When Christmas shopping, I saw a boiled egg top remover. “I must have that as it might be useful,” I thought, despite the fact that I probably eat two boiled eggs a year!
How have I survived taking off my egg top without this gadget? What is so complicated about banging my teaspoon gently around the egg top and lifting it off, something I did regularly when I was growing up? Do I really need a gadget for this? Clearly, I think I do as I bought it and in the drawer it lives, along with other ‘useful’ small kitchen gadgets that I rarely or never use.
The garlic press – I don’t eat or cook with garlic. The lemon squeezer – my fingers work just as well. The marble cheeseboard with the wire cutter – I use a knife. The honey stick – I use a spoon! There are even gadgets that I have no idea what they are for.
A can opener was an absolutely essential item until tins became ring-pull ones – thank goodness as the serrated sharp sides created by the tin opener always scared me.
I like the potato peeler, but I do not use it to peel potatoes as I am guilty of always using a knife and taking off too much thick peel. No, I rely on my peeler for peeling carrots rapidly, running it up and down rather than scraping them, and I would feel lost without it.
I use the wooden meat cleaver to bash chocolate for making chocolate chips, but the top gadget we cannot live without is the lid opener to take off stiff lids from bottles and jars.
The silliest gadget we have is the banana slicer, but is this really necessary when a knife does the job just as well? In fact, I now realise that the humble knife can replace many of my kitchen gadgets!
I found that there are over 3,000 kitchen gadgets for sale on Amazon. The crazier ones included a large ‘pencil’ sharpener for carrots and I liked the moulds for making star-, square- or heart-shaped fried eggs because sometimes you just need to have a bit of exciting variety!
There were scissors for cutting herbs and a marmite spreader. What is wrong with using a knife? Priced at €17, it must be for marmite fanatics … I adore marmite but, at that price, I will continue to use a knife!
So, what exactly is a gadget?
A gadget can be described as a gimmicky clever thing that facilitates a job, i.e., a small, specialised tool used to perform a particular function which differentiates it from another kitchen utensil that can be used for multiple tasks, e.g., the knife! Basically, anything that performs a function can be classed as a gadget and there are gadgets for all areas of our lives.
Did you know that the word gadget was coined around 1886 when it was used to describe a small, specialised contraption? However, it was only in 1951 that the word first appeared in the Oxford English dictionary when it was also noted that gadgets are often discarded due to the time it takes to clean them, which I totally relate to, as I certainly do not want to add to the washing up by using a gadget.
In the old days, kitchen utensils were very few and basic consisting of cutlery items and pots for boiling, roasting or baking food on a fire. A roasting spit mounted in a fireplace was one of the first kitchen gadgets and a jack was used to rotate the spit with animals such as dogs or geese walking to rotate it!
A huge innovation in the historic kitchen, which increased cooking efficiency, was the tin roaster which reflected the heat back on to the food and allowed for basting with the collected juices. Soon, bread toasters, colanders, potato mashers, whisks, graters, etc, were invented. In fact, most of the equipment we use today evolved from their earlier counterparts.
With the advent of electricity, household equipment took off and, by the 1930s, items such as electric ranges, irons, toasters, fridges, washing machines and vacuum cleaners freed up the housewives’ time.
Over the years, thousands of kitchen gadgets and equipment have been invented and continuously improved. For example, a toaster now has versions for hot dogs and bagels or for numerous pieces of toast. Simple whisks evolved into electric mixers with multiple functions and gadget attachments.
However, it is not only in the kitchen that gadgets exist. They occur to facilitate almost everything in sports, technology, the office, hobbies, pets, health, etc, and it seems like one gadget spawns other gadget accessories to go with them, making gadgets an essential part of our daily routines.
You could say that everything, from the invention of the wheel to the computer, is a gadget and a novelty gadget can easily become a necessity.
We are bombarded with marketing promotions to encourage us to buy more for ourselves or as gifts for others and, admittedly, gadgets can definitely simplify our life and be fun.
In thinking about this article, I went through my kitchen cupboards, and I was horrified to note machines I also never use. The ice-cream-maker, the vegetable steamer, the waffle-maker, amongst others, and I felt ashamed but, in my defence, they have been acquired over the years and not just by me.
There is no doubt that we all need gadgets of some sort or other, and even the crazy ones, like the banana slicer, bring a bit of humour to our lives, albeit temporarily.
Many gadgets improve our mood such as those that enable us to listen to music or stay in contact with others as well as those that allow us to undertake our household chores more efficiently and quickly so that we can spend more time doing things we do enjoy.
However, I definitely do not need many of these small kitchen utensils that live in the drawer or these kitchen machines. So, as part of my New Year resolution to declutter my kitchen and my life, many of these gadgets will have to be donated and someone else can have them and hopefully actually use them!
Besides, I now have a new passion that requires me to instead buy DIY tools along with their many accessory gadgets … but that story is for another article!
So now you know!
Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.