Tools You Need, Tools You Don’t

Sharon January 8th, 2009

This refers only to food storage and preservation tools – although I probably should do a series like this for other areas.  But for today, let’s start with the kitchen stuff.

 Now this is one of those things that people vary a lot on.  First of all, there are personal and physical issues – I find it rather pleasant to grind grain manually, and I have healthy young children willing to take a turn, for example – and elderly person with arthritis might find it unbearable.  6 gallon buckets full of 40lbs of wheat aren’t that big a deal for six foot me to hoist around – but a 5′ woman might want to store her grains in smaller containers.

Then there are issues of taste and skill.  The good thing about powered tools is that they generally don’t take any skill – so someone with weak knife skills might find it much faster to chop a couple of onions in a food processor, whereas someone with good knife skills might find that the time to get out the processor and clean is longer.  Some people have strong opinions about taste and texture – they may find the texture of the food processed chopped liver unacceptable, and the manually chopped better, or vice versa.  A job you hate always seems to take longer – so it might be worth a powered tool, say, to grind sausage if that’s one of your hated chores, but not so much if you find sausage making relaxing.

Then there’s space issues – someone in a tiny galley kitchen is going to have to limit himself to fewer kitchen tools than someone with a huge farmhouse kitchen.  Even those of us with tolerable amounts of space (and while I have a lot of storage space, my actual counter space is quite limited) will have to make choices about what appliances are kept out and what are moved to less accessible places.

So this is definitely a ymmv.  My own feeling is that we should make the best choices for ourselves, but we need to think through carefully our use of tools – a lot of us simply assume that because a powered tool exists, it is preferrable to the non-powered one.  Somewhere in the back of our heads, we tend to think “no one would have made a salad shooter unless slicing cucumbers was really hard” (ok, that’s kind of a joke, but that is how the powered grain grinder or the food processor work ;-) ).

I don’t at all object to people making a compelling case for a tool I don’t want or use, what drives me crazy is the automatic assumption that we need all the tools, we should spend a lot of money on them, and that a good kitchen has everything in it.  Now I have plenty of kitchen tools, but I try really hard to go over Wendell Berry’s list of points to determine the value of tools before I buy one.   They are

1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.

2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.

3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.

4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.

5. If possible, it should use some sort of solar energy, such as that of the body.

6. If possible it should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.

7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.

8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenence and repair.

9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships. (Berry, _The Art of the Commonplace_ 219)

You could spend your whole life building a world around this vision, but let’s stick with the kitchen for now.  Not all of these factors will be achievable in one tool – but they are useful grounds for thinking about how to use tools in our lives. 

And I would encourage people to consider the whole cost, and the whole time used – something I think is implicit in Berry but may not come through to those not familiar with his body of work.  That is, his version of “cheaper” would include the question “do you have to work more hours to afford it?”  “Do you have to pay interest on a credit card to buy it?”  “What is the ecological cost?”

The same is true of asking whether it helps you do the task well – we should calculate into its time costs the amortized time needed to earn the money, the item’s potential lifespan and the times spent cleaning and repairing something that breaks easily, as opposed to something that doesn’t.

One thing that I am trying very hard to do is when I replace things, to only replace them with things that do not have plastic parts.  Plastic is essentially unfixable – so a plastic corn cutter that breaks is a piece of junk.  So no more plastic tools unless I have no choice.  This sometimes means not buying locally, which is unfortunate, but I’m finding it worth it.

The other thing that I’m working on very gradually is replacing ceramic bowls, glasses and dishes with enameled metal and wood.  This is because, frankly, I’m a complete and utter klutz, and Eric is better, but not enough ;-) .  I am tired of throwing away broken pottery.  We can handle good dishes, which don’t break as easily and aren’t used as often, but for everyday, we need hard-to-break.

I was planning on including a “what I like and what I don’t list on this” but that will have to come later – I’m having internet service problems.  So forthcoming…. and in the meantime, try looking at your life and stuff through Berry’s lens.  Boy is it enlightening!

 Cheers,

 Sharon

37 Responses to “Tools You Need, Tools You Don’t”

  1. Shambaon 08 Jan 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I decided to apply these critieria to a recent purchase of mine. I wasn’t looking for this tool or event hinking about getting one but I got it at the time the opportunity presented itself.

