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That moment when I realized that I am a Gadget Nut was an epiphany.  That simple knowledge released me from the burden of needing to justify my desire to acquire another gadget.  I felt liberated.  Empowered.  I no longer had to demonstrate to myself (or, indeed, to my long-suffering husband) that I needed  an avocado slicer/ olive pitter/ melon baller/ butter curler/ seven cheese graters (assorted)/ four veggie peelers/ seven types of tea strainers/ five kinds of egg whisks/ two garlic presses (Whoever presses garlic, anyway?).  Have I made my point?

I think it is fair to say that most of the aforementioned items are relatively inexpensive, and usually take up only a little room in a drawer that is rarely opened.  It is an innocuous addiction, unless you are clutter-averse.   The real problem with collecting such gadgets is that they are impossible to dispose of.  Oh yes, they get used once or twice before going into That Drawer.  But once there, they never again see the light of day.  You daren’t throw them away.  You never know when you might want to curl some butter, or ball a melon (so to speak).

Then there are the small electrical appliances that don’t cost much, and likewise are unlikely to see the light of day more than three times a year.  If that.  I’m thinking here, penguin-shaped waffle irons, popcorn poppers, donut bakers.  Let the record show that I don’t own any of those items.  I do, however, have a crepe maker.  I reckon the jury is still out on electric knives and electric can openers.   Just occasionally the electric knife comes into its own; for example, when cutting extremely thin slices of bread for melba toast it beats the bread knife every time.  And for me the electric can opener is good for one reason only:  I can never find a manual can opener that works properly.

Some non-electrical items that I would put in the Highly Desirable category are the pasta maker and the kitchen blow-torch (or brulee burner).  Who doesn’t need a blow-torch in the kitchen?   Likewise, I adore my salad spinner.  Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective.

There is, however, another category of gadget that is not so innocuous.   These gadgets are usually electrical, and they generally occupy enough shelf space to hold  a small child, or a large cat, and cost the equivalent of three weeks groceries.   In my own case, I have an ice cream maker that chills the ice cream as well as churns it, which simply means I don’t have to put the bucket into the freezer for 24 hours in order to use it.  It works well, but it takes up as much space (and weight) as a 1980 model television.   At the rate I use it, I reckon my ice cream costs about $47 per litre.

I think bread machines must run a close second.  In a small number of households they are used frequently, and more power to the owners of those machines!  But it seems that everyone I know has one, but very few can recall the last time bread was made in it.   Don’t get me wrong!  I like – and occasionally even use – my bread machine.  I’m just not sure that I make bread or cinnamon rolls more often because I have it than I would without it.   We’ll never know.

With the exception of a few items which I hold in multiples (e.g. seven cheese graters, assorted), all of these gadgets are non-essential items.  They’re fun; sometimes even handy, but not essential.  They don’t fall into the category of tools.  I make an important distinction between tools and gadgets.  A tool is well-designed, usually for a single purpose, well-made, and essential to any kitchen.  Good knives, good saucepans, excellent skillets.  These are the tools of the trade for anyone preparing food, whether a domestic cook or a professional chef.  Gadgets, on the other hand, run the gamut from handy little time-savers to gimmicks.

While every kitchen needs a good mixer – I count that as a necessary tool – for me the Kenwood mixer (the rough Australian equivalent of the Kitchenaid, but not as good) falls into the category of a gadget. Indeed, a myriad of gadgets.  It is the Ultimate Gadget.  With a Kenwood Chef you can have attachments that churn ice cream, roll and shape pasta, peel potatoes, mill grain, mince and stuff sausages, juice lemons, blend smoothies, slice and shred cheese or veggies (But wait! There’s more!  The food processor attachment comes in a choice of stainless steel, glass, or acrylic!)  Oh, and it mixes.   It is to a kitchen what one-size-fits-all is to the pantyhose wearer.  I don’t buy it.   As much as I love gadgets, I love good tools even more, so that is one collection of gadgets that doesn’t ring my bell.

A final observation on gadgets and tools:  I love woodworking tools as well as kitchen tools and gadgets.  Notice I didn’t say I love woodworking tools and gadgets.  There aren’t many.  In the workshop, tools are just that: they are designed to do a single job.  Saws saw, drills drill.  You get the point.  I think it may have to do with the fact that the makers of workshop tools are targeting male consumers; kitchen tools and gadgets target mainly female consumers.  WARNING!  Politically incorrect statement to follow!  Women multi-task; men don’t.  Women want their tools to multi-task; men just want the right tool for the specific task.  There.  I’ve said it.             MM

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