Food & Drink: Love is battery operated

Lost among his pitters, mills and hullers, a gadget-dependant speaks; CRACKING THE MACADAMIA WAS JUST THAT BIT AHEAD OF SPLITTING THE ATOM
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The Independent Culture
I USED TO think the electric toothbrush was really something, until I laid eyes on my very first battery-operated flour sifter.

Excitedly, I flicked the switch and felt the power surge into my hand. A pall of flour dust swept over the kitchen bench like a desert scene from The English Patient.

How empty, pointless and meaningless my life had seemed up until that very moment. Here was proof that, properly harnessed, man's natural ingenuity could triumph over nature and adversity and make this world a better place.

The scary thing was that my rapture didn't last. It soon dawned on me that even with an electric flour sifter, my life was still pretty much empty, pointless and lacking in meaning.

Then, just as a rabid disbeliever can suddenly embrace the Almighty, I stumbled across the rotary coconut grater. Did I say stumble? Could it not have been pre-ordained? Penn-ies dropped, doors opened and light flooded my dark and dismal existence. I was drunk on the heady power of scraping that pure white flesh from its hairy, hard shell. I grated by day. I grated by night. I vowed to take up Thai cooking as soon as possible.

As you may have gathered, I am what is known as gadget-dependent. Cooking for me is not cooking, but an orchestrated blur of bulb-basting, salad- spinning, rotary-whisking, rice-paddling, food-milling, coffee-grinding, vitamising, percolating, fish-scaling, crinkle-cutting, cheese-grating, juicing, ice- crushing, julienning, liquidising, frothing, straining, and sieving.

I have honed cutting and chopping to an art form, with my cook's knife, paring knife, filleting knife, carving knife, salmon knife, sushi knife, grapefruit knife, chestnut knife, oyster knife and Parmesan knife. It's a little embarrassing, but I also admit to a croissant cutter, pizza cutter, ravioli cutter, lattice cutter, nougat cutter, pastry cutter and a very cute little radish cutter.

For me, the real heroes in life are those who invent the things. Cracking the macadamia was just that bit ahead of splitting the atom. These are folk who calmly look Mother Nature in the eye, then go to their shed and invent a way to undo her that is guaranteed to work to your complete satisfaction in 30 days, or your money back.

Nature hides stones in cherries, they invent the pitter. Nature sticks pretty little leaves and stalky bits into strawberries, they create the huller. Nature grows melons, they make funny little scoopy things that turn the melons into balls.

Then you have the egg. Awkward-ly designed in a brittle shell that won't even stand up, the egg has only truly been appreciated since the invention of the egg cup, the yolk separator, and those natty little scissors that neatly lop the tops off. Next came coddlers, timers, poachers, rings, trees, baskets and the classic, miraculous egg slicer, first manufactured by Bloomfield Industries of Chicago in the Thirties.

We gadget-dependents have even been known to evolve. I don't use my butter curler anymore, since I started dousing everything with extra virgin olive oil. I haven't used my meat thermometer for months, since I started stir-frying everything in sight. And I never did get around to using that mushroom peeler, because I never did get around to working out what was wrong with eating mushroom skin.

Some gadgets rise above gadgetdom to become extensions of one's right hand, linked directly to one's brain: the barbecue tongs, for example, the wire whisk, or the greatest beyond-gadget of them all, the wooden spoon, without which risotto, porridge, custard and everyday living would not be possible.

Even so, if life were a choice between love and a wooden spoon, I'd choose passion and tenderness, with commitment, naturally. If it were a choice between love and a battery-operated flour sifter, however, I'd have to give it a serious think.