I was unaware of pickle picker-uppers until I discovered them on a trip to a Lechters store as a child. A gadget designed to reach inside the pickle jar for you, its flimsy wire claws appeared too weak to actually hold onto a pickle. But it marked the beginning of a lifetime addiction to kitchen gadgets, and I eagerly anticipated a future where I’d have endless amounts of money to purchase every kitchen gadget I saw, no matter how useless.
As a young adult, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome caused me to seek out the useful gadgets that help make cooking painless. I’m still not a millionaire, but with most stores carrying gadgets starting around $1.99, I can buy all that I find appealing.
Great innovations have been made by improving the old standbys. Ergonomic kitchen tools have been popping up at stores including Bed Bath & Beyond (bedbathandbeyond.com or 800-GO-BEYOND), Target (target.com or 888-304-4000), Lechters (800-605-4824) and cooking.com (800-663-8810).
Wire whisks with padded comfort-grip handles, for example, are a relief to anyone who’s ached from gripping the traditional steel handle for too long. The OXO Softworks line starts at $3.99 per gadget, and includes garlic presses, meat tenderizers, graters and other basic gadgets.
The cooking.com Cook’s Tools selection contains 1,163 items, and lechters.com will soon rival cooking.com with their own online store, to be launched in spring 2001.
Whether you shop online or at a store, I suggest checking out some of my all-time favorite kitchen tools, which I have found to be timesaving, pain-reducing or both. They include a dessert torch — a miniature blowtorch that caramelizes desserts; lemon press, for fresh-squeezed juice; potato ricer, for better mashed potatoes; measurement-equivalents magnet; a tomato corer and a spiral slicer, used to create bundles of finely shaved veggies, perfect for Asian cuisine. I also enjoy my pineapple slicer, avocado skinner, garnishing kit, butter curler and my pastry cutter/blender.
A cake tester is easier to use than teensy toothpicks. A pasta-drying screen produces more desirable results than using a floured towel. Pie weights guarantee no more bubbles when you’re pre-baking piecrusts. Rolling pin rings work in pairs, one on each end of the rolling pin, so you can roll dough to the exact thickness required. Using a flavor injector, a syringe that injects seasonings into foods before cooking, eliminates the need to baste. And artichoke stands allow you to steam these tasty veggies in any pot.
You can satisfy your high-tech kitchen gadget desires with the Microwave Leak Detector. Wave it near your microwave, or any other radiation-producing device, and it claims to tell how much radiation is being emitted. Order it for $29.95 from members.nbci.com/lessemf or 888-LESS-EMF.
For those who have obtained my childhood dream of being a millionaire who can purchase any kitchen item they want, there’s always the Elegant Electric Peppermill from atouchofpepper.com, with a price tag of $159.95.
But I’d feel richer using that amount of money to purchase 80 of those $1.99 gadgets.
Stumped for unique gift-wrapping ideas? Think food. Roll bottles of wine in sushi mats, or wrap sheets of dry nori around small gifts. Rice paper makes pretty wrapping paper, especially when you decorate it yourself with potato stamps (carve half-potatoes into stars and other shapes, then press them onto an ink pad). And above all, remember that unbuttered popcorn makes a good packing material for fragile items. … Send Michigan-made treats from Ann Arbor’s favorite deli. All it takes is a visit to www.zingermans.com for all your last-minute mail-order needs.Got a food tip? Write to Eaters Digest c/o the MT, or e-mail email@example.com