My Weirdest Kitchen Tools
Last night many members of The Pittsburgh Camerata convened at my house for a year-end party. As everyone was standing around the kitchen, as guests invariably do, Paul and Yvonne commented on my whisk jar, shown at left. Their comments were along two lines - a) some of the items in the jar are not actually whisks (such as the folder and the egg separator) and b) some of the ones that are actually whisks are rather odd.
I freely admit to a liking (some might call it an obsession) for old, funky, and/or odd kitchen tools. Whisks and related items (a folder is definitely related, although an egg separator retains a tenuous connection at best) are therefore particularly appealing.
The two in the next picture are probably the oddest - I bought the one on the top in Germany, where they are fairly common. I have no idea which garage sale or thrift shop the one on the bottom came from. It's actually a beater - you push down on the handle and the bottom bit rotates.
This got me rummaging around for other odd kitchen items, and made me realize that, generally speaking, odd kitchen items are usually quite specialized, and therefore almost entirely useless. At best, they aren't likely to make the list of items to save in a fire.
I chose two items as illustrations. The first of the two certainly wouldn't make it through even a minor kitchen downsizing - to tell the truth, I had forgotten I had it until I started looking around my kitchen. It is a tea bag squasher. It was probably a gift at some point, accompanying a tea pot or box of exotic tea. If I were the sort of person determined to extract every atom of tannin-y goodness from my tea bags, it might be invaluable, but since I am of the "let it drip for a second before I fling the bag into the compost bucket" type of tea bag user, it ended up at the back of a drawer.
The other item is in a much more ambivalent class. But before I explain why, I should explain what it is. Al Dente, as it/he is called, is a plastic reproduction of the famous statue of Verdi. But it is much, much more. It is, in short, a pasta timer. Not just any pasta timer, either. You fling him into your pot of boiling water at the same time you add your spaghetti (with great trepidation, the first time I tried it,) and after 7 minutes it sings the Triumphal March from Aida. (Actually, "singing" is overstating the case - it is more of a whistle.) After 9 minutes it pipes (perhaps this is the mot juste) the Prisoner's Chorus from Nabucco, and if you can bear to cook your pasta for 11 minutes, you get 'La Donna e Mobile' from Rigoletto. The only time I have actually used it was when some students of mine who were here for a party poked around my kitchen (much like Paul and Yvonne) and wanted to know what it was. I had to admit that I had never used it, and so they were invited back to witness his maiden voyage, in both senses of the term.
The ambiguity about Al's status in my kitchen is two-fold. First of all, he brings a certain jaunty sense of je ne sais quoi to my kitchen. After all, not everyone has one. In fact, I don't know of anyone else that has one, although my friends' lives don't appear to have been impoverished by this lack. But perhaps more importantly, my husband found this all by himself, in a desperate last-minute run through the shops before returning to the US after his German sabbatical. So Al would definitely survive even the most extreme kitchen downsizing. How far down the list of things to save in a fire does he appear? Perhaps we should draw a veil over such speculations, possibly while whistling 'Addio fiorito asil' from that Puccini classic, Madame Butterfly...
P.S. - thanks to Yvonne, who asked if I had blogged about my whisks, and suggested that I remedy the omission.