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Kitchen Minimalist: Saying No to Single-Purpose Items


My first kitchen inspired my minimalism. After we remodeled it, building these beautiful reclaimed wood countertops, polluting them with multiple plastic appliances was an easy No for me.


So I love places like Crate and Barrel, Sur La Table, and other fancy pants kitchen stores. Lots of ideas out there and when I was a chocolatier, lots of temptation for little thingamajigs.


Yet I rarely could justify So. Much. Stuff.


And when they and so many other food and lifestyle websites push on you so many tools as "essential"? It's just a sales pitch...not the truth.


Remember, most of them are financially incentivized for what they tell you, from the creepy-ass "Amazon Associates" and other affiliate-driven 'writers' linking to their sites (everything from blogs to The Spruce and Bob Vila and CNN and the NY Times push this crap disguising them as reviews & articles...but know this: if it doesn't line their pockets, you don't hear about it. They claim to care about things like equity and sustainability and community, yet they partner hand in hand with some of the literally most Evil Companies on Earth). God forbid they promote minimalism. You don't need all that shit, and even if you have the space, again - you don't need all that shit.


Here's a list of some of the many single-purpose kitchen appliances we DON'T have and manager to get by just fine without...

  • Rice Cooker - While they've been around in Japan for ages, these started getting trendy in the 90s and now there are even articles that 'teach' folks how to make rice without one. Yet rice has been made since long before electric rice cookers existed. How? Pot. Lid. Water. Adjust time based on type of rice and how much you've rinsed it before cooking. While some folks raised with a rice cooker in the house will fight to the death over its necessity (sorry, but saying it's big benefit is that you can just 'set and forget' it is no different than a stove with a timer...and no, the teflon- and silicone-coated nonstick chemicals are not making your rice better), I beg to differ. All Clad Stainless for the win!

  • Instant Pot - While these are technically not single-purpose, they are literally mimicking everything you could already do on the stove, just slyly packaged under the name 'convenience'. Yep, you can make rice on the stovetop, and slow-cook food at a low temp in your oven, and sorry dude but I know y'all aren't all making homemade yogurt with it (but yep, you can also make that on the stove as well if you want to). They were, to quote my beloved, a "huge racket" and anytime there's a craze for a particular item? Raise an eyebrow and sit back and see if it's still in demand 5 years later (oops, guess what, Instant Pot has already filed for bankruptcy...).

  • Waffle Iron - okay I adore waffles. But did you know that the recipe for a waffle is pretty much the same no matter what it's shaped like? And if it's not, that you can cook waffle batter LIKE A PANCAKE? Hot damn. It's cute but...byyyye. If I'm seriously craving something waffle-esque? I can go out for breakfast and order one. So we downsized this out of our lives last year. And guess what? I'm still alive.

  • Deep Fryer / Air Fryer - I have mad respect for air fryer technology but guess what? A whole lot of new ranges have an air fryer function in them. Small applicance, bub-bye. Our new microwave - our first in a decade - has an air fryer function to it as well. Do we use it? Rarely! I usually just dry fry my tofu or bake foods on parchment or a rack in the oven to get a similar effect. In our last home we had a Frigidaire induction range with an air fryer integrated into it which was pretty rad, so that's another option if you are upgrading/switching from gas or just replacing your old electric with a more efficient induction range.

  • Kettle / Teapot - My husband thought I was nuts when he immigrated from Australia only to learn I didn't have a kettle on the stove. Dude, a kettle literally just boils water and then SCREAMS at you when it's ready. In 90 seconds, our microwave does the same, minus the scream. Ba-da-bing. (He's gotten used to it, btw). Teapots are a cultural thing - it's not the end-all only way to steep leaves in hot water (or non-dairy milk, like I use for chai). Oy vey, y'all. PS- and no, those ridiculous blogs that say water isn't the same in the microwave while they are simultaneously providing Amazon links to buy a kettle so they can get a commission from your purchase? Screw them.

  • Wok - While I can appreciate the shape of a wok for certain items, the cost of a good carbon steel wok (that doesn't have that toxic nonstick coating on it) is just not worth it. why? Because I already have a well-seasoned, 75 year-old deep Wagner cast iron skillet (sometimes referred to as a 'chicken fryer') that is pretty special for making all of our stir-fries and other Asian-influenced meals...plus, we use it for other things too! You can find Wagner and Griswold cast iron skillets in most decent antique malls for a fraction of the price of the (lesser quality) "Lodge" brand out there, by the way.

