Service of Gizmos You’ll Never Use

December 5th, 2016

Categories: Gadgets, Gifts, Retail

Gifts wrapped

Tis holiday gift giving time again so what are you giving the person who has everything? Here are some frivolous things to avoid for folks who like to cook.

Gizmos and gadgetsI’ve written about my pasta maker bought years ago and never used. I had high hopes which never materialized. Who has time, anyway, when a box of excellent spaghetti from Italy costs so little?

I thought of the pasta maker when reading “Don’t Be Such a Tool,” in The Wall Street Journal in which Keith Blanchard writes about “questionable and highly specialized culinary tools.” [The online title: “Why Hipster Cooking Gizmos Are Killing Cooking.”]

The article’s subhead in the print version is: “A humble home chef bemoans the rise of sauerkraut-making kits, mini-donut machines and other dubious cooking gadgets.”

macaronsIn addition to the donut machine he identified a pen to draw a design on cappuccino foam with a spice; a mat to “perfectly size 48 macarons;” an ice cream cone maker [at this time of year?] and a tube you stuff “with rice and blowfish, then wrap with nori” to create your own sushi.

Are you tempted by gadgets for the kitchen or anywhere else in your home or office? Are there any you can’t live without? Are you the first to own the newest and latest? Do you have a robot or drone? Are you planning to give a specialized gizmo to someone this Christmas or Hanukkah?

ice cream cone

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12 Responses to “Service of Gizmos You’ll Never Use”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    We used to not like the extra gizmos made for automobiles. But now they seem to be almost a necessity for safety and good operation of the vehicle. Anti-crash mechanisms. Anti-crash and anti Lane change mechanisms built in! Really fabulous couldn’t, wouldn’t want to live without them.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    I wish we had the auto gizmo that tells me if something is coming when I back out of a parking slot while driving my sedan in reverse with SUVs on steroids on either side of me. My heart is in my throat until I can see if anyone is coming. I wish that parking areas upstate that are of a certain size would insist that the giants park in a designated spot because not everyone has the car-saving gizmos you have in your car!

    I don’t know about the lane change gizmo.

  3. ASK Said:

    I think most blowfish are toxic so I’m not likely to indulge. The most exotic gizmo in my kitchen is a recently purchased scale that weighs both in both pounds and kilos. The most used objects, however, are a narrow-blade 9″ utility knife that I keep razor sharp and a Microplane. I have looked at pasta-making machines with longing, but have resisted. I remember all too well the Saturday afternoons when I helped my mother make homemade ravioli. No machine, just her rolling out the dough and my crimping the edges of the filled ravioli. It took all afternoon, and they were gone in 15 minutes.

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    No. Any gadget with instructions isn’t for me and I don’t like to cook. Exception: a vacuum cleaner which operates on its own. It was for sale at the now defunct Sharper Image, but before I could consider scaring up the several hundred $$ for this experiment, the store was gone.

    Please no messages as to where one may be found.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    I stopped wanting gizmos or gadgets long ago. I used to think kitchen store promotions, especially beautiful glossy ones, offered the path to domestic modernity, and nirvana.

    I am embarrassed to admit that after a very short period with some bumps and nicks to traditional furniture we gave away the Roomba vacuum we proudly acquired.

    I need my hair dryer, large electric mixer, lovely tidy new Samsung toaster oven.

    My husband makes delicious French and Japanese breads, but mixes his dough with chopsticks. He has no interest in a bread machine. We do have a VERY simple rice cooker ( he is Japanese, but sometimes deliberately even cooks rice in a saucepan. It is always no fail.)

    We are constantly trying to reduce our inventory of gizmos, gadgets and tomorrow’s garage sale items. On the other hand I feel slightly overwhelmed by audio equipment and a collection of non-acoustic musical instruments because my husband is a musician by training.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    My pasta “machine” was really just a press. It looked like a miniature ironing press seen in professional laundries to handle sheets and large tablecloths.

