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Practical Pot Watcher: Pretty and practical kitchen gifts |

Practical Pot Watcher: Pretty and practical kitchen gifts

Seeing small appliances showing up in stores just in time for Christmas shopping almost tempts me into giving up my resolution to never let another toaster into the house. A decision that wasn’t thoughtless or impulsive, either.

I’ve held out, literally, for years. One after another, my toasters grew weary and expressed their disgruntlement either by burning every slice of bread I fed them, no matter what the “doneness” setting, or by browning my toast to perfection, then flinging it out onto the kitchen floor. It was only when the fifth or sixth toaster revolted that I swore not to waste another minute shopping for new and better toasters. After all, range ovens, toaster ovens, even griddles and skillets are perfectly capable of browning bread.


But now, seeing blenders, electric skillets, coffee makers, slow cookers and even toasters that have come out in brilliant colors, I feel myself close to relenting. But even after seeing a gorgeous red toaster just a few days ago, I can’t quite reconcile myself to bombardments of toast. Still, I have a niece with a new house in her near future and I’m sure she’d be delighted to find a red or turquoise toaster under her Christmas tree.

Kitchen goodies are among my favorite Christmas items, both for giving and receiving, because they’re used all year long.

And while it’s nice if they can be pretty, as well as practical, one of my most deeply appreciated Christmas gifts could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called pretty — a pair of tongs, of the sort used to fish baby bottles out of hot water.

“You will not believe how many different things you will use them for,” my friend assured me. “No kitchen should be without a pair.” I would use them, she said, to handle baking potatoes, to turn steak on the grill or the broiler pan, to fish hard-cooked eggs out of boiling water and so on, ad infinitum. She was right. Over the years I have worn out more pairs of these simple tongs than I can remember, and whenever I use them, I think of my friend Catherine with affection and gratitude.

I tend to wax militant over potholders and oven mitts — the need for them to be big enough and thick enough to be truly protective, rather than simply cute. But there is one pair that was given me at Christmas that is colorful and pretty; inadequate to cover my hand and too thin to be protective. So they hang on my kitchen wall, with the excuse that they’re much too pretty to risk getting soiled or scorched. And I’m willing to wager that every grandmother has at least one such pair of potholders.

Another so-not-pretty, but practical, gift idea are the bags for keeping produce fresh. Those for potatoes and those for onions are made of cotton with polyester linings. They are designed to preserve flavor and texture, prevent sprouting and premature decay. Each holds about ten pounds, and they’re meant to hang in a closet or pantry.

And was there ever a cook with soul so dead that she has never wanted to use bad language over the horrible behavior of bananas? They aren’t quite ripe enough when you buy them for that special project, so you keep them just one more day, then another day, and suddenly they’re over-ripe! Well, now there’s a bright yellow bag you can put them in, and store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

There’s also a padded polyester bag — green, of course — to help keep lettuce from wilting and browning. Put in the lettuce, pull the drawstring tight and pop it into the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

And what about that impossible cook on your gift list? She loves kitchen stuff, so she already has all the new gadgets and appliances. You’ve thought about getting her a cookbook, but it’s hard to think of one she doesn’t already have.

Simple! Surprise her with a book on napkin folding.

 

Mary Ryder is a food columnist for the Daily Commercial. Email her at practicalpotwatcher@cfl.rr.com.

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