    Food Dehydrator (Dine 7100 marked off 30-34% at Linen’s NThings, liquidation sale, last one they had):

    1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
    Didn’t replace an item; tried dehydrating in solar oven. Solarl oven does work but purchase this because this dehydrator should be (and is) more convenient, can be used inside, easy to leave for many hours as it works. Also, it was on liquidation sale, I don’t know if I would have bought it otherwise or gone checking out other dehydrators to compare at this time.

    2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
    It is smaller and can be used inside. It can be placed in a replatively small area while it works.

    3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
    I’ve tried this with some sliced up pears and some green beans. It works quite well according to it’s own directions and other dehydrating/drying instructions I’ve read. It can definitely do more “units” at a time than the solar oven could. I already know that I will use the “products” that it creates.

    4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
    I suspect not as it uses electricity; but there is also time, human energy, planning energy that has to be figured into it; lcan it be used more often/conveniently than the other method.

    5. If possible, it should use some sort of solar energy, such as that of the body.
    Easy answer, No.

    6. If possible it should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
    I’m sure this is not true.

    7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
    It was purchased within 2 miles of home. Repairable? I don’t know.

    8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenence and repair.
    No.

    9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships. (Berry, _The Art of the Commonplace_ 219)
    It’s definitely not going to do this.

    10. Other considerations: The same is true of asking whether it helps you do the task well – we should calculate into its time costs the amortized time needed to earn the money, the item’s potential lifespan and the times spent cleaning and repairing something that breaks easily, as opposed to something that doesn’t.

    I think it will do the task very well, should be able to be worth the money spent and more with regular use, the lifespan should be many years with the minimum of care barring no accidents. Repairability and doability? Total unknown. I’m sure it could be repaired but who could do it and cost are the issues.

    In the coming days, I suspect it will be well worth the cost to repair lots of things that than the cost to replace it.

    cheers,
    Shamba

  2. Little Red Henon 08 Jan 2009 at 4:18 pm

    I bought a set of enameled tin cups for my kids to use, but I am discouraged that they chip so easily. Is this part of what a tinker used to do–repair tinware?
    Is there a better type of enameled tin that doesn’t chip as easily?
    I have the Coleman camp type. Or is it that I’m washing them in the dishwasher?

    I recently needed to replace a pie server which had gone missing among some other kithen tools, and searched a while to find all stainless steel utensils figuring they’d last longer.

    Oxo seems to have quite a few good ss choices, but even some of those have plastic or rubberized plastic in the handles. My favorite tool I bought was a manual egg beater, all stainless steel except for a little plastic in the grip. I probably could have found an all satinless one by going into Seattle, but I chose to limit my searching to Amazon. My “local” stores conssist of Target and a couple of small hardware stores.

    I would like to start canning, but I’m confused/intimidated by the equipment needed to start. Hop
    What’s essential? What is essential for canning without electricity?

    {Sorry if my comments are choppy–the formatting is cutting off the entire right third of my comment box.}

  3. jyotsnaon 08 Jan 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Consider stainless steel plates and cups for when you replace ceramic.
    Find them at Indian stores.

    Jyotsna

  4. George Anonymuncule Seldeson 08 Jan 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Where do you get the 6-gallon buckets with food-grade plastic (or are they something other than plastic)? This is my current search–where to find storage containers for bulk food storage.

    Thanks!

  5. Greenpaon 08 Jan 2009 at 5:21 pm

    You’re a klutz!!?? Ok, I did not see that coming. :-)

    I think I want outside verification. You are known to have fits of self-deprecation. Certifiable.

    How many cups do you chip per month? Per week? Break? I need stats.

    One of Larry Nivens’ more interesting (and mistaken) fantasies is that when the human lifespan is technologically extended to 200 years, or so- you’ll be able to spot the old ones by how… graceful they have become. See, the idea is, over time, they actually learn how to not hurt themselves.

    I’m still hoping to find evidence for it, but alas…

  6. Greenpaon 08 Jan 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Joytsana, and others- I’d be wary of buying stainless steel for food contact from un-certified sources.

    There are many kinds of stainless- hundreds. Only a few are “safe” for food. Look for Type 316. The others may leach nasty metals, like chromium, molybdenum, and nickel.

