Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Gena Bigler: Loves kitchen gadgets, but comes to senses with time-tested questions
I love kitchen gadgets. Pampered Chef, William Sonoma, Tupperware and even Avon have sucked me into buying one-trick ponies. I do actually use most of the things I’ve bought, sometimes it takes a while. It took a year for me to unpack and try out the mandoline (which I love, but use quarterly). Almost two years before I unpacked the pancake batter dispenser; which is pretty cool but doesn’t work as well as the stainless steel scoop I use for nearly everything.
My counters are cluttered with kitchen “necessities.” I’m afraid to guess how much I’ve spent on these time-savers. Thank goodness I’ve resisted some of the other tempting appliances. Some however, even with my kitchen addiction I wonder about. Egg makers, crepe cookers, and pie makers I just don’t understand. What about an electric pie maker? I have an oven and a toaster convection oven, what does a standalone electric pie maker bring to the table? Am I missing out? Would I make pie twice a week if I had his magical device? Should anybody make pie twice a week?
Still, I find myself drooling over handheld vacuum sealers and dreaming about how they would improve my cooking. How I could feed my family better if only I had (fill in the blank) device. Really, how have I survived without a sous vide immersion circulator. That crazy expensive induction burner really would be safer to cook on with tiny ‘helpers’ in the kitchen. But again, I have a stove and while the induction burner and sous vide circulator are quite attractive their value for my kitchen dollar are just not worth it.
I should confess that it’s possible I watch a few too many cooking shows and that I sometimes think Chef Gordon Ramsey is too easy on restaurant owners. Thanks to those cooking shows, I now daydream about having liquid nitrogen to cook with. How cool is instant ice cream? Again, not at all cost efficient or practical. There are popsicle makers that make popsicles in seven to 15 minutes. I’m not sure that 45 minutes faster is worth the counter space or money, but then again with an impatient preschooler bouncing around the kitchen it might be.
Some of my favorite kitchen gadgets are well worth the money. I use my stand mixer at least weekly. Thanks to it, I have given up boxed baking mixes and make my cake from scratch. I love the stand mixer. It produces homemade whip cream with minimal time and effort. The stuff in the can can’t hold a candle to homemade with just a touch of sugar. If you have a stand mixer, there is a weird spatula made just for use with them that is well worth the money. It’s curved and has a small triangular end that is just right for scraping the mixing bowl.
Thanks to the food processor, I haven’t bought frozen hash browns or premade pie crust in ages. Pie crust really isn’t that hard with the right tools. My preschooler can cut her own apples with an apple slicer. It was definitely worth the money and the drawer space.
Most of my favorite kitchen items were gifts. Whenever I pull out the big skillet, I think about the friends who bought it as a wedding present over a decade ago. It is still a great skillet. They chose well I use it nearly every day. My sister bought me a fantastic cake decorating set and I think of her every time I use it. In fact most of the gifts are used often. It’s the stuff I buy myself that tends to sit on the shelf unappreciated.
Whenever I find myself browsing William Sonoma, I think about the value of whatever shiny bobble has caught my eye. How soon will I really use it? Will it save time? Will it improve our lives somehow? Is it worth the storage space?
Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of a Kentucky business and serves on the board of the Kentucky RiverKeeper. Gena would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.