After twenty five years of teamwork, I reluctantly dismissed one of my most dedicated kitchen workers: my trusty Panasonic Kitchen Wizard. This humble little appliance helped me make thousands of meals. It sliced, it diced, it whipped, it blended, it shredded: soups, dips, cole slaws, dressings, marinades, cookie dough. You name it, my Kitchen Wizard did the job reliably. It never called in sick. It never complained, not even when I filled it with smelly garlic cloves.
Years ago I flirted with the idea of upgrading my basic food processor to something spiffier, bigger, more elegant. But I felt loyal to my Kitchen Wizard, as I do to many of my kitchen tools. I kept a slow cooker for years even after one of the handles on the lid cracked, which made lifting the lid to serve hot soup a risky proposition. After one too many steam burns, I bought a sleek new slow cooker, yet I missed the battle-weary look of the old one. That well-worn appearance, including a few small telltale brown stains where some stew had spilled and burned onto the unit, was a tangible reminder of all the marvelous soups and stews it had slowly simmered over the years, providing so much gustatory pleasure to my family and friends.
Magazine photos of chefs always show them working in kitchens with cookware that looks like it never fried a single egg. The pots and pans look like they were just unwrapped, the instruction booklet still inside. But, like cookbooks with smudges of oil or cocoa powder, kitchen appliances with scratches, stubborn stains or even a little warping from uneven heat send a message: I work here. I count.
A few months ago, I realized that my Panasonic Kitchen Wizard just wasn’t cutting it – literally. Blending even the most pliant ingredients, such as canned chick peas, taxed it beyond its capacity. My resulting hummus, with extra fresh-squeezed juice from the lemon tree in my yard, was unintentionally chunky but also delicious.
My guests assumed I had made it like that on purpose. Still, there was no escaping the conclusion that this appliance was now more Kitchen Wizened than a Kitchen Wizard. It was time to say good bye. To give it full honors, I gently set it out on a chair in the backyard, lying in state, until I brought home a new Cuisinart.
It may seem ridiculous to wax sentimental about a minor kitchen appliance, especially since I have no emotional attachment to most other material possessions. I don’t give a thought to tossing away shoes whose soles have worn down, even though the shoes have carried me where I wanted to go. I am happy to give the heave-ho even to big ticket items like a ratty couch, though it too, rendered faithful service as a comfortable place to read, sip wine, and talk to family and friends.
In a relentlessly consumerist society, I know I should develop more of an appreciation for my other belongings, too. But I doubt I’ll ever value them the way I appreciate my kitchen tools. I log a lot of time in the kitchen, and spend most of the day on Fridays cooking elaborate meals for the Sabbath. Those meals are infused with spiritual intentions, served on my Wedgewood china, and eaten when we are wearing our “Saturday best.” We also share these meals with friends old and new almost every week. I think that’s why I appreciate my kitchen “team” more than I do other possessions: They are the tools and vessels that enable me to transform mere bags of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, flour, rice, oil, and spices into much more than the sum of their parts. They fill the kitchen with promising aromas of sautéed onions, chicken soup, roasting meats, chocolate cakes. They are my “partners” that enable me to present meals that are seasoned with the world of the Sabbath spirit, nourishing both body and soul.
If you enjoyed this column, you’re sure to enjoy my books Till We Eat Again: A Second Helping and The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement. And please show your support for this blog using the PayPal donation button on the home page. You’ll be glad you did!