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Simple Tools Are The Answer, Even If They Are Unitaskers

My next post will be about the project that inspired this post. Today, I am here to talk about kitchen tools, not foodstuffs. I was brought up with lots of hands-on experience with lots of tasks. Along the way, I was taught two guiding principles: use the right tool for the job, and do things simply. On their face, these rules might seem contradictory. In fact, they are complementary. Not only is making a task overly complicated a waste of effort, it often leads to worse results. But using the wrong tool leads to inefficiency as well. The goal is to find the balance between simplicity and appropriateness. In the shop, sometimes we used the Bridgeport mill, and occasionally we used our fists. (Trust me, the fist is a valuable diagnostic tool. I earned my first money in electronics by using my fist to diagnose an intermittent connection.) In the kitchen, sometimes we used the Kitchenaid mixer and sometimes we used our hands. The photo at the top of this post illustrates this principle. I use a hand mixer to make buttercream frosting. I might use it for other things, but I really can't remember when I did so. And I only make buttercream frosting once or twice a year. This tool doesn't get much use. But my other tools don't work nearly as well for this task: they don't leave room to pour in the hot syrup while I continue to beat the eggs. This tool does one job well, it is small, and it wasn't very expensive. I consider my hand mixer a valuable contributor to my kitchen. The drive to eliminate unitaskers can lead us to tools that are more complicated than they need to be. I understand why Alton Brown wants to eliminate clutter and get rid of tools that are overly specialized. But sometimes a tool is very good at one particular thing. The clutter question is solved by asking how often you use the tool and whether it is worth acquiring at all. Having the right tool for the job helps make kitchen work more efficient and produce better results. For many of us, cooking is both a hobby and a way of life. As a hobby, we may want to make something special perhaps only once in our life. As a way to keep ourselves fed, we often rely on a rotation of well-loved dishes. If we are making something once, it may make sense to buy a fancy tool, but we shouldn't let the gleaming tool distract us from the enjoyment of cooking itself. Many tools will last for years or decades of household use. If we find a tool that we can use occasionally in a satisfying way, it adds to our joy of cooking.

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