Thursday, 14 August 2014


“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” - Karl Marx

Do you like gadgets? I do! Are you a technology junkie? I am! Do you spend time looking at new developments in electronics, look for labour-saving devices, enjoy finding snazzy new thingamajigs, doodads, thingamabobs and doohickeys? I do! Whether I end up buying any of these is a moot point. However, I do so enjoy window-shopping! Technological developments nowadays mean that whatever we use in our home is rapidly become obsolete and we are often forced to keep up or risk being left on the wayside.

An acquaintance was describing to me the odyssey she had experienced when she was trying to find a new ‘walkman’ to replace the one that went bung on her. She went into many shops looking for it and after talking to the salespeople, she got blank looks, incredulous gawking and snide remarks about “antiques”. I had to explain to her what mp3 files were and that nowadays it was all to do with computers, ripping, downloading, ipods and mp3 players and the such-like (she ended up finding a walkman, by the way, and she was so very pleased!).

In the kitchen, the situation is not much better. We are besieged by all sorts of technology to make the cook’s life “easier”. Don't get me wrong, I love my toaster, the dishwasher and the electric mixer… But one has to draw the line somewhere. Visiting an appliance shop where kitchen doodahs are sold can be a frightening experience. Let me see if I can give you a (of necessity, partial) list of what is available: Jaffle makers, pie makers, bread machines, waffle makers, hot dog machines, popcorn makers, vegetable steamers, soda makers, electric woks, fairy floss makers, cappuccino frothers, crepe makers, rice cookers, electric frying pans, electric pizza makers, ice cream makers, electric whisks, mixers, cocktail stirrers, coffee machines, toasters, grillers, sandwich makers, egg coddlers, egg poachers, egg boilers, omelette makers, electric pans, skillets, steak cookers, rissole makers, chip machines, chip makers, chip cookers, deep friers, food processors, liquidisers, juice extractors, citrus squeezers, electric can openers, knife sharpeners, etc, etc… And yes, people are buying all of  these things, otherwise they wouldn't be making them and selling them, would they?

Add to that several amazing gadgets that you simply can’t live without: For example, apple corers, cherry pitters, egg separators, banana slicers, bean destringers, cake done-ness skewers, wine thermometers, turkey basters, cookie cutters themed for all major holidays of the year, melon ballers, butter curlers, citrus zesters, garlic presses, waiters’ friends, bottle openers of the most intricate designs, several astounding models of bottle resealers, etc, etc…

Do you get my drift? To fully equip your kitchen and be a mastercook you need to probably quadruple its size so all of these wonderful machines can be stored in it and also be conveniently at hand. You need to mortgage your house or sell your children (probably both) in order to buy all of these things and then of course, you need to spend all of your day in the kitchen cooking and using these infernal machines so that you get value for money out of them!

Seriously now, one of the best meals I have ever had in my life was as a guest in the house of relatives of a friend that I visited in Crete. It was in a small village halfway up a mountain. The kitchen was very old, the cooking utensils sparse, the conditions Spartan. A wonderful impromptu omelette was prepared with freshly laid eggs, cheese, prosciutto (the Cretan equivalent thereof) and some wild herbs. A green salad, fresh from the garden was complemented by freshly baked bread and all washed down with a home-made fine red wine. Good dinner etiquette and silver service, white damask tablecloths, embroidered linen and crystal glasses? Well this meal was nothing like that. However, the company was delightful, the hospitality heartfelt and genuine, the meal simple and delicious. It was prepared easily and with the minimum of utensils in primitive facilities, but consumed with gusto and enjoyed by everyone.

Aren’t we making our life more and more difficult as time goes by? Aren’t our “labour-saving” devices getting to be anything but? Aren’t we becoming slaves of the technology? Don’t we have to draw a line of reason somewhere?


  1. I don't cook but I am always interested in looking a kitchen gadget shops - especially when we hop across to France.
    I think the Karl Marx quote encapsulates the failure of communism - "we don't want you to have that!"
    I’m experimenting with a new idea of mentioning the music I’m listening to while posting or commenting. Right now it’s Brownie McGhee's 'Dissatisfied Blues'.
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  2. How true this is, Nicholas. We have been overrun by all of these "things" and to possess more and more of them has become the way that many people feel "happy" - well for a moment or two after buying them, in any case. How many of these kitchen appliances have been bought, used once or twice and then sit languishing in some dark cupboard never to be used again. The Marx quote, I think relates to the perils of putting things over people - including the replacement of humans by machines, robots, automation, etc.

  3. I like a Spartan kitchen. A few pots, pans, utensils and a food processor. That's enough! I get to spend more time with my family that way.