A few years ago I wrote an article about my favourite kitchen gadgets and appliances .And while my ‘best of’ list remains pretty much unchanged, its counterpart of useless items and ill- conceived follies grows ever longer. So as our local inorganic collection grow nearer, I find myself thinking of those many items that were acquired with such high hopes, only to be abandoned at the kerbside or dropped off at the local foundling home for household clutter- A.K.A the Anglican Op shop.
For the most part I learn from errors. There are after all only so many actions one ever needs to do in the kitchen – chopping- mixing, whipping, squashing, kneading, peeling… and all of these can be performed with a very small tool kit. So why then are there untold thousands of different toys available for the modern impressionable cook? Put very simply, we’re suckers.
If you buy a knife without first holding it in your hand, you’re a bloody fool. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Knives are the most import tool in the kitchen and should always be tried for comfort, balance and quality before you buy. Choose a reputable brand and be deeply suspicious of anything cheap. Always buy knives individually (never buy sets)and be prepared to part with a lot of money per knife. You will never regret the investment. Never, never, for the love of god or science, buy knives off the TV. Actually don’t buy anything off the TV.
Wine glass tokens/tags
A terrible gift both given and received (I don’t think anybody has ever bought these for themselves). Really, how pissed-up and absent minded are you if you need a label on your wine glass? Carry an indelible marker with you if it’s really a problem and seek help.
The sort of purchase or –as is far more likely- gift that gets used with mild enthusiasm once, and then spends an eternity gathering greasy kitchen dust in some bottom shelf purgatory. Who really needs three different types of cheese knives, a wire and a horrid marble chopping board anyway? No, the swamp kauri ones are no better. A paring knife and a battered chopping board work fine for me, but then I’m not big on entertaining. Please don’t buy these though, you’re only encouraging producers to make more of the same – or worse, wooden napkin rings.
I was quite taken with these little rubber tubes when they first appeared a decade or so back, but quickly realised my mistake. Sure, they work beautifully… but so does the heel of my hand. Last I saw of mine it was perishing in an op-shop window.
Ok, these things are probably very handy if you’re a butcher or fond of drunken cooking, but the only purpose my one has served so far is shucking dried corn. One of my costlier mistakes, and destined to appear on TradeMe sometime soonish.
What a clever, clever gadget. It skins and de-seeds tomatoes, spitting out a stream of the purest, ruby-red pulp. Fair enough, but who really cares? Unless you’re putting down litres of passata each summer this rather ugly hand-cranked nonsense is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.
Let me see… waffle iron, pie maker, milkshake maker, ice-cream maker, rice cooker, pop corn maker, bread maker…
I’m sure there’ve been others too, but these stand out as my personal best (or worst) examples of the genre. All of these appliances and their ilk do exactly what they claim, but the thing is, most of them do things you can do with existing equipment, or entirely by hand.
The few uniquely practical examples (e.g. waffle irons) will most likely fall into disuse within days. Sadly we never have as much time to make waffles, pies or ice cream as we imagine or hope. So always think very long and hard before buying any new kitchen appliance, read reviews online and be very, very honest with yourself.
Clever looking choppy/slicey/gratey/shreddy things
Beware of anything demonstrated at an expo or shopping centre by people wearing headsets and doing fiddly stuff to carrots. These represent some of the most useless kitchen items ever created, and are likely to fail/cut your thumb off/reveal them to be utterly superfluous within minutes of opening the box. The same goes for miracle cloths and sponges. Run for the hills too if you hear the words “ 12 easy instalments of…”.
This one seems to divide cooks. Personally I don’t get the need at all. Rinse you lettuce leaves, give them a bit of a shake, make your salad. If you need a machine to do this for you perhaps salads aren’t for you. No offence.
I am very pleased to report my kitchen is mostly free of all of these items now, but chances are some sparkly new and utterly pants toy will catch my eye sooner or later…
What’s your worst kitchen purchase ever?