A Look At Life: Gadgets

5th September 2014

The glory of the kitchen gadget
How not to save time…

Heather Harris

Or I could just use a knife…

Am I the only person who thinks this when faced with the latest kitchen gadget which promises to chop, peel, dice and slice? It’s dishwasher safe and it complies with all relevant British safety guidelines… but, arguably, so does your average knife.

In this world of high tech wizardry, I find it rather amusing that the men in white suits have managed to cook up so many time-saving kitchen gadgets that are in fact time-consuming.

The numerous ‘Hand Held Mini Choppers’ are a case in point. Their compact size allows for ‘easy storage’ but also means endless eye-watering hours pulverising the average onion, followed by an extended period of weeping to pick all the discarded bits out of the blades, dismantle it and put it in the dishwasher.

And don’t even think about attacking bigger vegetables with one, as the instructions – without a hint of irony – suggest ‘slice larger pieces first before placing under the chopper’. Or just keep slicing and chuck away the gadget.

In America the latest craze is the Hutzer 571 Banana Slicer. Named so, I’m guessing, because 571 people in the marketing meeting said it was a rubbish idea before Mr Hutzer overruled them.

This piece of cutaway yellow plastic when placed over the fruit and pressed down firmly produces a ‘perfectly sliced banana’ with just the minimum amount of effort, washing up and cost.

Or I could just use a knife.

The British, meanwhile, are busy packing their bananas away in one of those best-selling hinged Banana Holders from Lakeland (the classic of the culinary catalogue world). Presumably made with the bits of yellow plastic Mr Hutzer left behind, these handy cases duplicate what nature was quite happily doing on its own. After all, that’s the USP of the banana: it’s not only very comfortable in its own skin – it also pips all other fruit to the post in the ‘simple but satisfying and easily portable snack’ stakes.

At least the financial outlay for these surplus to requirement kitchen items is small fry compared to those real big fish in the gadgetry pool. Resisting any of the obvious ‘dough’ puns, few can argue that a breadmaker is a ‘proven’ investment. The carbohydrate delights resulting from this (£50 and rising) gadget soon expanded our family’s stomachs by many rolls.

The risk of obesity and a totally new wardrobe for all five of us was only averted by the tabloid headlines pronouncing bread as the food of the devil and Mr Atkins as the saviour of the world’s waistlines.

The breadmaker is now relegated to the back of the cupboard, where it’s sandwiched between the juicer and the pasta machine. As dust collectors all three are unparalleled. As time-savers they rival the proverbial chocolate teapot (a product not yet seen in the Lakeland catalogue) in their uselessness.

In a fit of anti-bread fever, a summer of picked, pulped and liquidised lunch beckoned. The size of an average car with roughly the same number of levers, my juicer promised to have my eyes sparkling, my hair glossy and my skin like that of a young Gwyneth, before I had ‘consciously uncoupled’ all the moving parts.

Three hours of frenetic, fruit-filled activity later and I had one cupful and a kitchen of carnage. My murderous attempt at Beetroot Energy Drink (quote: ‘ideal for endurance athletes’) rather fittingly resulted in a desperate desire to run numerous miles away from a worktop that resembled the chainsaw massacre and a sink that looked full of deep red Type A.

Clearly if God had wanted us to live on juice, I thought, he would have added a glass of lightly sparkling Appletise to the Garden of Eden.

I didn’t shell out for my pasta maker. It was a present – from someone who doesn’t know me very well. The sheer joy of pasta is its simplicity. Buy, open bag, add boiling water: meal. It is the Pot Noodle of the civilised world. Quite why anyone would want to spend their day hand rolling ravioli is something only an Italian can understand.

Superwoman author herself, Shirley Conran, famously declared to the housewives of the 70s, ‘Life's too short to stuff a mushroom’. It is also too short to gadgetise your kitchen. Just use a knife…

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