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The revenge of the appliances

October, 2010

For the past couple of years, Celina and I have been working on our dream kitchen. It’s all arranged. I know exactly where the plans are. They are in my dreams.

We have visited showrooms, browsed through catalogues and spent hours on-line. Our kitchen is small and neither of us wants to bust down walls. We want to renovate the kitchen, not the house. We take notes about refrigerators that could fit into the arms-length alcove where the old refrigerator has always been. I seek out decent quality 24-inch gas stoves that use the same space that has been perfectly fine for the old stove for almost 30 years. We look for a dishwasher that won’t take up much more space than, well, than the dishes that go into it. Is that too much to ask?

However, we’ve found out that if you want a decent quality small appliance that doesn’t cost a fortune, you won’t find it here. Go to Japan. Go to Europe. Go to Brooklyn. But Canada? Fuggedaboutit! We are a big country putting up big houses and bigger kitchens. If I haven’t grown, why does my kitchen appliance have to?

I envy those who can walk into an Almar, IKEA or Sears and actually buy what they want. One of our problems is that we are basically happy with the kitchen we have. It is small, there is no table, no stools or chairs, but it functions beautifully. I can cook anything I want on the four-burner gas stove. The wok, frying pan, pots and pans I regularly use, even the corn boiler in the corner, are all within a step or two. Overhead, I have spatulas, graters, tongs, whisks, a heat diffuser, colanders and strainers. Behind me is the sink, to the left the fridge.

But after more than a quarter-century, things are wearing out. The oven seal is cracked, the heat leaks out and the wood cabinets abutting the stove are scorched. The refrigerator has problems keeping an even temperature. The portable dishwasher is great for storing dirty dinner plates, but not so great at cleaning them. The counter is loosening and cracked. There are plenty of reasons we should have done a kitchen makeover years ago, but I have decided that it’s not completely our fault.

I believe that appliances talk to each other. Some of them have this little joke: I’ll go first and then a week after I get replaced, it’s your turn. But let’s not do it too fast. You think I’m kidding? Notice that the blender breaks down about a week after you buy the Cuisineart. The coffee grinder cranks out its last bean two months later. If you had known all of them would go, you might have tried to find one food processor that replaced them all; but no, they are determined to break down separately.

Maybe our oven, the microwave (it is still analog, with a dial and no digital window), dishwasher and refrigerator have been together too long. They know that the next one to go will convince us to renovate and then we’ll get rid of them all, so they just keep going.

In the meantime, I cook.

Time for comfort food:

Mrs. Grinstein’s honey cake recipe (I am going to stay old school with imperial measurements for this.)

Preheat oven to 350F.

1/2 pound honey (about 2/3 of a cup), 1/2 cup strong coffee, 1 teaspoon baking soda. Melt honey in the coffee, add baking soda, let cool.

2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup oil, 1 apple, peeled and coarsely grated, 1/4 cup orange marmalade, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat eggs and sugar, add coffee-honey mixture, apples, marmalade, oil and vanilla.

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg, pinch of salt.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Stir this into the egg mixture.

Use 2 loaf pans. Oil the pans or line with parchment paper. Fill the pans with the batter. Bake for one hour or until a toothpick can be inserted and comes out clean.



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