handy device

handy device

IMG_1096 Years ago, my oldest sister lived in a loft apartment all the way west on Canal Street in New York.  It was notable for many things: fabulousness, for one, and--in a city famous for instant, round-the-clock gratification--its remarkable inconvenience.  No market on the corner for the forgotten lemon or baking powder.  No restaurant mere steps away for a quick take-out (or eat-in) meal.  No hopping casually onto the subway to dash here or there.  And the elevator--this was a place to grow old.  "This elevator takes FOREVER," residents and visitors would say, to one another if we were together and to ourselves if we were alone, performing those special yah-yah-yadda-yah faces and head waggles that indicate that something is tedious and we're not especially patient with it.  The famously slow elevator was a perpetually engaging topic of conversation.


One day I got on the FSE with my brother-in-law.  I prepared to say something knowing about how long the ride would be.

"One minute," he said, before I could say anything.

I glanced at him.

"It takes one minute.  Sixty seconds.  I timed it.  Assuming no one else is on it and makes it stop.  Then it's a minute and a half."


He wasn't pretending that he hadn't complained all along himself. He was just pointing out what (and this was back in the days before DSL, mind you) constituted "taking a long time" in our corner of the world.


I have not been to that building or neighborhood in quite a while. By now maybe a helicopter delivers you from the first-floor food-truck plaza to the 8th floor in .03 seconds.

In my corner of the present world, we have an appliance gremlin at work. Work stoppages  strike randomly all the time, of course, taking out a lightbulb here and a toaster oven there.  But I suspect gremlins when bing, bang, boom there goes the dryer, the dishwasher and the stand mixer all at once.

I think in the old days you could fix things, or get them fixed.  I sort of recall that.  Nowadays, it seems, you pay a hundred dollars for a "diagnostic" visit, only to learn that the person who came to do it is a consultant of some kind, not a repairperson, and it would be better just to replace the item in question, as the diagnostic + the cost of repair = the cost of replacement + 20% of the total, not including parts and labor and the additional charge for "white glove delivery," adjusted for inflation and divided by the inverse Boolean diametric percentage of the GNP of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).  It's a bitter pill, learning to consider an object as large as a washing machine or refrigerator (that puppy went down in the last gremlin invasion) to be a disposable.  If we all had to keep them in the yard, these former appliances of ours, we would probably push harder for repair.

By which I mean to say, sometimes the electric item goes down and I try to do without for a while. Well, not really in the case of the refrigerator. And I am pretty attached to the clothes washer.  You can believe that when the KitchenAid gave up the ghost (or seemed to) as I was preparing to make buttercream from my son's birthday cake, I gritted my teeth and turned it and a computer full of YouTube repair videos over to my husband and the screwdriver and paced the perimeter, swabbing his brow and fetching clamps and scalpels. (The patient pulled through beautifully, thank you for asking.)

But we are in week four without the dishwasher (have to remember to get some rubber gloves today!), and I have yet to replace the food processor, another gremlin victim.  I regret that every time I want to make the vegetable stock paste I am always prattling on about.  In those instances, I borrow one.  I consider replacement.

The thing is, a lot of the other things I would use one for, I can do by hand.  They are definitely more time consuming, though once you factor in setting up and washing the appliance, it becomes a little bit like comparing travel by car and by air.

I have heard that you can achieve a Zen mental state when you are washing a pile of dishes, but I have yet to prove it.  People say a superior pesto is produced via mortar and pestle, too.  Also hearsay to me.  I make pesto in the (still functional) blender. You can, however--I am here to report--achieve something very much like a peaceful mentality making a little faux pesto with a knife as your only ally.  It's faux pesto because I did not feel like eating garlic.  You may feel differently.

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I mixed a little goat cheese into some of it, and rolled biscuit dough around it. This was well-received.  I glomped some on top of our white bean and pasta soup.  But it was most delicious smeared on some leftover roasted squash and toasted flatbread, here at my desk.

IMG_1174Time, from washing of the greens to forkful-in-mouth?  One minute.  Minute and a half, if you count stopping to take pictures of it.  This is not because of my mad knife skills.  It just takes very little time. Then it stays peacefully around in the fridge, waiting to be needed, for several days.  I never would have stopped to make myself a salad today, but thanks to that minute with the knife, I got my clorophyll.

get your greens in

  • 5 or 6 leaves of kale, thick stems removed
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley, thick stems removed
  • chunk of preserved lemon
  • fresh pepper to taste.

Chop and chop and chop the greens and lemon together, until very well minced (I chopped the greens up a bit first, then worked the lemon in).  Add pepper to taste. Smear on some things, dollop on others.