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Sunday Tips: Musings on Kitchen Gadgets


Sunday, January 9th, 2011

If you are about to furnish a house, do not spend all your money, be it much or little. Do not let the beauty of this thing, and the cheapness of that, tempt you to buy unnecessary articles. Doctor Franklin’s maxim was a wise one, ‘Nothing is cheap that we do not want.’ Buy merely enough to get along with at first. It is only by experience that you can tell what will be the wants of your family. If you spend all your money, you will find you have purchased many things you do not want, and have no means left to get many things which you do want. If you have enough, and more than enough, to get everything suitable to your situation, do not think you must spend it all, merely because you happen to have it. Begin humbly. As riches increase, it is easy and pleasant to increase in hospitality and splendour; but it is always painful and inconvenient to decrease. – Mrs. Child, The American Frugal Housewife

I have a confession: I have kitchen gadget lust. When I moved to New York, my grandmother was heading down to Florida, so she gave me her entire kitchen. I was lucky enough to start my adult like with a full complement of pots and pans. And french fry slicers, melon ballers, icing spatulas, and vintage Corningware. The real kicker: metal sporks. I’m not kidding. Here’s a snapshot to prove it:

So, I took contented myself for a few years with what I got for free.  Then my hand mixer broke and I splurged on a purty buttercup-yellow Kitchenaid.  Beginning of the end: my increased baking abilities led to increased baking which led to pastry tubes, more pans, cake carriers.  All in a New York kitchen so tiny I can’t get a decent angle to show you a picture: Mark Bittman’s, which actually has a full-size stove, is luxurious by comparison.

I was recently thinking, as my acquisitions slowly started to encroach on my roommate’s designated cabinet space, about the days when I traveled lighter – just pots and pans.  And sporks.  Mrs. Child makes a good point: very often, with a little more work, we can get results by hand that cooks now accomplish with utensils and machines.  So, I’m putting a moratorium on gadget-buying.  I’m going to try to stay humble, per Mrs. Child, and separate “want” and “need” when I go to Sur La Table and Broadway Panhandler.  Any thoughts on the line between these two?