  • Ice Cream Maker - First, if I had one of these I'd be 8,000 lbs. Second, you can make healthier forms of ice cream without one. Like ice cream that tastes like gelato where you literally just freeze cut up bananas and toss them in the blender with a bit of cocoa and vanilla and it tastes like the best soft serve ever. Or the goat milk chocolate chip ice cream that can be made in a glass dish and occasionally stirred til it's of that perfect consistence (and blended, if needed). Or kulfi, which uses the tres leches with your own flavors and also can be done in a bowl. A fancy appliance? No thanks.

  • Stand Mixer - I'm morally against any mixer that costs $400-600, first of all. Second of all, I've had my hand mixer for over 25 years and only even use that a few times a year. I've literally never needed a stand mixer, and only have been frustrated when I buy cookbooks that insist you have one in order to make a recipe. If I want to make dough without my hands, I have killer Breville Sous Chef food processor I got on sale for around $200 that will take care of that AND mixing, chopping, grating, slicing, grinding and so many other tasks in one machine.

  • VitaMix / Juicer - For about $5-10 you can find a small vintage glass juicer from just about any antique store or on Etsy (don't believe those 'rare find' ads - there are zillions out there, y'all). Use it. Love it. Toss it in the dishwasher when you're done. Voila.

  • Toaster - Americans will freak the f*ck out hearing that we don't have a toaster. My Aussie husband was a little taken aback when he noticed that as well, the bread-obsessed guy that he is. But back in my first home, I just realized I didn't eat toast enough to let it take over a spot on my minimal counter space, and the fact that it toasts quickly and evenly in an existing cast iron skillet (and even tastier in a bit of olive oil...)? One less item for my kitchen, and more space for moi!

  • Toaster Oven - I've only seen these constantly punking out in workplace lunchrooms, have never understood their use, as I can make a perfect grilled cheese on the stove or pizza in the oven. Without risking a fire. 'nuff said.

  • Popcorn Popper - To many people's amazement, I don't like popcorn. Detest it the smell of it - so you can imagine how I feel about movie theater concession stand aromas... But out of love for my husband, once in a blue moon I'll make it on the stovetop like they did in the old days and it works just fine. (No microwave gunk - that comes in garbage packaging full of PFCs).

  • Panini Press - Um, that'd be a grilled cheese sammie. Want to squish it? Put a cast iron skillet on top of it. Simple as can be, y'all.

  • Immersion Blender - I had one of these for years and really only got it for a few things, and after I sold it when we downsized several years ago, I didn't miss it. If I need to blend something hot, all I need to do is pour it into a blender, cover the lid with a dish towel as extra protection, and we're good. And for anything else (like the spate of vegan mayo recipes I've seen that vehemently clai you CAN'T make it without a $40-60 immersion blender)? Hello food processor. I've been doing that shit for years, y'all. Oh and if a full size FP is out of your budget range, a mini-prep is great...but it's definitely a gateway drug to a full size one - particularly since my full-size FP has a mini prep as part of it so I can do big OR small projects in it...HOLLA!!!

  • Bread Maker - Ha. What a laugh. That's what we have hands for. My husband actually ASKS if he can knead the bread, he likes the meditative vibe of doing it so much. And for my sourdough and a number of other yeast bread recipes, there is no 8-10 minutes of kneading. For my sourdough, I give it a few quick turns and cover it and let it rise during the day or overnight, then pop it in the oven. For many of my yeast-based loaves, you knead it for 10 turns, let it sit a hour, then repeat that a couple more times, so there's no arm exhaustion. And of course there are a zillion quick bread recipes. Make any excuse you want, but you know it's not needed, it's bulky, and it's expensive.


Old habits die hard, particularly when they are connected to one's culture or you are convinced that it is saving you "time" - even when it often is bad for the planet, bad for the wallet, rarely if ever used, and/or that magical "time" you claim to have saved isn't ending up anywhere else.


Admit it, more things are Wants than true Needs.


Even my beloved food processor, while multi-purpose, was a Want, and I know that if it suddenly died I'd be fine.


So think about that when you are considering things that marketers have worked very hard to make you Think you need.


Idea: borrow one, see how much you actually use it, calculate how much time you think you are going to save, then think about what else is on your bucket list for your life. Does it involve a kitchen appliance you will only use once a month or a few times a year? And for what you already have, go hide that thing you like-but-never-use. Check back in a month or two.


Now:

Do you actually crave IT? Or do you just want to have a kitchen that looks curated for social media or for social status? Have you looked into all the alternatives? Is that money best spent on Yet Another Thing...or can that go into savings for an experience, pay off a bill, etc.? For the stuff you hid away - do you truly Miss it? Did your life worsen without it, or was it just the ego boost of owning things that these item(s) were serving? Food for thought...


“The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.” ~ Elise Boulding, 1920




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