Friday, March 8, 2013
THE TOY CUPBOARD
Still harping on about things ... When AJ and I were in London many years ago we were in the early throes of planning our future. Neither of us had a clue about any of the practical matters involved, but we had a gut instinct that setting up house together required some sort of infrastructure. Like furniture. Kitchen stuff. Bath towels.
She also suggested that we visit the Ideal Home Exhibition, a vast emporium glittering with the latest of everything for the house and garden. There we were mesmerised by a snake-oil salesman with a slick patter that had us lining up eager to buy one of each of what he was showing us: an apple-corer, a crinkle-cut chip slicer and a knife sharpener.
Since those days we have fallen for a variety of much more sophisticated gadgets. For a while they took up space, they whizzed and whirred, they rumbled, buzzed and rattled, and then they were put away in the toy cupboard. We have had a yoghurt maker of incredibly stupid design; an electric chip fryer which taught us that cooking anything in hot oil was an unpleasant experience; a pressure cooker that I always expected to blow up; an electric coffee percolator that didn't percolate the coffee but just brought it to the boil before turning itself off; another coffee maker that hissed importantly but spat out only luke-warm coffee.
I resisted buying a bread-maker because I liked making dough by hand, but AJ kept on about it and in the end said he'd make the damn bread. So he did. He got bored though, and up went the bread-maker into the toy cupboard, to join the coffee grinder, a couple of stove-top espresso percolators, and a battery operated mini-whisk that barely turns cream let alone soup. But we didn't fall for a ridiculous plastic thingy designed to make hard boiled egg-peeling easier. I mean, how much easier can it be? Just crack it and slip the shell off. We finally learned that the best thing is to ignore anyone, especially on television, who says "but wait ... there's more!"
Thoreau got it right. He said that "our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end." Nearly everything in the toy cupboard has been given away. But what is still here in the kitchen drawer? An apple-corer and a knife sharpener.