As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we are working on plans to renovate our kitchen. This has been a surprisingly revealing process, as the renovation brings multiple layers of conflicting goals, values, and motives to the surface.
A great example of this is the decision around what stove to purchase.
Our stove needs to be a gas stove, or at least have a gas cooktop. There are reasons for this: I do 95% of the cooking in our house that gets done, and I prefer to cook on gas. We also have gas connections already in place, so there will be no additional cost to do it, and I know I enjoy the experience of cooking with gas. And I live in a place where the infrastructure is fragile, and gas is much more reliable here than electricity.
When it comes to tools – and a stove is, before it is anything else, a tool – I want them as simple as possible. I want them to be repairable and not disposable. I don’t want features I will not use that purport to solve problems I do not have. I do not need my stove to have wifi or Bluetooth connectivity. Every single device in my kitchen need not have a clock on it. There is no use case where I have ever cooked less well because of the lack of an app that connects my oven to my phone. And should that app no longer be updated, do I just now have a very heavy boat anchor? When the motherboard goes out in ten years, do I trust that it will still be available for purchase at a reasonable cost to replace it?
It also needs to be affordable to my budget. My resources, while abundant on a worldwide scale, are not limitless. And any renovation is expensive, and kitchens especially so.
And, here is the rub, it needs to be attractive and elegant to use. I do not intend to renovate my kitchen again in 5 years. I do not intend to move from this house. I will see this stove for the rest of my life many times a day. I will use it every day for the rest of my life. If it does not work well, I will be reminded f that fact multiple times a day. If it is ugly, I will be inviting – no, paying money for – something ugly to be in my daily view. I should love myself more than that.
There are gas stoves that are very affordable and durable, and easy to repair. They are not attractive at all and miss out on vital features a serious cook needs. There are gas stoves that are affordable and attractive that have features I want, but they add so many features they are an invitation to obsolescence and disposability. And lastly, there are attractive and easily reparable stoves that have the features I want, but that cost as much as a nice used car.
If we have the ability to make an affordable stove that is attractive (and we do) and the ability to make an affordable stove that is repairable (and we do), I don’t know why we can’t make an affordable stove that is both repairable and attractive.
In short, this project is a battle of values. But, alas, so is everything else.
Here is what I wrote this week
The Spiritual Life: “There is just the sacred and the desecrated. That’s it. Those are the only two categories my worldview permits.”
Brevity is not my goal: “A good story needs to be understood, and proper punctuation and grammar can aid in that understanding. But it is far from the only requirement.”
Things I think you will like
I made a batch of clarified butter this week. It stores at room temperature almost forever, it has a higher smoke point than butter, and it adds a taste to things that is somewhat nutty. And it’s drop-dead simple to make. I use this method, which I find simplest, although there are others.
After I made it, Renee pointed out that the mason jar it was sitting in on the counter was hardly the most attractive thing in our kitchen. So I bought this jar to keep it in.
I stumbled across this video of John Denver and Cass Elliott from 1972. They talk about voting rights, and the importance of civic engagement and then do a duet of Elliot’s wonderful Leaving on a Jet Plane, which always breaks me up inside.
As you can see in my diatribe about stoves – I am particular about the tools I buy. I highly recommend the podcast (and Youtube channel) called Cool Tools, where Kevin Kelly interviews an interesting person each week and asks them to recommend 4 cool tools (the definition of tools is broad). I learn so much from this – not just about new tools but also about people from industries I know nothing about, and it’s always delightful to hear someone geek out about a thing they love.