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Arts and Culture

Bread And Butter: Single-Use Items

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It’s that time of year. That time where the hope of spring starts to become a reality and flirts on the edges of your mind and you suddenly, from a place of deep hatred, find yourself emptying every drawer and cupboard in a fit of decluttering. THIS time, for good. Well, until next time.

There is a famous chef who toured a few years ago with a great show centered around culinary science. Being fans, we quickly bought tickets and enjoyed the night out as a family. I don’t remember every in and out of the show, but the one thing that really sticks out in my mind was his disdain for singular use kitchen gadgets. He had a lengthy, but funny, monologue touting their evils.

My husband bought a garlic press a few months ago and joked as he put it away how disappointed this chef would be, that we were ‘those’ people who felt we were too good to smash the clove with the back of a butcher knife. It then turned into a conversation about whether a garlic press is really in the same category as, say, a banana slicer or not. I think this chef would definitely say yes, but I’m in the “no” category since there seems to be no other way I can get that much out of a single clove. Even using the back of a butcher knife.

I like to pride myself on not over-buying kitchen gadgets. I try to keep things simple and useful. But I also believe that no matter how careful, everyone falls prey to shiny objects from time to time and those shiny objects often get shoved into the corners of cabinets only to resurface during spring rage cleaning. 

For example: I own bamboo skewers. We do not grill. And since we do not grill, why do I own a package of not just a couple, but a package of hundreds of bamboo skewers? I remember buying them. I remember I had a really good reason. I cannot remember the reason, now, of course, but there they sit, in my drawer, next to the take-out napkins and to-go plastic cutlery and odds and ends birthday candles.

Another culprit is the pasta cutters. They are gorgeous. One round, one square, each with fluted edges and a wooden handle. How many times have these been used to cut pasta since being washed and stored in our home? Exactly zero. However, they rival the potato masher (which I will never admit to being a mistake and absolutely does not count as a single-use item!) in booby-trapping my large utensil drawer. I’m certain someone creative could come up with a use for them since homemade, fresh pasta clearly isn’t happening in this household, but we cannot come up with one. But would getting rid of them be the same as admitting defeat in our pasta prowess? 

So, even in my carefully curated kitchen, I can think of two examples readily that fit not only the ‘single-use item’ category but the dreaded, ‘single-use and never used’ one as well. But what about those single-use things that do get used? They are a little bit tougher to part with, it seems. 

Take the aforementioned potato masher. In our house, it really is a single-use item. It mashed potatoes. I think I used it the other day to mash some clumps of something, but that was a one-off, I can assure you. Can you use it for more? I think so. I’ve been told you can, anyway, and who am I to argue? But for us, it’s a single-use and not going anywhere. Its usefulness far outweighs its annoying features or solitary lifestyle. 

When we first got our pressure cooker, that was definitely a single-use item in our kitchen. We couldn’t work it very well and used it mostly for dried beans and rice. Actually, lately, its single-use is to cook chicken and potatoes quickly, but there are definitely objects in our kitchen that can do that job and others. Namely the stove. But we aren’t rushing to kick it to the curb any time soon. See also: my grapefruit spoon, our orange peeler, and ice cream scoop. 

The waffle iron, however? That I would be fine with letting go. I might have to convince others, though. I don’t think not liking the food that a single-use item produces is always a good justification in the eyes of others who do.

What about you? Does the single-use item have its place? What are your parameters? I’m thinking there is an equation in here somewhere I’m just not seeing. Convenience x how often = justified? Maybe. Or maybe I just really like that potato masher.