The other night, while cooking dinner, I asked my wife for something. I think it was a potato peeler and she looked at me like I had three heads. You know the apparatus I speak of. It has a wide handle, usually metal and bowed and the blade is narrow with an opening that runs down the middle. It rattles when you shake it. The blade pivots when you scrape it across a potato, carrot, apple, or whatever you are trying to peel. My wife asked me if I wanted to use the peeler. I repeated to her I thought I was asking for the peeler.
“Not that one.” she said.
Not realizing we had another peeler, because the peeler I had used forever was just fine, I asked her about the second peeler. She reached under the kitchen counter and pulled out something that looked like the base of a blender. She took the potato I was holding and stuck it on something like a plastic spindle. She closed this plastic cuff around the potato, plugged the thing in and it came alive with a “whirr.” In about three seconds, the potato was peeled. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I wanted the peeler for the carrots and not the potato, but that didn’t seem terribly important. Mashed potatoes were just as good as baked potatoes and I could still use the potato peeler for the carrots.
Some children learn a trade from their parents. My wife has learned how to hoard all kinds of kitchen gadgets that supposedly make cooking a lot easier and more convenient. We don’t cook so much that we need to replace our normal cooking utensils, which have proven tried and true for many years, with futuristic gadgets. We have hot dog heaters, apple slicers, apple corers, apple peelers, a machine that makes applesauce in about 30 seconds. I can’t tell you the last time my wife or I actually ate an apple. We have a little thing that makes poached eggs in the microwave. If you want Eggs Benedict that tastes like a Nerf ball, that device is great. We have a blender, but I can’t tell you the last time we used it. I think we have one of those gloves that let you pull a pan of brownies out of the oven or hold molten lava with one hand, but I’m not sure. I still use a beat up old pot holder with a picture of a cat in a chef hat on it.
I used to joke with my wife that her parents had stuff in their kitchen that I didn’t even know existed. Now, her parents are in senior living and we have somehow, some way, wound up with all that goofy stuff in our kitchen. We don’t use most of it. I don’t use any of it, really. Some of it looks like it might be practical, but a lot of it looks like Rube Goldberg had a contract with Tupperware. My in-laws used to get all those catalogs with dumb things for the kitchen and I think they ordered every one of them. I get it. Folks want to make the drudgery of cooking a meal quick and efficient. A lot of the time, I don’t even want to cook at all and just want to make a sandwich. Well, we have a hot sandwich maker. It’s on the counter next to the hamburger bun warmer that looks suspiciously like the hot sandwich maker.
There is a company that makes a “breakfast station.” This is a device that is half coffee maker and half toaster oven, with an electric griddle on the top. Supposedly, you can make an entire breakfast on this thing. Breakfast for one person. By the time this thing heats up, I can scramble two eggs, make toast and have a cup of coffee ready in the Keurig. The breakfast station looks pretty cool, but the theory of it fails in comparison to the reality.
I usually write this column shortly after having dinner. Tonight, while I was preparing to write it, I asked my wife where my laptop was. She dug around in our hall closet and pulled out a dusty Olivetti manual typewriter that had been stored under a bag of winter hats and gloves.
“What’s that thing for?” I asked.
“I figured you wouldn’t want to use a new-fangled gadget.”
I shut up and asked her for another bowl of applesauce. She made it in 23 seconds.
Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.