I have a thing about gadgets in the kitchen, which is kind of weird considering I love gadgets in all other parts of life. It's hard to get me out of a computer shop. And thinkgeek.com? Forget about it. I could spend days on that site. I'm a pushover for home audio/video gear and the newest sewing machines and notions can send me into quite the tizzy.
However, I have never been able to get myself to use gadgets in the kitchen. The latest slicer/dicer/chopper/jullienne thingy, gizmo, dohickey has just never tripped my gadget trigger and I think I've figured out why. A gadget, with it's cold steel or colored plastic, whirring blades and multi-turbo power levels, inserts itself between me and my food. It moves my hands further from the act of preparation. It moves my imagination further from my feast. A knife and a pan and a wooden spoon are necessary for preparing the perfect dice or sublime sauce. A chopper makes short work of what the knife does but what does it do for my experience? It helps me forget how to make the perfect dice. It also shortens the amount of time my senses enjoy the cooking.
I use a mocahete, a peice of stone shaped something like a bowl and another peice of stone shaped something like a tiny ball bat, ok, mortar and pestle if you like, to grind my spices. For any amount of spice or seed, it's hard work. While your building up a sweat grinding away, you get into a rhythm, almost a dance with the spice. You hear the stone and spice moving together, working against each other. Finally, the spice gives in. It loses to the stone. It crumbles and it releases its aroma. Oh, the smells, the promise of flavors that will tickle your tastebuds or slap them into submission. You miss all of that with the quick whir of a spice grinder. It's over before you even started and into the rest of the mix they go without so much as a hint at the potential.
I have a friend who tells me I'm doing it the hard way. Maybe I am. But I can tell you this, I'm doing it the way that makes me happiest, the way that provides me with the satisfaction of a feast well prepared. And I like to think that the more blood, sweat, tears, laughter and love that go into my feast, the more moving an experience it is for those who partake.