Gadgets, schmadgets

Show me the button and I probably won’t push it, says Andreae Prozesky.

I’m not a gadget person in the kitchen. Kitchen stuff always ends up as clutter, and I’ve moved enough, starting my kitchen from scratch each time, that I’ve learned how to get by with a frying pan, a bowl, and a couple forks. Even with the kitchen gear I’ve amassed, I end up using those three things more than anything else. The fork is the universal stirrer, whipper, smoosher, flipper, fisher-outer. I admire it.

Part of my reason for shunning kitchen gear is that I hate buttons.

Buttons on a kitchen appliance just call out, “I’m going to break. Probably within a year. Keep your receipt, and set aside bus fare to Canadian Tire.”

This is the reason I haven’t had a toaster for two years. Every one I see has too many buttons. What happened to those slidy things that indicated “light” and “burnt,” and the up-and-down things to get your toast in and out? Was this technology imperfect? No, it was fine, and the appliance companies ruined it. I make toast in the oven now, and it works, so long as I don’t get distracted. It’s not the most energy-efficient way to do the job, I know, but it’s what I’ve got.

In terms of things that plug in, I have few. I have a waffle iron, and I love it. I really do.

I have put a price on the head of the mouse who has been nibbling my waffle iron cord, because if my waffle iron goes, I might never be the same.

I have a blender, and I love it perhaps more than I love my waffle iron, if only for its versatility. My blender is an Oster Beehive that I bought on eBay six or seven years ago. I wanted an old blender, precisely because all the ones in the shops had too many buttons. And little computers in them. There’s no reason for a blender to have a little computer in it. For sixteen US dollars and about the same in shipping, I got some wonderful lady’s old blender and the instructions and cookbook that came with it. The date on the cookbook is 1949, yet it has recipes for soy milk and soy loaf. Who knew?

Anyway, here’s the awesome thing about my blender: the threads of the blender jar are made to be the same as a standard-mouth canning jar. That is post-war American ingenuity at its best. Should you wish to, say, grind some coriander, you put your coriander seeds in a half-pint jar, screw the blender blade on to the jar top, flip it over, pop it on the blender, and flick the switch (there are no buttons, just an on/off switch).

If I want to be the most on-the-ball person on Earth, I can take a bunch of smoothie ingredients and put them in a pint jar in the fridge at night, and then, in the morning, I can pop the jar onto the blender and have my daughter’s breakfast made in 20 seconds. Stick a straw in the jar and I’m done. It’s kind of like that Magic Bullet thing they have on the infomercials, only sixty years earlier and made of metal and glass instead of plastic. And without the zombie infomercial people.

I know I can’t tell you to run out to the shop and pick up a blender from the 1940s, but if you’re someone who trawls eBay, keep your eye out. They come up fairly often, as do replacement parts (which I’ve never needed), and they never, ever die.

Now, I do have one exorbitant, indulgent appliance, but it was a birthday gift and I do use it all the time. The classic, the beautiful, the weighty KitchenAid stand mixer. There are other stand mixers out there, and they may be as good. I don’t know. But this one is iconic. And it was on sale. Score. There really was a need for it: I burnt out the motor of my little hand mixer a while back making gluten-free bread. If you’ve ever had the pleasure, you’ll know that gluten-free bread dough can be remarkably cement-like in texture, and you’re usually instructed to beat it for about 15 minutes in an attempt to incorporate some air into the stuff. Anyway, a couple rounds of that and my trusty hand mixer was reduced to a smouldering handful of warm petrochemicals, grinding and shuddering when I tried to coax it back into action. I did without for four or five months before the stand mixer appeared, all shiny and alien-head-looking. It is so oomphy. It cannot be killed by the most cement-like of dough. If it has one flaw, it is that the dimensions of the bowl prevent you from making small amounts of anything, like, say, one dollop of whipped cream. For that, I go low-tech and use my hand-crank egg beater (another eBay find, but I see them in stores a lot). Or I just dump the whole carton into the stand mixer and suffer the consequences of eating too much whipped cream. There are worse fates.

And you know what? I think that’s it. We have an electric kettle and a coffee grinder, and a clock radio. What a bunch of boring people! But we get dinner made, and that’s what matters.

Gadgets, Schmadgets

Here are the most important non-plugging-in kitchen things, according to me:
• Cast-iron frying pan (about $24 at Canadian Tire)
• Half-decent stainless steel pots (one big and one small)
• Good knives, although you really only need one good chef’s knife and one good paring knife. Those two can take care of everything if you don’t have a big kitchen budget.
• An enameled casserole dish or two. The LeCreuset ones sure are pretty, but there are lots of excellent cheaper brands out there.
• Thermometer for meat, deep-frying, yogurt-making, candy-making. I used to think I was too cool for one of these, but after wasting enough ingredients I’ve become convinced that I am not that cool after all.
• Wooden spoons, a whisk, a really nice thin-edged spatula, some slotted spoons, miscellaneous pans for baking and roasting.

Things I would really like, even though I don’t need them:
• A panini press, not one of the electric ones, but the stovetop kind with the ridged pan and the ridged, weighted lid. They are so cool.
• A cappuccino maker, because there’s only one place I can bear to drink the coffee around here and I’m usually home anyway.
• A marble slab for rolling out pastry, even though it’s not something I do all that often.
• A pressure canner. So I wouldn’t have to put two cups of sugar into every jar of jam I put away.

What’s in your kitchen? And what’s on your kitchen wish-list? Leave a comment below.

One comment

Best Bakery (Breads)

Georgestown Bakery

2 June 2011

  1. Kathryn · June 2, 2011

    I love my mini – whizzer as I affectionately call it. It’s a smaller food processor. I use it to chop up stuff and whizz it around. Cheap, small and handy :) Me likes.

    Sometimes I dream of having a pasta maker…….