    I bet the ravioli was gone in 15 minutes. I used to spend all Saturday making dinner for a dinner party–everything from scratch–and plates were clean in approximately the same amount of time as your ravioli. I eventually told myself there must be other recipes that don’t require hours to prepare.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Reading your comment brought up a memory from eons ago. Our mother hired a woman to serve and clean up after a party. On entering the apartment, the woman surveyed the kitchen asked, “Where is the dishwasher?” and Mom said, “I’m looking at her.” Not sure what the connection between this incident and a robotic vacuum cleaner is but there we are.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    Your initial comment made me smile. My mother was an inveterate gadget shopper–until she died at 91. She’d find gizmos on the Internet when she could no longer go out by herself! We laughed at many of her finds! In addition to the hope that she’d save us time or make it easier/foolproof to test whether a roast or chicken was done [she was a great cook and made fabulous roasts, chickens and turkeys without any of these helpers], she was fascinated by shortcuts. Any kind–even the kind that would cut 10 minutes off a drive.

  9. hb Said:

    A few years ago, I think it was Craig Clayborne who, in a piece in the Times described how he had challenged a famous French chef, I think either Paul Bocuse or Pierre Freney, to go with him to a typical New York bachelor apartment, neither forewarned nor expected, and prepare there, with whatever he found there by way of cooking equipment, food and condiments, a superior meal. Clayborne goes on to describe how the chef won the challenge.

    Great chefs, of course, do work in well-appointed kitchens with all sorts of gadgets and specialized cooking utensils, but they are just as capable of producing extraordinary food working only with their trusty kitchen knife, and a few basic necessities such as pots and pans, and forks and spoons. After their extensive apprenticeships, and long hours laboring at a stove, they know what they are doing.

    And speaking of kitchen knives, what about surgeons who use them in a pinch to save fellow diners from being choked to death by an errant fishbone, by cutting their throats open to extract them on restaurant table tops? Surgeons also obviously normally work in operating rooms equipped with all sorts of gadgets and gizmos, but, if they have to, they can do amazingly well without them.

    Like most of us, we have a quantity of like things, usable for all sorts of purposes. Some we use often, some, some of the time, and many, seldom or never. Do I buy gadgets? Occasionally.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    hb,

    I immediately thought of Audrey Hepburn in Humphrey Bogart’s corporate kitchen in “Sabrina” where she set out to make a soufflé of tomato juice and crackers that were the only things available.

    My parents had a friend, Alice, who was saved by just such a surgeon or doctor in a restaurant using the chef’s sharpest knife and, I assume, no pain killer or anesthesia.

    I have an early food processor–a Cuisinart. It has been amazing and I can’t imagine life in a kitchen without it. I am convinced that when it dies I won’t ever be able to replace it. Its strength and quality are unbeatable.

    I keep thinking of what Martha wrote about her husband Taka who uses chopsticks to make bread dough. I’ve used a bottle to roll out dough when there was no rolling pin and cut the frozen butter into the flour and dough with a knife….though it sure is easier and faster to use a Cuisinart and rolling pin!

    The last trigger your comment set off was what I wonder about some contemporary artists. Have they mastered the basics of perspective and drawing before launching off in Robert Rauschenberg-like directions leading to his White or Red paintings?

  11. Kathleen Said:

    Your great gizmo question reminded me of a project I did for an editor many, many, many years ago at House Beautiful. She wanted to know how the “pros” scaled fish, so she had me go to the Fulton Fish Market to ask the fish mongers how they scaled fish. No gizmos for them. They nailed a bottle cap, ridge side out, to a piece of wood and used that to scale the fish! I’m sure the “pros” in every field have similar inexpensive ways to “skin a cat.”

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    What a great idea! You are right about tools that do the job without fanfare: I bet the editor was surprised!

    This doesn’t relate to gizmos but to improvising inspired by your comment. Because we live in a house where most of our belongings, such as candlesticks, are elsewhere, for my Thanksgiving table I used an idea I saw at an International Furnishings and Design Association luncheon years ago so we’d have candlelight on our table. I bought beautiful red apples and carved out a hole the size of a votive candle and made sure each candle was secure and put these in a bowl. If you have the right bowl or plate [we didn’t have a big choice] you can pile up the apples in a pyramid. Voila! Great for Christmas too.

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