5 kitchen things I can do without

A little while ago, I wrote a post venerating the 5 kitchen things I can’t do without.  I thought, in the interests of candor, I’d do a counter-post showcasing just a few of the many flaws in my frustrating kitchen.

For a person who writes about food professionally, I have an incredibly bad kitchen.  It’s really hard to convey just how bad it is.  It has a stained, cracked linoleum floor.  There are huge holes in the plaster ceiling and almost no counter space.  It’s hard to work in and harder to clean.  I don’t even have a dishwasher, the plan being that we will get one when we do the kitchen renovation.
But one price of getting to write about food professionally is not earning enough to afford a kitchen renovation, which I believe  is called “situational irony”.
Anyway, it was really hard to choose just 5 kitchen things I could do without-not including “Item 1: the entire kitchen”.  So I decided to limit the list to things that ought to be easily fixed or replaced, but which for some reason haven’t been.

defective oxo tongsThe Tongs from Hell.  I got these Oxo Good Grips tongs in 2009, after burying the tongs which had served me for 8 years previously and died of a sprung pin.    The first time I used these, the rubber began to melt, leaving a black streak on my thumb.  I figured I shouldn’t have left them so close to the burner and resolved to be more cautious.  Because of my caution-and refusal to believe the tongs were simply defective-it took 3 years for the rubber to melt all the way through, which it at last did, dramatically, while I was grilling a steak.  In seconds, the rubber sloughed off the steel skeleton, leaving nothing between steel and flesh.  I threw them down just as my thumb began to sizzle.

I’ve ordered new Oxo tongs (they haven’t yet arrived) in the hopes that the Tongs from Hell were simply a flawed instance of a basically sound product.  I believe this is called “optimism”.*

[*There’s a happy ending to this story–Oxo happened to run across my blog post about these tongs, and they actually contacted to me to say that they pored over the picture trying to figure out what went wrong.  They even offered to replace them.  Now that’s impressive customer service.]

argo corn starch boxThe Corn Starch Box.  I use corn starch a lot, because  it’s a critical ingredient in the crispy “egg crêpe” I make for my son almost every morning (he’s never been able to tolerate softness or wetness in eggs).  Although the current hard-walled plastic box is an improvement over the iconically bad cardboard box it was before, the Argo corn starch container remains a messy, badly-designed failure.  Yet all it really needs is a double flip-top (perforation one side, scooping hole the other), as one finds on spice bottles, or a foil half-cover for leveling a spoon, as one finds on a baking powder can.  As it is, every time I use the box there’s a trail of powder on it and around it and everywhere it goes.

maverick 3 line kitchen timer

The Erratic Timer.  But for one issue, this timer would have been on the other list, the one with my favorite kitchen things.  It’s a timer that has 3 separate lines so you can time 3 different things, and a count-up chronometer and clock on the alternate screen.  It’s magnetic, so it can go on the side of the oven, which is the only logical place for it in my kitchen.  But when the oven reaches about 400 degrees, the timer freaks out and re-sets to zero, inevitably at a point when I have no clue how much longer there is to go.  It also freakishly re-sets to zero on other random occasions.
But I have to stick with it because there are so very few good kitchen timers that count both up and down, never mind being able to time 3 different dishes.

Satan’s Kitchen Mitt.  When my husband first got me these high-heat silicone mitts, I thought they were great.  But because silicone only seems indefinitely flexible (it isn’t, really), over time they have developed a rip in that most critical of places, the thenar space.  The thenar space is that bit of skin between your thumb and forefinger.  If you would like to know pain, try extracting a cast-iron skillet that has been in a 450-degree oven for an hour with a mitt you believe to be intact, only to sustain a screaming burn right in the thenar space.  Also, these mitts are slippery when wet or oily.
I still have them because I haven’t yet figured out the best replacement-an all-cloth quilted traditional mitt, or some other differently-shaped silicone product, or both.

blue star igniter ceramic

The Temperamental Igniter.  I love my Blue Star range, which is my kitchen’s only indication that a serious chowhound is in residence.  It’s stainless steel, propane-fueled, with six radial burners, two of which can put out 22K BTU. But the igniters-tiny, easily broken, ceramic tubes-don’t work when it’s humid, when a wire has shifted, on alternate Tuesdays, or when the moon is in Aquarius.  They’re moody, is my point.  We’ve replaced at least 3, and I’ve taken to just keeping used wooden skewers next to the stove to transfer an igniting flame from one of the few burners that do ignite.
I suppose I could just keep a stockpile of extra igniters around, but I resent having to shell out $20 apiece for a part that is smaller than a birthday candle.

Taken in perspective, I guess it’s bearable, and a lot of great food gets cranked out of here in spite of the various annoyances.  After all, it’s just little stuff.  So long as you don’t count Item 1: the entire kitchen.

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  • srushton  on  July 20, 2012

    Totally with you on the cornstarch container and Satan's oven mitt. How hard would it be to make a half flip top so we could use the other side to level off the measuring spoon? And while my silicone mitts didn't have holes, I could never seem to get them under a pan to remove it from the oven. The mitts were just too thick. I felt bad because they were a gift from my mom but I gave them away.

  • judy  on  July 20, 2012

    Oh yes on the cornstarch container – total frustration, so unnecessary. Try "Ove Gloves". So much nicer than the silicone mits.

  • sir_ken_g  on  July 22, 2012

    Then there is the new "must have" over priced electric appliance that will next year go to storage or charity because you never needed it in spite of they guy on late night TV.
    Want a pasta maker? Plenty at Goodwill.

  • lesorelle  on  July 23, 2012

    Oh, yes, on the entire kitchen! I surprise even myself what gets made in what's basically a hallway. We've owned several homes through the years, and never with a new kitchen. I'm still hoping…

  • ellabee  on  July 30, 2012

    I guess it's evidence of how slowly I go through cornstarch that the canister in our kitchen was decanted from the epically unsuitable Argo cardboard box…

  • Avocet  on  August 20, 2012

    All my life, I've used Argo cornstarch and while the plastic box was an improvement over the cardboard box, it is still a pain. Imagine my delight when I went to buy more cornstarch and saw a can of Clabber Girl cornstarch with a baking powder type top that will let you scoop out a level spoonful of starch! No more Argo for me.

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