The C word– that is, clutter — is this year’s mantra. Or rather the D word — declutter.
When the utensil drawer jams and you need a hard hat to open a cupboard, it’s time to get a grip. But where to start? What’s the plan? What can be saved and what can be tossed?
Certain tools are essential: can openers, wooden spoons, rolling pins. My desert island luxury would be a concave board and a mezzaluna, which is brilliant for speed chopping, is easy to clean and provides Pilates-like therapy, thanks to the gentle rocking motion.
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Cost does not always equal value. My Rolls-Royce of a garlic crusher languishes unloved because it failed in its primary task of effectively and evenly crushing the clove. Yet a freebie plastic kiwi fruit knife-cum-scoop is the perfect example of form and function — and excellent for al desko lunches.
Sometimes, of course, you really do get what you pay for: a sugar thermometer that won’t shatter, a marble pastry slab, a razor-sharp grater or a quietly powerful hand blender.
But there is no excuse for hoarding and cradling little-used gadgets and ropy old kitchenalia.
So, breathe deeply and liberate your drawers. To help in the decision-making, here are eight gadgets that have lost their way.
This is a gadget conceived for a single purpose: to cut little, round balls from melon flesh. The holes allow juice to drain during the process.
The basic technique is to press, rotate and scoop. It is a technique I have completely failed to master. My spheres are unruly shards, but I claim that as intended.
Some ballers have different-sized bowls at each end. Beginners should not try to use them simultaneously.
This frightening gadget is designed to produce decorative shapes from chilled butter. My pitiful attempts, however, usually ended with a greasy mess until I saw the light and simply stopped trying.
Now the butter curler lives in the same drawer as the melon baller. It’s time to say goodbye, old friends.
The Victorians generally did not approve of eating food with the fingers. It was instant social death unless you kept to the proscribed rules.
Only after the grapes had been correctly cut was it permissible to use fingers. Grape scissors were part of an army of utensils that also included sardine tongs, oyster forks and lobster picks. Boy, those Victorian housewives knew how to spend, spend, spend.
I’m all for a bit of refinement, but this is too naff for words. It contains one measly, flimsy little wedge from which you just get a dribble of drops. It is awkward to use, and you can never get the slice size right. But most of all, it is mean-spirited. I rest my case.
These are so very “Mad Men.” When we first encountered this thrilling new fruit — or is it a vegetable? — it posed a problem: how to eat it once you overcame the testicular shape, lizard-like skin and super-sized pit.
Tableware manufacturers were quick off the mark, and before you could say guacamole, these dishes hit the shops. You didn’t even have to peel the avocados. Simply cut open, remove the stone and dump in the vinaigrette or shrimp mayo. Martini time!
Today they are a rare sight. I suppose there’s not much else you can do with them once their basic function goes. So, my pretty ones, it’s off with you to the great avocado grove in the sky.
This thrift-shop find makes me a little sad. Made in the 1930s or ’40s, the pressed glass condiment container must once have been someone’s pride and joy.
But does anyone use them anymore? How many even know what cruet means? Or care? Grinders, mills and bowls have pushed them into domestic oblivion. I regretfully conclude it is time for the cruet to retire from active service.
The egg slicer is one of life’s most useless gadgets. Like a medieval instrument of torture, the slotted base holds a hard-boiled egg, upon which a hinged blade of fine wires whips down like a guillotine.
Invented in the 1950s, it slices eggs thinly and evenly, but, honestly, would you really want to? Occasionally, desperate columnists suggest other uses, like cutting strawberries and mushrooms.
So, no, it doesn’t make life that little bit easier, and when it comes to washing it, it is a lethal menace.
Sardine can key
Once upon a time, the search for the sardine key was like a mythical quest. It usually came in two pieces. The slotted part enabled you to roll back the lid, then you could lift out the sardines with the shovel- shaped bit.
Even then, you could never open the lid fully and would usually cut yourself on the sharp edges.
The pull tab changed everything. There are those who hanker for oil drips and bleeding fingers, but why? For my part, the key can stay lost. RIP, sardine can key.
Main image: A retro melon baller taken out of retirement. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman