Slate has a story today on why vintage stoves are better than modern ones, and while the writer, Regina Schrambling, comes at the subject from a somewhat more oblique angle than I would have — she bought her ’50’s-era Wedgewood as “vintage” in the early ’90s — we arrive at the same place. Not long ago the New York Times ran a story on Jim Harrison, the poet/novelist, at his winter home in Arizona. Harrison is a famous gourmand, and one of the great pleasures of his writing are his descriptions of food and meals. But I was delighted to see, in a video accompanying the story, that he cooks on a plain old standard-size electric range that looks as though it came from Sears.
“Why spend $6,000 on a stove when you can spend $6,000 on food?” he said. Dean & Deluca thanks you too, Mr. Harrison.
I’m a dedicated home cook, and while I far prefer gas cooktops (I have electric), I have to admit my basic suburban kitchen setup is good enough for 95 percent of anything I want to do there. If I had my druthers, equipment-wise, it would be nice to have a second oven, but I admit it would only get used at Thanksgiving and a handful of other occasions. The one thing my modern stove has that Schrambling’s likely doesn’t — a self-cleaning cycle — is a pretty big plus. (I remember Easy-Off, which was neither.)
But we agree in
principal principle. Here’s my popcorn popper:
It’s a Kenmore, and it’s older than me. My mother recalled it was a gift from our Aunt Charlene to my brother and sister when they were toddlers. Both qualify for AARP membership now. (So do I, but only on the early-admission program.) I have no great sentimental attachment to it, and will give it up without tears if it ever breaks, but it refuses to do so. Schrambling writes of her Wedgewood:
So many other essentials in life are clearly improved in their latest incarnation: Phones are smaller and portable; stereos are downsized to ear buds; cars are safer and run on less fuel. But stoves are a basic that should stick to the basics: The fewer bells and whistles, the less need for bell-and-whistle repairmen. Motherboard is not a word that should ever be associated with the kitchen—put computer technology in a stove, and you’re asking for a crash. Google “I hate my Viking” these days, and you get a sense of how many things can go wrong with techno-overload. Some of these ranges combine electric and gas elements, which is a recipe for trouble, as is microwave or convection capability. This kind of overdesign is what killed combination tuner/turntables—one goes, and the other dies from neglect.
My popcorn popper doesn’t have an on-off switch. You plug it in, and coils in the bottom unit — the stained, non-washable part in the photo — come on. Put one tablespoon of oil and one-third cup of popcorn on the bowl and replace the lid. In a couple of minutes, the popping will start. Keep your ear cocked to when it stops, unplug, empty and serve. If you like, you can melt a tablespoon of butter in the bowl after you dump out the popcorn — it takes about another minute. That’s it.
Popping corn is so simple, you wouldn’t think planned obsolescence would come into the mix, but it did — poppers where the lid doubles as the serving bowl, where the butter can be melted simultaneously, where you can dispense with oil altogether — all these have come and gone since Sears sold this antique to Aunt Charlene. And yet the Kenmore soldiers on, homely and dented, but still showing up for work. What more can you ask?
Some bloggage before gym time:
Detroit culled its 167 or so city council candidates to nine finalists Tuesday. The top vote-getter was Charles Pugh, whom I remember during his time in Fort Wayne, as a reporter for WKJG. He hadn’t started shaving his head, wasn’t openly gay and was, as I recall, sort of dim. Well, you could have made the same claim about me. People change, and let’s bloody well hope it’s true in this case, because Detroit has had all the dim-witted city council members it can handle. (I’m not completely confident in this case. Pugh was the subject of a fashion feature in a local magazine a while back, and confessed that his trademark glasses — he has 30 pair or so — are completely for show.
Clear-glass Non-corrective lenses. What sort of serious person indulges a witless vanity like that?)
The primary’s big loser: Martha Reeves, who sounds as though she’s losing her marbles. Or just criminally dumb. Sad.
Coozledad brought this to our attention yesterday: Your health-care vote or your life? This shit is getting out of hand.
Off to press and squat. Happy Thursday.