Friday, August 28, 2009

The One Essential Kitchen Appliance

The economic downturn has left no popular shopping outlet unharmed, and even Costco sends frequent coupon books and circulars.
Because the nearest Costco is about a half-hour away, I schlep over there maybe once a month, or to pick up something, like my kids' contact lenses. But perhaps like many others, I've found lately that I just don't need so much "stuff." My mind-set is more into "divest" than to purchase another cute set of dessert plates (tough for me to resist) or another top to wear (unconscionable given all the "hand-me-ups" from my daughters).

So when I flip through the circular, there's little to lure me lately. But I can't blame any business for trying, and Costco's article pitching their expensive kitchen small appliances with the slant that home cooking precludes exorbitant restaurant bills had me chuckling.  According to Costco, I'll save big (over our five Seattle kosher restaurants...) if only I purchase a stand mixer, a slow cooker, a food processor, a juicer, a pressure cooker and rice cooker.

Well, I agree on the food processor; I use my huge Cuisinart DLC-XP (a very old version) to mix bread dough, shred blocks of cheese, and whir cucumber soup every week when preparing for the 12-24 guests at our Shabbat tables. And because of Shabbat restrictions on cooking, my crock pot is required for winter soups (which start cooking before Shabbat; you leave the pot on until it's over).

But if somebody asked, "What's the most useful tool you use for cooking?" what would you say?

As I was spreading olive oil on a pan-ful of bruschetta, I realized the answer: my hands. Often better than a spatula, funnel, scoop or many types of blenders; usually the only way to accomplish my end (eg. braiding challah), I use my hands and fingers for nearly every role in food prep.  And I don't need to buy them at Costco.

A few months ago, I injured my wrist while working out with those (stupid) heavy straight bars in a class at the gym.  Until I recovered, I couldn't even use my Cutco knives without pain. Imagine making fancy meals for a crowd and not being able to cut with a knife? (Yes, it renewed my gratitude and awe for the truly amazing, humans-only abilities of our hands.)

If you pressed me on my favorite and most useful electrical kitchen appliance, other than my Cuisinart, I'd have to $10 immersion blender.  I don't mind that it's corded. I make milkshakes in their cups, and cream soups in their pots, and whip cream in a jiffy.  I've got a hand mixer from 1970 (original box!) that works dandy, but I can't think of anything else electric that I use at all (OK; microwave oven, but I don't count that).

We're spoiled.  We've removed the "ewww!" factor from everything and now have to rent storage lockers for all the machines we "need." The reaction in the kitchen is the "slow food" movement and the rediscovery of Julia Child. In days of recession, there's a new chic-ness to cheapness, and process is once again right up there with product.

Though I wish Costco rebounding profit, on this busy Friday I've got to get back to kneading and basting and braising. We've got out-of-town guests coming...


  1. Can you believe my Cuisinart is 28 yrs old and still works perfectly??

  2. Unfortunately, I'm on my THIRD mega-expensive Cuisinart, and I see that now they're up near $800, so I better not need another one!