If you have never seen the movie “Intolerable Cruelty” by the Cohen Brothers and starring George Clooney (heard of him?) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (heard of her? the T-Mobile lady?), you are missing some exceptionally clever dialogue (but before you rush out and rent it, I’ll warn you that it is has a dull and conventional ending). There is an exchange between the massively successful lawyer played by Clooney and his right-hand man as they discuss a wedding gift for a client of theirs:
Wrigley: What do you think?
Massey (Clooney): What are they, ladles?
Wrigley: Berry spoons.
Wrigley: Berry spoons. Everybody has spoons.
Massey: And nobody needs berry spoons.
Wrigley: Everybody eats berries.
Massey: Who are you, Pollyanna? Where’d you see ‘em at? A Martha Stewart catalog right next to the silver napkin rings? Stadium seat ass-warmers?
I look with some real regret at some of the specialty cooking items I’ve bought over the years. If you are talking about a place in your house to review for frugality, most American kitchens would be a good place to start. Some useless items I own (or now “owned”) and some alternatives:
- A mortar and pestle versus a spoon and a bowl
- White wine glasses, red wine glasses, port glasses, margarita glasses, martini glasses, shot glasses versus 8 ounce tumblers.
- Dip serving bowls in fancy designs versus plain bowls.
- Three different can openers versus one can opener.
- An olive spoon versus a regular spoon plus a colander.
- Eighteen different pots and pans versus one expensive pan, one large pot and one small pot.
- Three sets of salt and pepper shakers versus one set.
Bubelah would be quick to tell you that most of these were pre-marriage wastes of money and she would be right. I loved to buy specialty drinking gear, for example – coffee cups for coffee, taller glasses for champagne or white wine, fuller glasses for reds (must let them breathe!) and martini glasses because you don’t see James Bond sipping from a tumbler. I also went through a gourmet cooking phase when I had to buy idiotic accessories like mortars and pestles – used approximately four times in five years. I might argue it was simply a hobby with expensive tools, but I know the truth – it was a waste.
All of this clutter contributes to a bad sense of organization in the kitchen, a waste of money and I think ultimately drives a nagging desire to get a bigger kitchen (and a bigger house). One of the moments that stopped me wanting any more gadgets in the kitchen was the movie “Out of Africa” with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Again, great things in the movie but ultimately a bit of a disappointment. However: in one scene out in the savannah or veldt or whatever it’s called Redford drinks his morning coffee out of a tin cup. He drinks water out of the cup throughout the day. Later that same day, he rinses it out and uses it to drink wine in the evening. Same cup. I thought that was an excellent way to think about kitchen gadgets, or any other gadgets. We could probably buy about 8 tin coffee cups (in case we have guests) and ditch all of our other glasses.
Of course, you want some beauty in your life and you do not want to have a pleasant meal on tin plates and cups. If you were seriously frugal, maybe, but then again we could put up paper blinds instead of curtains and use old newspaper for toilet paper, too. There is a limit, and there is a happy medium. But the idea of a tin cup has reminded me each time I flinch walking by a clever no-stick spatula at Williams Sonoma that I already have a spatula made of plastic that will survive in a landfill for 10,000 years after I am gone. And I do not need another berry spoon.