Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's in Your Kitchen?

I love kitchen gadgets; they offer the dual benefit of allowing you to do work better and more efficiently—to effortlessly slice potatoes into chips, or to flip a giant piece of fish without incident. At the same time, I am mindful of the advice of William Morris, which I learned via Gretchen Rubin:
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. 
At the same time, I think it’s important to dwell on the concept of utility, and to weigh the beauty of something against the cost of keeping it, or its similarity to other objects. Just because the purpose of something is known and employed doesn’t necessarily justify its occupation of valuable real estate in the kitchen. As an article in Slate extolling the virtues of wooden spoons points out, “You have a mango pitter. It’s called a knife." And how many pictures of your children are too many?

About eight years ago, we were having lunch in Port Townsend WA. The exact details are a little hazy, but, for some reason, the then much-smaller OG and I went across the street to check out a kitchen shop. We were admiring a “turkey lifter,” basically a two-pronged utensil that would facilitate lifting the bird out of the oven and on to the carving board. Having just recently cooked a giant turkey, I could easily see the value of such an implement. The proprietor of the shop, which was virtually empty, came over to close the deal. “Those are great.” She said. “Does it have any other uses?” I wondered. She paused, and sighed: “No. It’s a bit of a unitasker.”

I put it back, but the OG fell in love with the word, and, for the next few weeks, whenever I was doing something in the kitchen, she would ask me if the equipment I was using was a unitasker. It made me rethink my values somewhat, and I decided that a unitasker would have to satisfy a very strict standard before being granted residency—balancing the importance of the task, against the size of the footprint and the viability of an alternative method. So a coffee maker easily passes, and a meat thermometer and popcorn popper slide through; but an apple corer does not, to say nothing of that beautiful food dehydrator.

I think everyone has known the pain of opening a drawer full of stuff, knowing that most of the contents are not a meaningful part of their life, and then closing it after finding (or, as is often the case, failing to find) the implement sought. I don’t know if unitasker is a word (Microsoft suggests it isn’t), but it seems like something we should all be mindful of nonetheless,

No comments:

Post a Comment