Those who read my "Celebrating the States" blog from 2010 know that I consider a cast-iron skillet a kitchen essential. I love my cast-iron skillets, and my cast-iron grill, and use them almost daily. My dirty little secret is that I once got rid of some cast-iron cookware because I didn't see how it was better than anything else, and it was just really heavy. After I read up on how to properly season, clean, and maintain cast-iron ware, and learned how to cook with it properly I discovered its true indespensibility. Cooking in cast iron will actually add iron to your diet and does not leach toxins as other pots and pans might. Plus it looks really rustic in your kitchen. Good kitchen utensils are important for those who want to cook with ingredients. Food preferences are personal, though, and acquiring the right things may take some trial and error. I know that for our family, beyond the cast-iron stuff, essential kitchen equipment includes good mixing bowls, and mixing spoons; a potato masher (I still have the one from the house I grew up in); a high-karma cheese grater (we threw away a lot of cheap ones, until we finally splurged and bought a cow-bell shaped, 100% stainless-steel grater for almost $20. It will last forever); good knives, a mortar and pestle, and a blender. I use the blender for anything that calls for a food-processor. It has, so far, made no difference. Likewise, I do not own a flour-sifter. For the kind of baking I do, mixing with a fork has always worked. Others may find that a food processor and a flour sifter are essential to their cooking. What I have found most important though, is to have things easily accessible and convenient to use. I know people who put away thier blender, toaster, any any other kitchen utensil when not in use. If the item is not out and easy to use though, it is less likely to get used.
One important thing this anal-retentive librarian had to get over when we started cooking seriously was that our kitchen is never completely clean, with every thing in its place. It is especailly important to me that we eat in the dining room, so I don't have to look at all the clutter in the kitchen at mealtime.