    The problem with odd sources is, they may have a factory making Type 409 stainless for car exhausts- but nobody is buying. So- they shift gears and start making pots and plates.

    It’s not safe.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stainless_steel#Types_of_stainless_steel

  7. TJon 08 Jan 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Sharon, please comment on stainless cups/pots vs. enameled – I do have some of both but short of !!REALLY!! expensive cast iron enameled things would go for stainless because of chipping.

    Thank you.

    To “Little Red Hen”
    I will defer to experts here, but my little experience with canning comes from growing up with it a different era in a far away country
    and to me it does not feel intimidating or complicated at all – all i have are mason jars with their lids and a large pot to sterilize in.
    I know there are specialized gigantic tiered pots to sterilize many jars at once, but with a little more time my 5qrt pot works ok – 2 jars at a time.
    Once you have a few jars of jam canned – you will have a pretty good idea weather you will do any more of it and on a bigger scale etc.
    At any rate it will completely remove the “intimidation” factor.
    Oh yes one tool that is very useful – tongs – the special kind to pull the jar out of boiling water – $3 to $5 and take no space at all.

    Hope this helps
    TJ

  8. TJon 08 Jan 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Greenpa, I’ve just looked at the wikipedia you linked to… – yes it mentions the 316 as the dedicated food/medical alloy but says nothing about leaching.
    I do want to make sure that pots/utensils in the house are safe.
    Do you have any references specific to 409 or other stainless leaching…
    what about aluminum – I have a few round-bottom pots from the “old country” and they are cast aluminum.
    Thanks

    TJ

  9. NMon 08 Jan 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Little Red Hen,
    Canning is not difficult and does not require a ton of special equipment. It does, however, require that you pay attention to safety guidelines.
    Look for the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, generally sold with the canning supplies, for about $6 or $7. It will walk you painlessly through the process, with clear photos and instructions, and tell you the equipment you need.
    Basically, jars, lids and rings, tongs, a funnel, a spatula and a big pot, for water bath canning.
    It also gives recipes.
    It covers water bath canning, pressure canning, freezing and dehydrating. Tons of good information, for very little money. It may not be available until about May or June, when stores think canning season starts.
    You can also go to the national center for food preservation:
    http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/
    Also, Sharon has written some posts going over the canning process, in the last year.
    NM

  10. Greenpaon 08 Jan 2009 at 6:22 pm

    TJ – I’m not going to be much help except in terms of general metallurgical principles. Data on leaching of harmful stuff out of cooking/eating utensils is really hard to come by- manufacturers usually just say “of course it’s safe!” and don’t really test much. It’s usually left to the tinfoil hat squad; like the pooh-poohed observation that if your teflon pan overheats, your canary may die; which is now slowly becoming mainstream.

    A big part of the problem is the pH of what you’re cooking makes a huge difference- I will never cook acid foods in aluminum these days; can’t be good when you see the metal eroding. Leaving acid foods to sit in stainless- makes me nervous in any case; but FAR more nervous if I don’t have good reason to believe it’s a certified alloy.

    Just a little variation in the alloy mixture can drastically affect solubility, leaching, electrical potential- all that stuff.

    I LOVE good stainless. Wonderful stuff. But do be careful where it comes from. I’m remembering the beautiful stainless steel garden shovels I bought a couple years ago. Made in China! Cheap! They all tore – like paper- under actual use. The same kind of silly stuff goes on with food stainless.

  11. Andrewon 08 Jan 2009 at 8:13 pm

    We bought a tomato peeler/press last year from a local hardware store (manual, with only limited repairable potential). It won’t last generations, but it should be good for most of my remaining lifetime.

    It’s not general purpose – but delivered us some best-ever tomato sauce, as well as apple sauce. Putting up 24 quarts seemed to flow right along, so it definitely aided us on guideline #9.

