Who Are You Calling Useless?

by Cait

This post is made possible thanks to my bad mood. Feel free to skip.

I often use things for the “wrong” purpose. I open packages & mail with my keys when I’m too lazy or impatient to grab a letter opener or knife, I fixed my fraying iPhone cable with Teflon tape, and plenty of other things that seem so normal at this point that I don’t even consider it the “wrong” purpose anymore. Just another version of “work with what you’ve got”, right? Besides, necessity is the mother of invention.

I was reminded of mymost recent example of this when reading Apartment Therapy. An article on The Kitchn (which I usually don’t bother reading) titled The 10 Most Useless Kitchen Gadgets caught my eye. Robert and I aren’t much for “single use” gadgets at our house (but we definitely don’t judge anyone for having/using what works for them; that is another rant in itself).  As is usually the case with Top 10 lists, I disagreed with their most “useless” gadgets. Granted I don’t own any of the things listed, but 2/10 I would use or have at least thought about purchasing (garlic peeler and spoon rest) and their reasons for not having them seemed kind of pretentious.

Maybe it’s the mood I’m in, but telling someone “follow this link to learn how to peel garlic” or “use a bowl instead of a spoon rest, it catches drips better” rubs me the wrong way. Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it is the way for everyone. Robert and I put spoons directly on the glass top of our stove, lean them on the pot’s handle, or lay them on the counter. Betcha that wouldn’t work for everyone. We Mrs Meyer’s our counters/stove daily after washing the dishes, they’re dark, and not something likely to stain or soak up oils like granite. (In complete truth, I have been thinking about getting this spoon rest. As with most things, I don’t feel like dealing with the stupid questions or jokes from acquaintances that see it, so I haven’t bought it.)

from Williams-Sonoma

As far as the garlic goes, I had thought about purchasing a garlic peeler (we use a lot of garlic) because I was tired of the use-the-side-of-the-knife-to-press-it trick not getting every last piece of skin off. Out of frustration one night I tried using a rubber jar opener. (You know those flat rubber ones that realtors/whoever put their logos on sometimes?) Worked like a charm. I thought I might be crazy until I saw someone else mention they did they same thing on the post on The Kitchn.

So tell me, what is your favorite “useless” gadget? And what methods do you use for things that might not work for everyone? Do you open mail with your keys, too?

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24 Responses to “Who Are You Calling Useless?”

  1. I picked up a gadget at a garage sale (which, I have to say, is where I get what I would consider “useless” gadgets, and mostly because they’re 50 cents and not $14 at Williams-Sonoma). I’m pretty sure it’s a strawberry de-stemmer. It’s a dime-sized scoop with little teeth all the way around the edge, and coming from a girl who did just fine de-stemmin’ them strawberries with a good knife, this otherwise useless tool is the shit. It literally lets you scoop out the leaves and stem from the berry, leaving it ready to slice up and devour. Have one of those?

    • Completely agree with the idea of buying “useless” gadgets at garage sales. I sometimes buy things I’d otherwise consider useless at HomeGoods or off Amazon to avoid paying full price. (I’d have bought a garlic peeler off Amazon if I had continued to be frustrated by the knife trick and hadn’t thought of using a jar opener.)

      I don’t have a strawberry de-stemmer, but it sounds useful! I think my grandparents might have had one, or something similar (your description of it sounds familiar). Normally we just use a knife as you said, but if I run across one for cheap I may have to give that a try!

  2. mmmmmmm… garlic….

  3. Merrypad- that thing is called a Tomato Shark, which is reason enough to own one. The intended purpose is to de-stem tomatoes, and here you are using it for strawberries, so it’s not even a uni-tasker, huh?

    I did find that article judgey and pretentious. I always had teeny pokey little apartment kitchens so I went for many years without any gadgets. Then someone bought me a vegetable peeler and it instantly made my life better. Sometimes, things that are meant to make your life easier really make your life easier, you know? Now that I have more space, my favorite uni-tasker is my salad spinner, even though the only thing it does it dry lettuce.

    • Glad I wasn’t the only one, Tarynkay! And I know what you mean about how sometimes things that are meant to make life easier really do make things easier.

      Also, I was thinking about salad spinners the other day! I’m tired of patting my spinach dry, which usually just ends up staining my dishclothes green. Do you have one of the ones that’s actually called a salad spinner, or the fold-flat metal basket thingies that you take outside and shake? (Maybe that sounds weird, but I remember my mom making salad and having me take the lettuce outside in this metal basket with handles to shake it dry. But that was back in the days before bagged salad and the idea of “single use” gadgets.)

      • Cait- I think that metal basket is a vegetable steamer? Does it fit inside a pot? My mom had one. I have an actual salad spinner. It’s this one:

        http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-International-Ratchet-Salad-Spinner/dp/B001GAQKMA/ref=sr_1_28?ie=UTF8&qid=1307621762&sr=8-28

        It was a gift, so I didn’t pay that for it, but if it were somehow destroyed, I would buy it again. This is probably more information than you need, but what I do is put the lettuce in the bowl part to soak with water (I buy the loose lettuce rather than pre-washed bagged salad mix), then drain it through the basket-part, then spin it, then serve the salad in the bowl part. This cuts down on the washing up.

        There are lots of different types of these, and they are probably all great. The only one I can recommend against is the pull-string type. My sister has one and the string gets moldy b/c there is no way to thoroughly dry it. Pre-salad spinner, I used to whirl the lettuce around in a clean pillowcase, which is what my Grandma did. That doesn’t work so well as a salad spinner but is less vexing than patting each leaf dry with a dishcloth.

