August 15

Toast of the Town

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No, this blog isn’t about booze! Remember, I swore an oath to abstain from alcohol-related bloggery until after Labor Day. Rather, it’s about a great little gadget–called a Spice Toaster–that I saw on the FoodfStuff pages of the NY Times a few weeks ago. It’s sort of like a cross between a tiny old-fashioned popcorn popper or antique bed-warmer and a fine mesh strainer.

I have a keen appreciation of clever kitchen gadgets, especially the small ones, as the jam-packed drawers in my kitchen will attest. I don’t especially like cutesy ‘one-off’ kitchen appliances–hot dog centers or rice steamers come to mind–that take up a lot of space on the counter or cupboard for a single purpose. But a gadget that makes easy (or easier) work of something you do often that’s tedious or messy can win a place in my heart and my drawers.

Sometimes gadgets seem better in the abstract than they turn out to be in fact. Hence the several types of really high quality vegetable peelers that I use often sit in my drawer, nestled beside the hardboiled egg/mushroom slicer and the garlic press that I use never.

What never? Well…hardly ever. (Sorry, need to shoo the Gilbert and Sullivan muse out of my brain.)

Toasting whole spices/ingredients, such as pinon nuts, cardamom seed, mustard seeds, or sesame seeds, can sometimes be both: tedious, in that they’re easy to burn unless you watch them with an eagle eye, and messy, in that especially the mustard and sesame seeds tend to pop out of the open skillet as you toast them. As was the case when I was making a little Asian-influenced take on a Warm Spinach Salad last night and over-toasted (okay, burned) the sesame seeds. And, of course, there is no rescue for burned sesame seeds; you simply have to throw them out and start again. Fortunately I had more in the freezer.

Thus my thoughts turned to the glaring lack of a spice toaster in my kitchen armamentarium. Funny how that works. Before I’d seen the article, I’d not have known the gadget existed, and there could be no lack or at least no perception of one on my part. But now that I know about it and more to the point have needed it…instant lack! Positively metaphysical.

If a gadget is absent but there’s no one in the kitchen who knows about it, is there a lack?

So, now I feel the lack and fear I’ll have to do something to amend it. I took a look online at the one mentioned in the little blurb in the Times, the Williams and Sonoma one for about $14. I’m going to make a beeline to W&S tomorrow and take a look at it in the flesh…er…steel and see what I think.

Then, if it looks like a must have, I’ll just have to figure out if there’s a place to wedge it into the gadget armory.


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