese dollar store Daiso, but whatever the use, this bowl is always hard at work. Occasionally it gets a quick wash and is used as a vessel for a Caesar or potato salad when guests are coming over. Most frequently, though, it’s just sitting on the counter looking cute while holding a few lemons or limes.
A garbage bowl intended for use as functional decor shouldn’t be just any old bowl. It should look nice, complementing your space while being endlessly multifunctional. There’s a bowl for every kitchen aesthetic — think sleek stoneware for a modern vibe, or old-school Forest Fancies Pyrex for a ’70s feel — and even the most devoted minimalists won’t be able to argue with an adornment this practical. Mine is a vintage Fire-King swirl bowl in jadeite glass, picked up on the cheap at an antiques store because there was a dead bug sitting inside of it. After a thorough sanitization, it’s been sitting on my counter ever since, and I use it at least once a week for some impromptu task.
But even if you’re mostly just using it to attractively store fruit, it’s easy enough to tip out the bowl, use it for collecting potato peels while you cook, then give it a rinse and place it — and your lemons, or whatever — back onto the counter. You’ll use fewer dishes, make fewer trips to the trash can while cooking, and have a new piece of kitchen decor that gives your space a lived-in yet totally put-together feel.