        • Your salad spinner looks great, I might have to look into one of those, thanks! What I was referring to was one of these, which I think is similar to the pillow case method (my mom does have a steamer like you describe, too, though).

  4. I think The Kitchn is mixing up useless and lazy. I’ve got one of those apple slicer things that cuts the core out and slices everything up with one swift movement. Useless? No. Lazy? Hell yes.

    Then there’s the avocado slicer I got in a stocking one year – http://amzn.com/B000AXU1VA – which doesn’t do any more then mash up the insides. Now THAT is useless!

    • I think you’re right about them mixing up useless and lazy. Or as I like to think of it- time saving! Maybe people lose sight of the idea that these gadgets were meant to make life easier, sort of like Tarynkay said above about her vegetable peeler.

      I’d like to think that these things came about because someone came up with an easier way and decided to mass-produce it. Does that mean everyone needs every “single use” gadget as soon as they have a place of their own? Not necessarily. But if you core apples a lot, or peel garlic a lot you might like something that makes things a bit easier. I bet that apple slicer would be really handy for making a pie or baked apples or even if you just eat an apple every day.

      I do completely agree about gadgets meant to make life easier that don’t actually work, though. Useless!

  5. Ha! We’ve got a garlic thing! I didn’t even know what it was until Jeremiah modeled using it for me, so it must have been purchased by him pre-me. We, like you, are garlic lovers and I find it much easier having the garlic thing.

    I open packages with keys. Or fingernails.

    And sometimes, when I run out of pickles, I dip my sandwich meat ever so swiftly into the left over pickle juice. Oh, wait. That’s off-topic and slightly gross. :)

    • I am glad I am not alone in my garlic-loving and the belief that having something to help peel the skin off is nice! And happy to hear you open packages with keys (or fingernails), too!

      Haha I only find that slightly gross because I don’t like pickles (don’t judge!) :)

      • AT ALL? You don’t like sweet OR dill pickles? Well, okay. I won’t judge. As long as you promise not to judge me for dipping my meat into what amounts to basically salt water. And sometime, I should share the major pickle-faux pas that I made in front of Jeremiah’s farmer dad the first time we ever met. Oh, the embarrassment. I die.

        • At the moment, not at all. But I think I need to try again, because I like cucumbers.

          Haha looking forward to one day hearing that story!

  6. I TOTALLY open my mail with a key! I would LOVE to have a garlic peeler… and yes, we eat garlic in like 99% of our meals (onion too)!

    LOVE the rant! To each their own!!!

    PS- what comment program is this… I want it!!!

    • Yay another person who hopes their mail with a key!

      Mmmm garlic and onion… Try a jar opener if you have one, but I bet the specific tool is good, too!

      Sometimes you just need to rant, you know?

      PS- It’s just the basic WordPress comment program, I think they updated it very recently, I just noticed it was different when I responded to a comment on something other than my phone.

  7. Someone gave us a spaghetti measurer as a shower gift. The best part was when the gift-giver announced that it was sent to her for free in the mail and she didn’t want it. But apparently we would? :-P It’s become a running joke in our family!

    My issue with gadgets is the drawer space they take up…I sometimes am afraid to open our gadget drawer because most often what I see staring back at me will be a wad of tangled items that I really don’t want to sift through. :)

    • Wow, (about the spaghetti measurer) that’s just bad…

      And I agree about the gadget drawer, Erin! We don’t really have many gadgets (does an ice cream scoop and pizza cutter count?) We keep a few things in the drawer along with pot holders, but mostly I would say we make do without gadgets. I can certainly see the purpose of them for anyone who has the space though. Sometimes I find myself saying “if only I had a _________”, but then I usually forget to write whatever that item is down somewhere until the next time I need it.

  8. I loved this post! Sometimes the Apartment Therapy top ten lists are so irritating! I totally agree it is based on what works for you and opinion. I still love AT, but sometimes I want to post something in the comments just to heckle all of the snobs ;)
    Things I love in my kitchen that may be useless to other people:
    -Salad spinner by OXO (wedding gift I never knew I wanted). We use it at least every other day. Sometimes we use the insert as a colander when cleaning vegetables. It has a rubber rim around the bottom so it doesn’t slip while you are spinning lettuce.
    – Spoon Rest – I bought one at bed bath and beyond that looks like a large stainless steel spoon. We use it to death.
    – garlic press
    – tongs
    The list could really go on forever
    Things I could live without:
    – loose tea seeper ( I don’t know it’s technical name) – I never by loose tea leaves
    -Meat tenderizer – we barely ever use it

    • I agree that AT can be irritating sometimes! I love most of their posts, but I know what you mean about wanting to heckle all the snobs. But then that doesn’t do anything but put us on their level I guess, right?

      I heart tongs! I need another set, because I don’t know where ours went!

      I think it’s called a tea steeper. We have one (or is it two?) and use them sometimes. It’s one of those things I put up with storing for that one time that I want tea that doesn’t come in a bag.

  9. I always enjoy a post noting an irritation – makes one human :) Some of the silliest things annoy the heck out of me and I can see where you are coming from. For garlic I have a garlic press that takes off the peel at the same time. I have been told its not a “special” one but I throw the whole clove in and only the good stuff comes out the other end. I got it through that home party kitchen company whose name completely escapes me. It was expensive for a garlic press but I hate peeling garlic and this works like a charm. :)

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