Hands up who has one of those silicon egg poaching cups. I have two of them and have only ever used them once. I also have an ice cream machine that a barely use, and although I don’t own one I have had passing thoughts of purchasing a slow cooker, a rice cooker and a multitude of other rubbish that I don’t need and would probably never use.
I do however, know many people who collect kitchen gadgets in the hope that by some miracle of science the gadget will magically transfer them into a better cook. I even know somebody who owns an egg separator even though I informed them that eggs come in their very own separator (the shells).
I guess all of us home cooks have, at one time or another, purchased a gadget that just looked too good to pass up, but do we really need them? Or are there any kitchen gadgetry that is actually useful?
John Walsh from the Independent has written a clever article on just that very subject (so that I can give my fingers a rest).
From the Independent
There’s nothing like moving house for making you take stock of your kitchen and the devices that therein lie. However much kitchen space seemed available when you first looked at your new home, there’s never enough room for all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. I mean, just look at it. Whatever possessed you to buy this bulky, expensive and frankly unusable garbage? Whose idea was the fish kettle that you used exactly once, for a salmon lunch in July 2010? Have you ever got cost-per-wear out of the microwave that’s been sitting accusingly beside the toaster since 1997? And here, in these cutlery drawers, on this knife rack, in this utensils jug – just look at all this mad gallimaufry of labour-saving stuff, of bits of rubber and metal and plastic that might possibly lift the heart of a passing rag-and-bone man but now fills you with bewilderment that you ever thought it worth having.
There are so many things you don’t need and never have needed. Things you bought one day in a burst of self-delusion that you are: A) a hippie earth mother or, B) an artisanal cook, living in an era before supermarkets. The bread-maker, the pasta-maker, the incredibly messy ice-cream maker, the yoghurt-maker, the rice cooker (what was wrong with using a saucepan and some hot water?) and that vital necessity of 1970s living, the coffee-bean grinder – because everybody needs to start their mildly hungover day with a noise like a granite-quarry drill slicing through their sore head, don’t they?
There are things you bought to make cooking easier and discovered it made it far more complicated. At the top of this list is the food processor you bought to peel, chop and slice vegetables, to puree them into nourishing meals for the baby, to make soups and sauces and sophisticated reductions for dinner parties. But the fag of having to wash and dry and store all the attachments became so daunting, you reverted to buying the baby food in jars, the soup from Waitrose and the sauces from Marks & Sparks.
Labour-saving devices that promise to chop and slice electronically just add to your work-load because of the tedium of setting them up. I had high hopes of a heavy-duty juicer, but it was just too high-maintenance and we’re now estranged. I feel embarrassed about the way I’ve neglected the electronic weighing scales, ever since I lost the instructions: you can press the ‘Mode’ and ‘Reset’ keys till you’re blue in the face without ever getting the machine to actually weigh something. And don’t get me started on the sub-Gaggia cappuccino machine, to operate it required a PhD in material sciences and another in Italian psychology.
There are things whose beauty or bulk once recommended them to you but now only get in the way. Among them is a super-enormous, wooden chopping-board: it’s just too damn heavy. Few dinner ingredients need such comprehensive chopping that it justifies manhandling half a ton of teak onto the work surface. The stainless-steel stockpot never saw much action – I mean, who am I, Mrs Patmore from Downton Abbey, keeping the week’s potato peelings and carrot tops in order to make a nourishing stew? I wish I’d got more use out of the four-ton Le Creuset casserole, which resembles the cauldron in which cartoon savages might boil a missionary in the jungle.
And as you unpack another dozen cardboard boxes, you can only marvel at the hundred-odd fiddly devices and rusting geegaws you once deemed necessary for the cook’s existence. I have two meat thermometers – never used – two pizza cutters, ditto; a box grater, terminally clogged-up with fragments of Yarg circa 2009; an olive stoner, never used; three devices for keeping champagne perky after you’ve opened it; and a pack of yellowing cartouches clearly past their sell-by.
A deadly ennui envelops you. Are you going to keep all this stuff for another few years? Or are you going to start all over again?