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The Friends I Keep In My Basement

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"You could use a mandolin for that," I advised my friend. We were out to lunch the other day, talking about a recipe for something or other, exactly what I don't remember.

"What's a mandolin?" my friend asked.

"It's a kitchen appliance that slices things really thinly."

I might have added, "or a musical instrument in the lute family," but I wasn't sufficiently on my game that afternoon. I went on, "Actually I have a mandolin, but I've never used it, and I hear you have to be careful because you can slice your fingers off. You should get one... you can never use it too." And that got me thinking, where was my mandolin, and why do we have appliances we don't use?

When I got home, it didn't take much searching to find it. My Japanese mandolin, still in its original box, which was a bit faded and beat up from being pushed aside in the small appliance drawer in my kitchen. The $29.99 China Fair label was still on it. "All You'll Ever Need!" the box exclaimed in English, French, Spanish and Japanese. I know exactly why I bought this appliance nearly a decade ago when I was in my gourmet cooking phase, but apparently I never actually got to the point of needing it.

I brought Mr. Mandolin down to the basement. He was simply taking up space in the kitchen, dead to me now -- time to be banished to the "appliance graveyard" closet, as my husband dubbed it many years ago.

We all have appliances we were so excited about at the time, but don't use anymore, right?  Some sit on the kitchen counter for a while as appliance architecture, before they are banished to the graveyard. Some have never been used. My friends have pasta makers, chocolate fountains, percolators, mixers... tools for a butcher, a baker, a popsicle stick maker.

I placed Mr. Mandolin carefully on the shelf, and surveyed my other friends currently in the appliance graveyard closet who would be keep Mr. Mandolin company until eternity (or at least until my kids clean out the closet after I'm dead. Because, like my own mother, I have no intention of doing this.) This is who I found:

Mr. Breadmaker, banished due to a severe disability in the form of a broken blade. Yes, I'm heartless.

Mr. Ice cream maker, a portion of him kept alive in deep freeze in the basement freezer -- just in case of an ice cream emergency (like that six months when JP Licks stopped making Oreo cookie frozen yogurt.)

Mr. Euro Sealer (Is he gay or European?)

Mr. Slow and Steady Dehydrator.

Mr. Fancy Pants Juicer.

Mr. Reliable Rice cooker.

Mr. I Have No Idea Who or What You Are.  Where did you come from?

Mr. George Forman Grill

Mr. Waffle Maker

Mr. Coffee Bean Grinders, (multiple) Mr. Coffee Makers, and a Mr. French press. Ooh la la.

As I surveyed my old friends, I smelled fresh baked bread at six in the morning and recalled exactly where my extra 10 pounds came from. I saw the excitement of my son opening the ice cream maker, an extra "little" Bar Mitzvah gift from our best friends. I heard the collective laughter of our family in New Hampshire after watching an infomercial and buying the Euro Sealer on impulse.

I remembered fondly that my daughter bought the dehydrator with her own money when she became a vegan in high school, and I knew she was in it for the long haul. I remember the hours of cleaning that damned juicer after making fruit pulp muffins for her. The rice cooker was a gift from my good friend Karen, because she had two. The George Foreman grill we brought over from our condo in the North End in the '80s -- when we were cooking just for two. The waffle maker was a used for a long time in NH while sharing long, wonderful breakfasts with friends -- I could just about taste the fresh maple syrup. I could smell the rich aroma of coffee beans from a time we made coffee without the instant gratification of throwing a pod into a machine.

I know that when I wander into the appliance graveyard next I will see the Mr. Mandolin and think of him fondly, despite never having opened the package. It will bring back a time when I was cooking "gourmet" for a full family -- recipes a few times a week out of the "Yellow Book," as we called the Gourmet Magazine Cookbook, its pages worn and splattered with food.  I will think fondly of a time when the kids were excited about our family dinners, talking about our days before I read stories and tucked them into bed.

The appliance graveyards in our lives hold an awful lot of memories.

No wonder we can't throw these things out.

What dear old dead friends are you hiding in your basement?  Tell me I'm not alone.

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