Sunday, July 24, 2005

By Hand.

There are plenty of things that I'd rather do by hand, even if there exists a more efficient and even more efficacious tool or technology: mixing and kneading bread, making cookie dough, chopping vegetables. I used to make butter cakes by hand, too, but now I use a hand mixer. James Beard says that in 19th century America, bakers had to have a strong arm, as they would often make large cakes, or even more than one at a time. Either I used to have a stronger arm, or else I just got tired of beating a cake for 500 strokes, or however many it was. Still, it's nice to know how. A few years ago, I got a decent chef's knife, and still find great pleasure in sharpening it and preparing all sorts of vegetables with it.

I also have occasionally made myself an item of clothing by hand--a couple of skirts, for instance. There was something good about the enterprise--very slow, meditative, I guess.

I'm noting this fact because I just bought myself a swell new kitchen tool--a mandoline. For those of you who don't know, it's basically an implement to slice vegetables and fruits. It has a fold-out leg, but the operating part of it slants. The blade is very sharp, and you can also insert a little julienne tool. You use it to cut carrots or potatoes or whatever into even, fine slices, matchsticks, or shreds. The day I got it, I immediately took just one small potato--a Yukon gold, in case you're wondering--cut it into even and beautiful circles, thin slices, and fried them in small batches. Voila! potato chips, the best possible potato chips. I love my knife, but there's no way it could match the mechanically-assisted quality of my mandoline-engineered potato chips.

My kitchen has entered a new phase in the age of mechanical reproduction.


  1. The summer after I graduated from university my girlfriend and I were housesitting for a professor of hers...He had 5 apple trees and I must have made 20 apple pies those three months. I really enjoyed rolling out crust by hand even though it took way longer. I also enjoy writing letters by hand but usually only do so when I travel.

  2. I used to be a very impatient person, over the last 10 years or so, I've been trying to crush that in myself and take on being patient and doing things by hand. I think I like it much more now that I've taken on a less rushed atttitude towards things.

  3. You need a machine that makes the chips look like they were hand cut. A machine that produces homey, uneven, ragged potato slices.



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