One of the results of writing this column for so many years is that a large number of PR agencies and food companies have placed me on their mailing lists.
Sometimes that can be a good thing. PR folks occasionally tempt me with invitations or valuable coupons, and every once in a great while deliver delicious samples to my doorstep. But mostly, it means I am on the receiving end of a vast number of news releases and emails touting food-related products that range from useful to downright weird.
This morning, I sat down to clean my thoroughly clogged email inbox. But I soon got distracted by one I just had to open.
How could I not stop to read it? The headline was “9 Kitchen Gadgets You Didn’t Think You Could Insure.”
It raised so many questions. Are my kitchen gadgets in peril? Do they need insuring? And if so, why limit it to just nine? I can think of about a thousand kitchen gadgets that I couldn’t — or, at least, wouldn’t — insure.
A few are indispensable — my can opener, vegetable peeler and grater, for example — but they are also quite inexpensive to replace, should some unexpected disaster occur. (Though it is hard for me to imagine what insurance-worthy event might affect them. A tornado hits only my kitchen drawer? The Pied Piper of gadgets passes through town and lures them all away? It actually starts to rain again, and everything rusts?)
I was intrigued, so I opened the email to read more.
It turned out the writer has a slightly different definition of “gadget” than I do. Her list featured things I would instead classify as “overly specialized appliances that I wouldn’t give counter space to even if I had any to spare.”
Here are the items that, according to her, are likely to be in our kitchens and are ripe for insuring: juice fountain, food dehydrator, popcorn maker, pet food dispenser, six-slice toaster, sno-cone maker, automatic paper towel dispenser, rice cooker and voice-activated grocery list.
Seriously? I don’t own one of these. If I did, I assume it would come with a warranty and wouldn’t be so accident-prone that it merited special insurance. I can’t imagine caring about it so desperately that I would shell out for extended coverage rather than just buying a new version when it died.
Not that I have any plans to go on a gadget-buying spree now or in the future.
I’m definitely not in the market for a pet food dispenser. The only reason Eddie tolerates my presence in his house is my ability to offer him meals. If I were to outsource that job to a machine, he might evict me.
I can see the merits of rice cookers and food dehydrators, but for now I’m happy making rice on the stove and drying my tomatoes in the oven. I make my popcorn in a saucepan and pour juice from the bottle or carton. I seldom, if ever, need to make six slices of toast in a week, let alone in any two-minute period.
I also can’t see myself buying an automatic paper towel dispenser anytime soon (though judging by how well they work in public restrooms, perhaps insurance would be wise there). Rather than insuring bad technology, I’m happy to leave that amenity at the airport, along with those vision-impaired faucets that cannot see my hands waving in front of them and the toilets that flush at random.
Some of the others sound like a “gift for the person who has everything” that you’d be more than relieved to have an excuse to toss out. (Though do you honestly think you would use a sno-cone maker enough for it to break before the whole family lost interest in syrup poured over ice?)
In fact, the only item on the list that seems to warrant insurance is the voice-activated grocery list maker — but only if the insurance company is offering full replacement value. Any early adopter techie with enough extra change jingling in his pockets to actually go out and buy one of those is probably eager to break it and make a claim so he can replace it with a newer, shinier wristwatch version.
As for myself, I’m happy to make do with the free grocery list app I downloaded on my way-too-smart phone, even if it doesn’t respond to voice commands.
And don’t worry. If it stops working, I have an insurance policy.
Paper and pen.
Sorry, beet haters — one of the items on my shopping list app this week was a bunch of the vegetable I love and you loathe. I can’t help it, even though you will turn up your noses. When the weather warms up, I start craving cold soups, especially borscht with sour cream.
I know my grandmother made borscht when she lived with us briefly during my kindergarten year, because I can remember my mother complaining about what a mess she made of the kitchen. But unfortunately, I have no memory of it, and my mother did not pass down a recipe. So my simplified (but fairly tidy) version is loosely adapted from one I found many years ago in a cookbook.
As yet, no one has invented a specialized borscht-making device. So the only gadgets needed for this recipe are measuring cups and spoons and a box grater.
3 beets (1 bunch)
2 cups water
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup buttermilk
Sour cream or Greek yogurt
First, roast the beets: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Trim the beets, leaving about an inch of stems and cutting off the long tail of the root. Wrap each beet separately in aluminum foil and place them in a small casserole dish in the oven. Roast for about an hour and a half (you can test for tenderness by sticking a fork in them right through the foil). Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
Unwrap them in the sink. (The foil and working in the sink eliminates a lot of the mess.) Slip the skins and the ends of the stalks off and discard. (You’ll need to use your hands for this, and they may get a little stained, but it will come off with a little soap.)
Place a bowl in the sink and grate the beets into it using the coarsest side of a box grater. Set aside.
Dissolve the sugar and salt in the water and vinegar by heating them together in the microwave or on the stove for a couple of minutes and stirring well. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the beets. Add the buttermilk and a dollop or two of sour cream or Greek yogurt. Stir together until well blended. Taste and add more lemon juice and/or salt, to taste.
Serve cold in individual bowls with another dollop of sour cream or yogurt in each.