My flat in the UK, a new temporary post-doc-studies accommodating asset, is furnished, which includes pots and pans and things in the kitchen. Most of these are new or at least clean. Only the oven, split into a baking and a grilling compartment, has seen way too many moons and could apparently not be cleaned any more. I am looking forward to a 19th century-style ur-British day of coal mining one day. For now, I’m happy to consider here the various things I am renting.
First, there is the scooper. This is a bent slotted spoon made from heat-resistant black plastic, apparently, or hopefully, used for scooping up sausages from their greasy bath. The plumber, who came after a week to fix a leaking tap, forgot his keys behind the wooden panel in front of the bathtub and used the scooper to retrieve them. There are two identical scoopers in my kitchen: one is for the plumber and one for the sausages. But seriously, who would even need one scooper and what’s wrong with a pair of regular tongs for grabbing keys and sausages, one could ask. So that is part one: superfluous gadgets.
Let’s proceed to part two: non-functioning gadgets. I have anyway had my time with whisks. The one I used most of the time (stainless steel; a few rather stiff wires) has no hook on top, and the fiddly screw-n-bent-wire thing I inserted into the mystical hole at the place where a hook should be keeps unscrewing and unbent-wiring itself, which drives me bananas. The effectiveness of this bit of kitchenware got later outsmarted by Robin’s whisk, which has more, and more flexible, wires and no hook, and hence drives me bananas too, but at least makes foam and whips cream or mayonnaise; that is, performs its duties. Now, my rented British whisk. How many? Eight? – strands of fat black bent plastic that clunk around in the mayonnaise bowl like a toddler on a three wheeler. It generates heat (in my wrist and eventually: head) and noise but no mayonnaise. No milk foam for my coffee either, in fact nothing at all. You still hear the designer’s voice above the hapless clattering and splashing: “let them try this and we’ll see if they still succeed!” The up-side: it is very easy to clean eight strands of thick plastic. This will make it easy to wipe the dust off my whisk when I move on.
Then, there is the category of booby-trap gadgets. Like the (black, plastic) scraper thingy. Apart from the color, it looks like any kind of slotted spatula. The silly thing about it is that it is too thick to function as a proper spatula while it is, for no apparent reason, made of flexible matter.
The ray wings (fiddly and messy as they are anyway) that I had fried in nut-brown butter, turned, fried some more and finally filled up with a dash of dry white wine, ended up stuck to the bottom of the frying pan (this was the first time that anything I cooked in brown butter ended up sticking to the pan. I should have listed that frying pan above. Also, as I learned only now, ray wings are better braised or steamed). I inserted the scraper thingy between the pan surface and the ray crust, but it was too thick to enter properly and made a holy mess of about a third of my dinner: half-soft bones, bits of flesh, translucent onion dice and beautiful brown butter all goo-ed together. Turned around to get a keener angle of attack, the scraper did in fact properly catch the ray-y edge. Then it flexed and Splat! A healthy scoop full of wine, butter, onions and ray debris was released across the stove and sent cupboard-wards where it took a good time to wipe off. I am sure that if someone would care to refine this effect, she would end up with some spectacular cooking techniques: turning an omelet while sending it diagonally through a large restaurant kitchen, for example, or serving meatballs across a schoolyard. But this is my little rented kitchen with too many to-be-wiped surfaces much too close together! I am going to buy a real spatula.
Kitchen tools still appear to be made by a bunch of wrathful men sitting behind their drawing boards, sketching (in the assumption that they are punishing housewives, like 35 years ago) their misogynous reflexes out of their systems. Or perhaps they think that the wonders they create are meant to be lined up beside the fridge for mere decoration. Why black, then?