I do not have a dishwasher.
This is not an unusual situation for a New Yorker; in fact, it's considered the norm for most rentals, especially those built before the most recent real estate boom. And since I live alone, it's not too much of a pain to do my dishes by hand.
What it does mean, though, is that I'm particularly tuned in to which dishes and utensils get more use than others, and I've noticed something interesting. While there are always a bounty of forks available in the cutlery drawer, I am frequently out of spoons, and my whisks and knives are constantly dirty.
I realized that, aside from actually eating (which, let's face it, we can do with our hands), almost every task I need to accomplish in the kitchen can be tackled using a combination of knife, whisk and spoon. Making a salad? Knife, whisk, spoon. Making a cake? Whisk, spoon. Making soup? Knife, spoon. An omelet? Knife, whisk, spoon. You get the idea.
It's not that I don't love my tongs or my fish spatula or my vegetable peeler. But if I had to choose three tools to take with me on the road, or to a desert island, the trio of knife, spoon and whisk would win, by a long shot.
How about you? What are your most essential kitchen tools?