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  • Aileen McKernan

Kitchen Gadget Obsession & The Good Cooking Life

I credit my first introduction to kitchen gadgets to my Aunt Kathy. It was innocent really. Unassuming you could say. Had little impact on me at the time. But it turned into a full blown love affair, obsession even you could say. A trip to HomeGoods now is not complete without perusing the kitchen aisle keeping an eye out for a new gadget or two to round out my collection.

My mom and dad were Old School. Old School, Old School. We cut, chopped, crushed, prepped, peeled, cooked, fried the old fashioned way. We didn't even own a microwave until 1996. Good thing there were four of us to help out, but kitchen duty still seemed more like corporal punishment than The Joy of Cooking.

Somewhere in those formative years, cue in my Aunt Kathy. We ate a lot of apples in my house, but my mom artfully peeled an entire apple with a pairing knife, leaving a nice ribbon of delicate flesh in her wake. But Aunt Kathy. Aunt Kathy used a fancy contraption to twirl the peels off in a matter of seconds. And when she was finished spinning them they went through another contraption which definitively sliced them in seconds to prepare them for her famous homemade apple pie. I took note of her technique and tucked away the memory for a time yet to come.

Years passed. I graduated from kitchen duty to dorm life where food preparation consisted of eek! a microwave, dining halls, ramen, mac & cheese, late night $3.00 breadsticks from Papa John's, and frozen waffles. The most high tech kitchen gadget I owned was a coffee maker and I definitely abused it. Oh yeah and there was the Foreman Grill, but I never used it, the clean up in the dorm room was really inconvenient.

When I was in grad school my kitchen prep life was not much better. I learned to eat healthier through the years, but I was sustained on buying and eatting wholesale/bulk goods. A can of tuna and some spring mix was as fancy as I was cooking. A hot plate helped me heat up canned soup.

Fast forward to 2009. Ah 2009. I flew the nest once and for all, stopped boomeranging and landed in Central Virginia. On my own, hundreds of miles from everyone with a mortgage payment for a student loan payment and no real understanding of how to fend for myself in the kitchen. Eating out got old on my budget quick and I had to learn in earnest how to cook and eat well for myself.

Cue in my Aunt Kathy again. As you can guess, my obsession with kitchen gadgets and small appliances started with an apple corer. I don't particularly like apples, but in the early days of being on my own and shopping for housewares I saw one and it brought back fond memories of my Aunt Kathy's apple pie preparations. Looking back I think I bought it because it symbolized my independence. I was going to forge my own way around the kitchen.

And by God's grace I have. I have bought, used, tried, tossed more gadgets than you can imagine, but I have learned along the way what works for me in my kitchen for my lifestyle. I've also learned and applied a lot of the old school techniques that intimidate most novice cooks. I can make a pot of perfectly fluffed toasted rice on the stovetop. I can crush and chop garlic the old fashioned way. I can perfectly hard boil an egg without using my instant pot. But most of the time I choose not to.

The demands of my modern lifestyle command some compromise. Quality is not the one I'm making. I will trade time for the convenience of a kitchen gadget or small appliance that works well any day. They have enriched and enhanced my cooking life. I derive small joys and satisfactions from using them and I reap many benefits in terms of time saved and quality of meals that I can make at home rather than spend money eating out for far inferior ones.

Over the next few weeks, I'm excited to share with you my all time favorite kitchen gadgets and small appliances so that YOU can reap the benefits of my years of trial and error learning how to cook fresh, affordable, and healthy meals while saving time and feeling good about it. My hope is that YOU gain the confidence to buy and try new kitchen gadgets and techniques so that you can develop and be proud of your own unique kitchen style too whether it's a little bit old school, completely modern, or any where in between.

How does that sound to you? Sounds, better, no wait, tastes better to me!

Food for thought: Leave in the comments below some of your favorite time saving kitchen gadgets and small appliances!

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