  12. Kate in CTon 08 Jan 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I too had the problem of much chipped and broken ceramic and pottery ware. We had a set of dishes made for us for our wedding by a local potter (many yrs ago)…all broken to bits within a couple years. we used wood and those blue speckled metal cups for awhile, but I really like to have “regular” dishes and glasses, (but hate to keep buying and throwing stuff away)so i hunted around and asked people what they used. I found that Fiesta ware, yep Fietsa ware made in USA, (I bought mine at a restaurant supply store) holds up fantastically. I’ve had a set for 8 years, none are chipped and the only ones to break (explode really) were a couple times i unintentionally left a plate on my glass top stove burner while turned on (the stove I mean), then slid the very hot plate over to the cold side of the stove top. Immediate explosion. Very loud. Otherwise, all dishes intact. As for glasses, a friend told me those French made glasses (4 sizes) that Williams Sonoma sells never break, so I got some about the time i got the dishes and have found it to be true even when they fall on the floor (wood) or in the sink. And no chips. That’s my experience anyway.
    Watch…now I’ll probably break three in a row.
    warm wishes

  13. Fernon 08 Jan 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I believe that my mother has a ENTIRE SET OF GLASSES that were originally Jewish Yahtzeit candles. While one brand of the newer ones seem to be a thin glass, the rest are a nice thick glass that pretty much bounces. Now they are smaller than they used to be, but they are great for kid use.

    Fern

  14. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Tools You Need, Tools You Don’t This refers only to food storage and preservation tools – although I probably should do a series like this for other areas. But for today, let’s start with the kitchen stuff. [...]

  15. Bruceon 08 Jan 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Great post. I needed to be reminded of Berry’s list of attributes for a new tool. Cool!

    Interested in my article Abundance, or Sufficience?

    Check it out at:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/Abundance–Or-Sufficience

    Cheers!
    Bruce

  16. Joannaon 08 Jan 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Great post!

    One thing my partner & I have been working on for a long time is making a household full of only the best infrastructure we can afford.

    When you buy a tool that is well-made, repairable, helps the local economy, and is also a pleasure to use, it makes a huge difference in how you feel about doing tasks with those tools.

    And it’s like money in the bank to know you can count on preparing your garden, processing food, fixing a mower, etc. confidently and efficiently, because you have time-tested investment-quality equipment.

  17. Lizon 09 Jan 2009 at 8:14 am

    “There are many kinds of stainless- hundreds. Only a few are “safe” for food. Look for Type 316. The others may leach nasty metals, like chromium, molybdenum, and nickel.”

    This is something that has concerned me, but I don’t know how to find out what type of stainless was used if the manufacturer doesn’t mark it on the pot (and as far as I can see, none of them do). Are you aware of any reference for information on the various brands? I have numerous Tramontina pots and use them for everything from cheesemaking to blanching to steaming to making vegetable and meat stocks.

  18. Greyon 09 Jan 2009 at 9:30 am

    I’m afraid the “cheaper” line is the only one I disagree with. I’ve found buying quality saves a lot in the long run. The only exception to this is when a “cheaper” kitchen tool is an antique or vintage one – they are sturdy and durable and meant to be used.

  19. Greyon 09 Jan 2009 at 9:41 am

    Shamba –

    A dehydrator is actually a very simple contraption – it should be repairable as it’s basically a warming coil and a fan. Other than that, it’s just a box with flat trays.
    I hope you enjoy yours. I love, love, love mine. I just made dried tomatoes (little salt and oregano sprinkled on before drying is great) and banana chips with mine. The chips are more like candy! Nothing like what you get in trail mix.

  20. WNC Observeron 09 Jan 2009 at 10:40 am

    Just a few notes:

    Cutlery (knives) are arguably the most important kitchen tools. I do most of the cooking in our house and I probably use knives and a cutting board more than anything else. It is worth the investment to buy the best you can. A matching set is nice but not absolutely essential.

    I actually DO NOT recommend a matching set of cookware. For some things, a good old seasoned Lodge cast iron skillet or griddle works best. For other things, an enameled cast iron (like Le Cruset) pot or dutch oven works well. It is useful to have stainless steel saucepans and stock pots, but it is also useful to have some speckled enameled “granny ware” as well. Most of us who cook a lot end up accumulating our own ecclectic personal mix of pots and pans that we like and use constantly.

    Those of us who garden a lot also fix a lot of vegetables. Strainers and collanders are essential tools for washing these. Stainless steel is best.

