At the weekend I found myself wandering down the kitchen and baking aisle of a  home ware store. It was awash with different types of egg timers, knives to make your courgettes crinkly; and even small baskets to present your chips in;  that look like miniature versions of deep-fat fryer baskets. I wandered along and concluded that there really is a gadget for everything.

It is certain that today, we have more gadgets and kitchen aids than ever, but in many ways we are more disorganised than ever, our reliance on modern labour saving devices mean that we don’t have to plan and perhaps this is a tip we would all be best to adopt from vintage household manuals.

 

There is no doubt that modern fridges, cookers and the like are all a great help and save time, indeed a study I undertook saw me making an Edwardian dinner party, firstly using the traditional kitchen equipment that would have been available during the period and then using modern day time-saving devices such as fridges, processors and electric mixers. The contrast was stark – a total of 45 hours was needed to recreate the menu without any modern kitchen equipment versus the 12 hours with the help of modern technology, meaning a whopping 73 per cent saving on time.

 

But, despite all the labour saving devices that we now have at our fingertips it must be said that we don’t save as much time and money as we often think, perhaps because we are no longer forced to be organised and because our love of gadgetry simply gets the better of us. In many households the idea of planning meals has gone out of the window and so we end up costing ourselves in unplanned mealtime expenditure, food waste and redundant ingredients; combined with an increased array of kitchen wizardy, pots and pans now used to prepare a meal.

 

Research from insurers Direct Line shows £8 billion worth of kitchen equipment is left almost untouched in the home – based on the cost of the culinary contraptions averaging £65.51. A total of 123 million bread makers, coffee machines, food processers and other kitchen devices, are gathering dusts on the shelves after shoppers were tempted into buying them without needing them.  The research revealed that two out of three households own appliances that have been used an average of six times, while 10 per cent are never touched. A look at the latest kitchen aids and gadgets reveal they may not be the penultimate of convenience that their advertisements claim them to be.

 

Whilst new kitchen gadgets always promise convenience, it is often only proffered after going through pages of multi-part manuals, deciphering parts diagrams, and translating the dreaded how-to-operate guide, by which stage you realise that your new gizmo is not so convenient after all. It has been observed and agreed that modern kitchen aid manuals get even more complicated the more there are functions attached to the gadget and so as we pour over guides of ‘how to use’, then have to dissect machines to wash them, only to reassemble and scratch our heads as to why the food processor won’t work we are losing ourselves valuable time and could often have performed the task quicker without the new gadget.

GATHERING DUST: THE TOP TEN UNDER-USED KITCHEN GADGETS

The main culprits and the percentage of people surveyed who own, but rarely use them:

  • Toasted sandwich maker      26%
  • Food processor                    21%
  • Slow cooker                          19%
  • George Foreman type grill    17%
  • Blender                                 17%
  • Kitchen scales                      16%
  • Juicer                                    16%
  • Bread maker                         16%
  • Hand blender                        15%
  • Coffee machine                     14%

 

 

So, if your kitchen worktops and cupboards look like a car boot stall, you need to reclaim your kitchen space, you’ll have more time to focus on the good stuff – such as the pleasure of cooking. Take a bit of vintage advice and plan your meals. Cooking isn’t complicated and doesn’t have to take up a lot of time.

Sling the gadgets that are just there for the sake of it, for example electric salt and pepper grinders. Sorry, but batteries won’t make your salt and pepper taste any saltier or more peppery. But it will cost you cash, batteries and take up cupboard space. Throw these out along with the portable banana containers and all those pesky choppers, grinders and whatnots from TV shopping channels. Indeed it seems that our kitchens are needing to have ever more storage for a seemingly endless stream of new kitchen contraptions including the silicon duck toast tongs, yes they now make tongs to help you remove your toast from the toaster! It’ll make life simpler if meals go back to being planned and we just use simple, effective tools for the job and this is definitely something the vintage housewife got right.

A simple example of this is peeling an apple…what could be simpler, so I test the latest gadgetry against a paring knife.

 

So, the challenge was simple, peel and slice an apple. I used an apple peeling machine and an apple slicer device for the first test, then a traditional paring knife for the second comparison test.

 

The first observation was the size of equipment that needs to be stored if using gadgetry compared to just a paring knife.

 

Time wise…well using the new fangled apple peeling machine and apple slicer took more or less double the time it took to just use a knife and this is not taking into account the washing up time. The main issue with the apple peeler was that it doesn’t like irregular shaped apples, so I had to resort to using a knife to peel off some bits that got missed.

 

I took a leisurely approach to peeling my apple manually and it took me one minute and forty-one seconds including peeling and cutting it up. The apple peeler and slicing took four minutes and four seconds. Though, I must say the peeler held great novelty factor…it could be used as a form of cookery meditation.

 Indeed the housewife of yesteryear had more chores and fewer modern cleaning tools than the average household today, yet she kept a sparkling house with just a few products, elbow grease, and a hefty dose of common sense. Perhaps we could dispose of that fancy food spiraliser; ditch the pig shaped crumb vacuum or better still sling out the electric potato peeler or rainbow coloured vegetable peeling contraption and invest in a bag of dirty potatoes, a vegetable brush and a decent paring knife.

 

I think a kitchen revolution is in order…’’no more silicon toast tongs’’ is my cry for change. So, with that thought let’s clear the contraptions and get back to cooking!

 

About Seren Charrington-Hollins

ABOUT SEREN-CHARRINGTON-HOLLINS Describing my work through just one job title is difficult; because my professional life sees me wear a few hats: Food Historian, period cook, broadcaster, writer and consultant. I have a great passion for social and food history and in addition to researching food history and trends I have also acted as a consultant on domestic life and changes throughout history for a number of International Companies. In addition to being regularly aired on radio stations; I have made a number of television appearances on everything from Sky News through to ITV’s Country House Sunday, Holiday of a Lifetime with Len Goodman , BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South Ration Book Britain; Pubs that Built Britain with Hairy Bikers and BBC 2’s Inside the Factory. Amongst other publications my work has been featured in Period Living Magazine, Telegraph, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Great British Food Magazine and I write regularly for a variety of print and online publications. I am very fortunate to be able to undertake work that is also my passion and never tire of researching; recreating historical recipes and researching changing domestic patterns. Feel free to visit my blog, www.serenitykitchen.com