Things that can happen when your kitchen gets taken over by others

Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, one of the the major holidays for family get-togethers. (Another big one is Christmas.) One year, it was our family's turn to host Thanksgiving, and when that happens, it means that the kitchen is overrun by relatives cooking all the dishes and hunting through the cabinets and drawers of an unfamiliar kitchen.

One year, I learned that a pastry blender can be used as a potato masher and that a cheese planer can be used as a pie server.

This is what happens when other people use your kitchen.

It could also mean that my kitchen has too many froofy gadgets.

Nadine Kano, best known to geeks as the author of Developing International Software for Windows 95 and Windows NT, also has a pastry degree from Le Cordon Bleu, graduating at the top of her class. She corrected me: "One can never have too many froofy kitchen gadgets." Nadine has since retired from Microsoft to start her own consulting firm and be a pastry chef on the side.

(Actually, the fact that my relatives were using a pastry blender as a potato masher and a cheese planer as a pie server suggests that I don't have enough froofy gadgets. Specifically, I'm missing a potato masher and a pie server.)

Comments (18)
  1. Random832 says:

    On the other hand, the fact that the potato masher wasn't a fork and that the pie server (and pastry blender) wasn't a butter knife suggests that the number of gadgets is larger than it might otherwise have been. Perhaps there is no optimal number.

    Though I'm wondering what kinds of pies were being served with the cheese planer such that the pastry blender wasn't needed for its intended purpose. Or were the pie crusts simply made earlier in the day, so it was available (and already out) for potato mashing?

  2. bickerdyke says:

    using a cheese planer as pie server and pastry blender as potato masher might only show that your family watched too much McGyver.

  3. Or maybe you do have enough froofy gadgets but one day – and only one day – your demand exceeded capacity and you had to improvise. (Therefore, Ms. Kano simply has more demand.) I can name other possibilities too but this is too vague a situation to give much thought (let alone issue a judgment of any sort) without further investigation (if it is worth it).

    Still, the part on pastry blender frightens me. Mashing one potato with it pretty much makes it unusable for anything. That'd be $50 down the drain.

  4. Gabe says:

    I had to look up what a "pastry blender" was. Apparently what I had always thought that was some kind of strange potato masher is actually for blending pastry dough, so it's not a big surprise that other people thought so too.

  5. voo says:

    Well if there's one thing I think is worth every single cent when baking, it's a.. actually I never figured out what the correct term for "Küchenmaschine" would be in English. My dictionary claims "food processor" and wikipedia also links the german article to the english food processor article, but in my experience people in the US use "food processor" for the tool that's used to grind nuts, which really isn't the same (also extremely useful though).

    So to completely derail this discussion would the natives here call this…/bosch-kuechenmaschine-styline-mum54420-5861127.jpg a food processor? And if yes how do you call this…/File:Food_Processor_2.jpg thingie?

    Took me years to get all the food vocabulary in English right despite living for quite a while in the US, but it turns out anything kitchen related is hard to learn – probably because it never comes up in school.

  6. Chad says:

    @voo, in North America, your first link is of a stand mixer. The second one, is, indeed, a food processor.

  7. SWB says:

    @voo: The latter thing is a "food processor." The first thing looks like a "stand mixer" (…/Standalone_1175X1290.jpg), but the one you linked to also appears to incorporate food processor and "blender" (…/1048blenders.jpg) functionality. I haven't seen anything quite like that before.

  8. Muzer says:

    My mum actually has a potato masher…/Potato_masher

  9. j b says:

    – Dad, why do they call it a "word processor"?

    – Well, son, you've seen what food processors do to food….

  10. cheong00 says:

    Talking about "holidays for family get-togethers", does your family also celebrates "Winter Solstice" there? (In Chinese tradition, it's a more important festival than Lunar New Year.)

  11. voo says:

    @SWB,Chad: Thanks, stand mixer sounds very reasonable.

    And yes as SWB notices lots of them do have attachments for being used as a blender or food processor – it was just the first picture on google and I picked without checking too much.

  12. Nick says:

    I've used a potato masher and a richer and find I get a better result mashing potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and the like with a metal balloon whisk.

  13. Destroyer says:

    Around 2003 or so there was a "funny pic" of Windows Pie Server appearing on forums etc.

  14. Mordachai says:

    Kudos on using "froofy" — great word :)

  15. ChiefInspectorClouseau says:

    Alton Brown — the king of nerd chefs — insists on having all of his gadgets be multitaskers (except for the fire extinguisher).  I'm not sure he would go for using the pastry blender as a potato masher, though.  

  16. Spire says:

    Steve Wolf: “Froofy” presumably comes from “froufrou”.

  17. Nicholas says:

    My parents have recently taken to using an electric mixer when mashing potatoes.  They say they prefer the smoother texture, but it feels like mush to me. I still like the way a hand-masher (…/18-square-face-potato-masher.jpg) leaves small chunks of potato (even better if you leave skins on as well).

    @Chief: Alton Brown came to my mind as well :)

  18. Gabe says:

    Nicholas: Depending on the quantity of potatoes, my wife will use an electric mixer (probably the only thing we use it for). I don't think I can tell the difference, so your parents may be using the wrong mixing duration, speed, or beaters.

    Also, we leave the skins on (and use relatively small potatoes so there a given volume will have more skin).

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