    A note on storage containers: We like to use large tins for storage of non-bulk dry goods. Tins are almost as airtight as plastic containers, are as insect-proof and more rodent proof, and IMHO are a lot more durable. The lids are what take most of the wear and tear of daily use in plastic ware, and they can’t hold up to it for very long; they inevitably crack or break, which renders the whole container pretty much useless. Because these things are so non-standardized, it is pretty much impossible to find replacement lids for plastic containers. In contrast, the lids of metal containers will hold up to wear and tear for more than a lifetime. Large metal tins are becomming harder and harder to find. Each year, fewer and fewer foodstuffs are being packaged and sold in them. I used to be able to buy cookies or candy packaged in a gift tin around Christmastime, and these made good things to give to ourselves, as we still had the tin to use once the candy was gone; except for the Danish butter cookies, these are now gone with the wind. The good news is that because these things are so durable, there are still lots of used ones out there. The ones with old advertising art work command a premium in the antique stores, but the ones that are all scratched up are less desirable and can be purchased for almost nothing. I am constantly on the lookout for these things. The main thing I am looking for is to make sure the can and lid are intact, that there is no rust, and that the inside is clean. Obviously, when you take it home you are going to have to do a heavy duty cleaning job anyway, and dry it thoroughly, before using it to store any foodstuffs that are going to touch the metal directly. I especially keep on the lookout for tins that are rectangular or square-ish rather than round, because those make much more efficient use of space.

  21. Rosaon 09 Jan 2009 at 11:13 am

    Grey beat me to it – anyone with a soldering iron (even me!) and some wire can repair a broken electric dehydrator – though one of my trays is cracked, and I’m looking for a non-plastic replacement for it without a lot of success :(

    We have a lot of random kitchen stuff that has appeared in our kitchen over the years, and I’ve purged some and more we’re not replacing as it breaks. A couple weeks ago I learned to make popcorn on the stove, when the air popper broke.

    We have a few single-use items that would be junk for someone else but that i love – I dry about four bushels of apples every fall, and the corer-peeler makes that SO MUCH easier, but for one apple at a time it’s not really worth it.

    The tool I am looking for and don’t have yet is a bike-powered blender that is not electric – it seems like it ought to be simple to make a mechanical one, but I don’t have an Extracycle and the bike people in my life are more into fancy bikes than kitchen appliances. I don’t have a food processor but I use my blender a *lot* for stuff like hummus and pesto.

  22. Greenpaon 09 Jan 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Liz- yeah, few of them tell you the alloy. It’s part of the “consumers don’t care!” philosophy; which needs to be changed.

    USUALLY- a major company like Tramontina can be counted on to be using the appropriate materials. That weird off brand stuff from Brazil or Myanmar- MIGHT be just fine. Or not.

    One of the reasons behind the failure to mark it- it’s incredibly easy to just lie; for unscrupulous makers. The little mom&pop backyard smelter in China- that is just melting together any stainless scrap it can get- and doesn’t actually control it’s processes at all- could very easily just stamp “316″ on the bottom of everything. And if no regulator is actually watching or testing (they’re not, of course” – the damage could be worse than just not marking everything. That’s KIND of a warning- to let be buyer beware.

    This should be part of future product certification; standard, hard information, on each product. Energy input? Transport costs? Exact materials used? Lifespan? Real world energy consumption, when appropriate? % recycleable?

    All that, and more, should be on the label- right by the price.

  23. Greenpaon 09 Jan 2009 at 12:05 pm

    yeesh. sorry for the tpyos. :-)

  24. Psunflwron 09 Jan 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Re glasses and breakage. Many years ago my brother recommended buying glasses from a restaurant supply store. I bought a case of each of three sizes with the idea of using the rest of the case for replacements. So far (20 years) only two have broken! I have used some of the case to set up other people in housekeeping by giving them a set of 4 or 6 of each size. Apparently the glasses made for restaurant use are more durable that the kind I used to buy at Target.

  25. Shambaon 09 Jan 2009 at 3:46 pm

    To Grey and Rosa, re: dehydrator repairs; Thanks for the info. I will keep the tomatoes and oregano in mind. I love dried tomatoes, too.
    I think I will this this dehydrating stuff.

    cheers,
    shamba

  26. pat nixonon 09 Jan 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Buy good tools that will last your lifetime- you can kill yourself with
    a bad cleaver-I had one when first married which literally broke in my hand and blade went flying over my shoulder- missed me by 1/2 inch on my shoulder blade. Poorly made tools will kill you. Try shopping estate sales- you can get really nice tools and pots, etc, @ reduced prices. Great way to buy expensive stuff on a budget. Restaurant companies also have periodic auctions if you are interested in serious chef’s tools and quality.

