Gadgets are cool and they can be a lot of fun. The problem comes when we allow ourselves to substitute our own muscle power for some electronic or gas-powered machine in the (often mistaken) belief that we are saving time or money by allowing the machine to do it for us.
Let's take, for example, the bread machine. In a minute for minute comparison, I can make a loaf of French bread faster than a bread machine. My bread will be fresh and piping hot from the oven in an hour. It takes the bread machine two and a half hours (if I'm remembering correctly) to make a loaf of bread, and the loaf is square and bulky, and often pretty dense. By contrast, my loaf is whatever shape I make it (usually oblong), and I can even stuff it with meat and cheese and make "pizza bread." Can't do that with a machine.
So, it's not faster, and while it may use less electricity than my oven (smaller space to heat to cook the bread), if I use my baking time wisely, I could actually bake a loaf of bread, a pan of granola, and a meat loaf all at the same time. Or I could double (or triple) the bread recipe and make several loaves of bread. The cooking, kneading and rising time will all be the same. Can't do that with a bread machine, either.
Really, the only benefit to using a bread machine over doing it by hand is that I can dump the ingredients into the pan, set the machine and walk away, and when I come back, I have a squarish lump of bread that has been freshly baked ... but I'm not so convinced that that's a good thing, as mindlessly plodding through our lives without having to really expend any energy to do anything is, perhaps, not the best way to go about living.
There was a time when I loved all manner of gadgets - and, yes, I most certainly had (and used) a bread machine ... and I loved it (except I never really liked those square loaves, and the paddle hole in the middle of the loaf was really annoying), but, then, I realized that most of things a gadget could do for me, I could do just as easily myself.
With that in mind, I stopped looking for gadgets to do my work, and I started looking for "tools." Deus Ex Machina says "the right tool for the job makes the job easier", and I completely agree. What we've also discovered is that often, our hand tools, work better than our power tools, because the hand tools never fail us, unless we fail ourselves. I'm not as fast, but as the tortoise and the hare discovered, sometimes slow and steady wins the race. As long as my strength lasts, I can saw limbs with the bow saw. By contrast, the chainsaw often catches or sputters or doesn't want to work for whatever reason (and then, we end up using the bow saw anyway ;). The hand drill will make hole, after hole, after hole - as long as there's someone to turn the crank, but that power drill will only work as long as the battery charge lasts, and for whatever reason, the charge never seems to last for as long as we need it.
Perhaps we just have crappy power tools, but our experience is that our best tools are the ones that use our muscles for power ... and the added benefit is that both Deus Ex Machina and I have some pretty awesome looking back and arm muscles ... especially for the old, mostly sedentary suburbanites that we are ;).
It wasn't until recently that I had much luck finding non-electric tools - probably because I never really knew what I was looking for, but in the past year or so, we've been really lucky, and being who I am, I like to share the bliss. If you'd be interested in this handcrank coffee grinder (and, yes, it does work :), be sure to leave a comment.
AND THE WINNER IS ...The winner of the tea and teabags is Lorna. Congratulations! Please leave a comment with your full name and address. Comments are moderated and I will not publish your information.
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