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The Thunker, February 2, 2018 |

The Thunker, February 2, 2018

I didn’t have to wait long for my coffee to brew this morning. I like that about my old coffeemaker. It has only one switch: the on/off button. It doesn’t have a clock, a timer or an insulated carafe with a lid that requires an engineer’s mind to operate. It’s probably 20 years old, and it’s fast. That’s all I need. Coffee, now!

As I took that first perfect sip of morning joe, I thought about some of the other old appliances that are better than today’s newfangled versions:

• My Sunbeam Mixmaster mixer, which can’t compare style-wise to the $380 heavy-duty KitchenAid Artisan available in 33 colors including ice blue, majestic yellow and persimmon. With the fancy, upscale mixer all you have to do is dump the ingredients into the bowl-with-a-handle and lock the bowl down. You can walk away while the mixer’s paddle does the rest. With my Mixmaster, which comes in white and has two beaters (and is lightweight enough to put away between uses), I spin the bowl with one hand while I scrape the bowl with a spatula in the other hand. The spin-scrape-spin-scrape motion is meditative and it makes me feel like I am contributing to the creation of the end product. I get a feel for the consistency of the dough or batter or whipped cream in a kind of I’m-ok-you’re-ok way. The KitchenAid has form but my Sunbeam has function.

• When my parents are gone (nobody’s rushing them, of course), my siblings and I won’t care if we inherit jewels or cars or oil rights on the old home place. We will be fighting over the popcorn popper Dad and Mom received as a wedding gift in 1956. Drizzle a little oil in the bottom and let it heat up, pour in the kernels, and soon we have a bowl of fluffy popcorn with very few old maids and not a single burnt popped kernel, no matter how long the popper is left on. The popcorn is crunchier than any other, it tastes fresh, and the hot popper is perfect for melting butter to pour over the corn. Do they even make popcorn poppers anymore? With the ease and convenience of microwave popcorn, I would guess not. But they should—exactly like the old gem my parents still use.

•I use my grandmother’s Taylor-brand deep frying thermometer when I make holiday candies. I’m guessing it is 70 years old and is probably full of mercury. But it clips onto my pan perfectly and I know right where to look to see when the mixture reaches 260 degrees. I think of Gram every time I use it. Plus, it’s in its original packaging, which has that vintage box look that makes me feel close to my grandma, who loved to cook for her family, as I make candy with the same instrument—and recipes—she used.

• Back in the days before loud, hurricane-force blow dryers, women sat under portable hair dryers after a shampoo and set. The hard, dome-shaped hood snapped onto a thick stem that projected upward from a base. We sat with our head up inside the hood, felt warm air blow onto our head and neck, and waited for our hair to dry and curls to take hold. It was forced luxury since we couldn’t do anything except read while we were under that dome. (Read, or be lulled to sleep.) Oh, to have those days back when we escaped into a dome of relaxation with white noise covering up the sound of anyone needing us. That was back when we used curlers to curl our hair.

• Curlers. They worked well because the curls lasted forever. But you had to stay inside the house while they were in your hair or risk the social consequences. Some things we are better off without today, including curlers and the social consequences that came with them.

• Hand-wound clocks. The family cuckoo clock requires daily attention and when the grandkids were little, we had to create a dance card for who got to pull the chains each morning to wind the clock. The schoolhouse pendulum clock is wound with a key once a week, which is usually done on Sunday. That routine helps set a steady, reliable pace for the week. Digital clocks today don’t have the same influence on family and tradition. Plus, they don’t tick-tock (which is just fine with some folks but I like the somnolent quality of a clock marking time) and they don’t offer a witty cuckoo or a gentle Westminster Quarters chime. Modern clocks don’t require attention (except when they need new batteries), which means you don’t establish a relationship with a digital clock like you do with one you must wind regularly.

The clock on your phone? We’re not even going there.

You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address,

© 2018 Sarah Donohoe

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