Gadget Graveyard

The gadget graveyard in my basement

There’s a graveyard in my basement.

The lower level of my house is the final resting place for dead and discarded kitchen appliances: those innovative, time-saving, cunning devices you buy in a flurry of anticipation and eagerness, convinced they’ll transform you into a domestic goddess.

My basement shelves are stacked with gimmicky gadgets that no longer work, never worked, or never even made it out of their boxes. In my defense, many of these items were gifts. But if you want to chart three decades of culinary trends, well hey, come on down!

I present you the forensic evidence: the Zojirushi bread machine. The fondue set. The panini press. The pasta maker. The Crock-Pot, s’more set, smoothie shaker, Salton hot tray, Big City Slider Station, yogurt kit, electric carving knife, George Forman grill, ice cream maker, food vacuum sealer, wine aerator, Bialetti espresso pot, coffee bean burr grinder, Excalibur food dehydrator (to make – what? beef jerky?) and three – count ’em, three — cappuccino machines.

kitchen gadgetBest of all?

The blow torch for caramelizing crème brûlée.

“Who’s going to use that?” my husband demanded.

“I will,” I lied.

But wait! There’s more! as Ron Popeil used to say. You remember Ron, king of the infomercial. He gave us the Veg-o-matic, the Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler, the Showtime Rotisserie and the immortal phrase, “Set it and forget it!” You know his gadgets. The ones that Slice! And Dice! And have a million and one uses! The cuter the name, the less functional.

Yet even my sensible husband has fallen prey to a manic sales pitch. “I bought Ginsu knifes,” he confesses.

I console him. “No worries. I ordered a Salad Chopper.”

Bought with such zeal and high hopes, only to be consigned months later to the abyss of our windowless basement. Why did I succumb? What inner kitchenista was I channeling? Betty White in her role as Happy Homemaker Sue Ann Nivens? Top Chef?

Did I see myself as a braless earth mother in Birkenstocks, baking sheets of cookies to serve with milk from the cow in the backyard? Or as Nigella Lawson, stirring up sensual, simmering reduction sauces?

Kitchen gadgets have sex appeal. They’re all shiny and new. You think they’ll change your life, and of course they rarely do (though I still swear by my Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Hand Blender.) They’re just countertop candy. More affordable that a midlife Ferrari, but in the end? Kitchen porn that teases but doesn’t deliver.

Because, really: what’s the sense in having a gadget that chops everything in half a minute, when you then have to spend the next 20 disassembling, hand washing and reassembling it?

Last night we finally hauled out the never-used Panini Press still in its original packaging and checked the directions. “Practical hints: it is recommended to adapt cooking according to your own taste.” Duh. It also advised, “Apply a thin coat of oil to the heating plates.” To a nonstick grill? But oil it I did.

That sucker really heated up. It was smoking. Made pretty nifty grill marks too. It took five minutes to eat our fancy sandwiches, and four hours before the thing cooled down enough to clean.

“It would be a heck of a lot easier to clean if they’d designed it to remove the grill plates,” my husband grumbled. “How are you supposed to get rid of the soap when it says you can’t submerge the unit? I’ve been over this thing with a wet rag three times!”

“How do restaurants clean their grills?”

“They don’t.”

“Maybe it’s like a wok?”

“It doesn’t get that hot.”

“Au contraire.” I offered my blistered finger as evidence.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to toast the sandwiches next time?” he asked.

Back to the basement it goes. Rest in Peace, Panini Press. We hardly knew ye.

This is Liane Kupferberg Carter’s first piece for the Humor Times. She also blogs for the Huffington Post.

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Liane Kupferberg Carter’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Babble, Parents, and Skirt. She blogs for the Huffington Post.

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  • Pat Z.

    Hysterical. In its humanity. In its accuracy. In its eloquence. Kitchen porn!!!! Please write more!

    • Liane Kupferberg Carter

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • rita schneider

    funny it is refreshing to know that i am not the only one collecting such things the only difference is that mine are stored in the garage since i don t have a basement.

    • Liane Kupferberg Carter

      Um, Rita? There really isn’t a difference. :-)

  • Candy

    I can identify completely!

  • Jill Carter Kozinn

    very cute…although I use, and am glad I purchased ,
    many of those items….although I must admit…I use them tons for a short time and then never get back to them because I have to lug them out….

  • Evelyn

    Loved “countertop candy.” Even my kids, including the one who usually will take anything, do not want to take my hopeful mistakes. They ask, “What could you have been thinking. You don’t even like what that make.” Yes, please write more since it is helpful to not feel like the only one.

  • palestina

    PRETTY FUNNY! I can help, send me the spaghetti maker, i always wanted one.
    i will use it once and put it in MY garage!

    goodwill is calling! they want my tennis ball clock…

    • Liane Kupferberg Carter

      Maybe they’d also appreciate my Kit-Cat Clock (the one with the moving eyes and wagging tail…)

  • Karen

    Dear Sue Ann; Loved this and it hit the nail on the head! I have been looking for a support group to help with my own culinary porn addiction. Of course I would then have to admit to the ‘dead-mother-mixer-club’ that I began in my basement. I did get some help recently with a down-sizing move back into an apt, But I now find myself restlessly searching for the sexy useless gadgets of my dreams…and isn’t all good porn born from excess?

  • chapstickmom

    As I sit here eating crock-pot chicken I know the secret is to read the manual the day u get the item. I use my crock-pot,rice cooker, cuisinart smoothie maker and awesome black and decker lids off daily.

    But the beauty gadgets – 4get it !! The foot bath and facial massager gather dust.

    But no one has ever turned down a waffle on a Sunday morning piping hot from my waffle maker .

  • elcochef

    And that is why no one consigns Pampered Chef tools to the basement!! We are too well loved… & yay, we don’t make electrics!
    But I must say, I wish my Kit-Cat clock still worked, it stopped keeping time and wagging its tail long ago & I miss it!

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