  27. Shambaon 09 Jan 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I meant to say: I think I will really like this dehydrating stuff.
    :) :)

    shamba

  28. LeeAnnon 09 Jan 2009 at 4:56 pm

    To all those who replied to my canning query, thank you. I should have known Sharon would have something on that in the archives. I should have plenty of time to look it up before it becomes urgent.

    WNC Observer, for large metal tins, have you tried the asian grocery? The last time I went to 99 Ranch Market or Uwajimaya, it seems most of their various holiday desserts/cookies are packaged in large metal tins. Otherwise, we received a gigantic round tin of flavored popcorn (so full of chemicals but still so tasty!) as a gift this year, from Fiji’s? Figi’s? which is probably at least a two gallon container. The boy scouts largest popcorn tin a couple years ago was only half that size.

    Thanks also to all for the tips on varying qualities of stainless steel. I received three very different stainless steel mixing bowls for Christmas. Two are very shiny and thin and one is more as I was expecting, thick, sort of dull, with obvious machine marks. I am certain the sturdier one is better quality, but time will tell.

    Knives are something I should replace soon. We have the same inexpensive set we received as a wedding gift fifteen years ago. They are long past their prime!

    Anyone know where to find gallon pickle jars? Without buying the pickles? These are my favorites for storing sugar, rice and such, but I haven’t seen them for sale empty.

  29. Little Red Henon 09 Jan 2009 at 4:56 pm

    sorry for the confusion, Little Red Hen is me, LeeAnn

  30. EJon 09 Jan 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks for W Berrys list. I sent it to Lee Valley and Smith and Hawken. We’ll see if anyone is brave enough to include it on their website or catalog.

    Enamel is good for some things but chips can get under fingernails.

    Consider rubber also- sometimes buckets and feeders are available.

  31. Laurie in MNon 09 Jan 2009 at 7:31 pm

    LeeAnn:
    The hardware store I got canning supplies in this fall had gallon sized mason jars. (!!!) With the regular canning type, 2 part lids. Is that kind of what you are looking for?

  32. Anonymouson 10 Jan 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Of course, the best tool has more than one use as well. Those gallon size mason jars make wonderful sauerkraut/kimchee crocks and sun tea brewers and kombucha incubators….(etc!) as well as dry-good storage, for example.

  33. squrrlon 11 Jan 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Well, we’re not in the habit of breaking things around here–in the last 6 years I remember two breakages, both by guests–but as for glasses, I actually prefer them mismatched. You just pick up whatever pretty thing you find cheap/free, and then when multiple people have drinks, you can always tell which glass is yours. Just like the gentleman said, too, about how it isn’t worth it to try and have matching cookware…different finishes for different jobs. There’s a lesson there, I’m sure, about not clinging to modern aesthetics when they don’t serve you.

    I’ve been thinking a lot too about choosing tools wisely, about shopping ethically, getting the best you can afford, buying only things that will truly serve you, that sort of thing. I think it’s a real skill, and one that in general we don’t learn in this culture. Where do you look for the perfect teapot, and how do you recognise it when you find it? How can you tell if this stainless steel is food-grade, or that enamel durable? When is it true that you get what you pay for, and when is it well worth taking a slight drop in quality/appearance for a large drop in price? Lots of questions I’m learning to answer, but it’s been quite a journey. I have to say, though, it’s fun, and so satisfying when you get something that you know will really be a valuable contribution to your life.

  34. Sharonon 12 Jan 2009 at 8:56 am

    Grey, by “cheaper” I am absolutely certain that Berry means “in its whole cost, cradle to grave” – that is, I do not think that he is suggesting we buy six cheap plastic things over 1 good quality one. On the other hand, fossil powered items almost always lose on this scale, because of the constant inputs needed to keep them running.

    Sharon

  35. Jenon 12 Jan 2009 at 9:34 pm

    We’ve been collecting old restaurantware plates & bowls for years now; the stuff is so thick it literally bounces when it hits the floor! I can’t eat off of or drink out of anything thinner anymore. Plus mixing & matching is fun. :)

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