It is time for John Dough to start the day.
He shuffles down to his kitchen and eyes his chrome-plated, enameled steelbase Europiccola espresso machine that has been switched on by an automatic timer. He picks an egg from his tinnedwire, 6 1/2-inch Alexander Calder egg tree, cradles the oeuf in his Practic plastic egg boiler with glass timer and waits for the sand to run out. After the appropriate 3 1/2 minutes have passed, Dough palms his aluminum spring-hammer soft-boiled egg cutter, gives the shell a clean snip and perches the egg on top of his favorite Quimper egg cup.
John Dough has not become a grown-up gracefully. He has given away his BB guns and G.I. Joe, but he's replaced them with ktchen toys. He is a kitchen gadget junkie.
It all started very innocently when Dough was a health-food zealot. His guruinsisted that alfalfa sprouts would sooth his karma so a Bio Snacky Sprouter was definitely in order. Then the High-capacity Yogurt Maker moved in. Zen was fine for fixing the motorcycle, but it didn't clean the tap water -- that was taken care of with a Watermate permanent purifier
By the time the zucchini corer, Gergard Recknagel melon-ball cutter, strawberry huller and cherry-and-plum pitter came into the family, Dough had only one recourse. He had to go on -- mezzaluna, parsley chopper, mandoline, truffle slicer and cutters, whisks, woks and wine thermometers.
Francois Dionit, who teaches cooking at the L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, is aware of the gadget junkie syndrome and what causes it -- positive security reinforcement achieved through knife replacement. "All these things are made to try to replace the knife. That is a so-called gadget. They are made by people who are only interested in making money, not knowing how the gadget will be used.
"I think these people should be put in jail," says Dionot.
But underneath the overreaction lies a Kitchen closet junkie. Dionot admits that citrus zesters, butter curlers, melon ballers, etc., are legitimate "because they serve a specific purpose -- decorating food." He suggests you look out for lemons -- plastic handles that crack and aluminum blades that dull quickly. He cringes at UHF television advertisements selling miracle tools. He stands by his wooden spoons and carbon steel knives.
When buying a culinary contrivance you can reach into your soul and ask these questions: Do I do it? Who would ever buy such a thing? If you don' trust your inner self, and your mother is out of town, it is best to ask a famous person.
The Washington Post took an informal survey of clebrity kitchen gadget preferences and peeves, and came up with the following answers:
Psychologist Dr. Joyee Brothers lives two lives. she has a wood burning stove in upstate New York and an ultramodern kitchen in the city. so her gadgets run from an ax to a convection oven. Her favorite toy is a hand-cranked pasta machine ("If you've ever tried to turn one you would understand why Italian women run the family.") When guests come for dinner each has to take a turn at the handle. Her least favorite gimmick is the blende. "I never put the top on properly so everything ends up on the ceiling."
"I love egg slicers and I just love that apple slicer-corer thing, and you know what I really like, a grapefruit knife," says Gilda Radner from NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Her dislikes? "What I hate is a garlic press. All that gook gets caught and it squishes out the sides until I don't know what it is."
The Cuisinart turns up as the favorite tool for former White House council John Dean ("It's not a gadget, it's a whole now world!") and Warner LeRoy, owner of Maxwell's Plum in New York. Dean didn't have a least-favorite kitchen thing. "I'll have to ponder that one for awhile," he said. LeRoy has an aversion for ice-box locks. The food processor was also the favorite widgit of Alan Carr (producer of the movie 'Grease"), "except it is too complicated."
Writer Jimmy Breslin can't cope without a few cups of coffee in the morning. "A coffee maker is the No. 1 thing for survival. Everything else is a pain in the a-. Once I saw an electric pepper mill. That was the worst. Everything else chews up electricity."
Country-Western singer Charley Pride has a favorite iron skillet that he uses to fry everything he eats. He says he likes the noise fried food makes. He got rid of his pressure cooker because "it got steam all over the place."
An electric carving knife would never be seen in actress Joan Hackett's home. "It is deeply absurd and it says America all over it. The only thing I think you'd need such a thing is for carving up a soft, succulent dead corpse. If I had to choose a favorite gadget I guess I'd take my dishes, knifes and forks. They aren't really gadgets, but really, what a ridiculous question. Who cares."
Fashion designer Bill Blass is a disciplined cook who keeps away from anything fancy."I have these Dreier kitchen knives made in Illinois. They are the best knives I have ever found," he said. (It is a too-well-kept secret. None of the buyers for the Kitchen Bazaar had heard of Dreier knives or knew where to buy them.)
The wife of the ambassador of Sweden, Countess Wachmeister, has all her grandmother's copper pots and pans and likes every thingamajig on the market. The one money-saving device she uses is a slicing machine. "I never buy meats or cheeses sliced. It's cheaper that way."
Terry Hermeling, Redskins left tackle and a bachelor, is a "vegetable nut." His kitchen is not complete without a vegetable steamer. Also a bachelor, but not a cook, Playboy's Hugh Hefner doesn't spend much time cooking. "I don't know anything about kitchen gadgets. Besides, my favorite gadget isn't in the kitchen."
Super rock manager Irving Azoff spends most of his time chasing after clients like Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg. When he is alone he makes up fantasy gadgets -- a phone next to an automatic blender that when you punch "P" makes pina coladas. He hates broilers. "That's what caught fire and burned down half my ski house in Aspen."
Like Azoff, actress Valerie Perrine is worried about kitchen hazards: "I hate garbage disposals. I'm frightened of the spoon shrapnel, but no kitchen of mine is complete without a fire extinguisher."
If you can't afford to be a kitchen junkle, be a kitchen gadget voyeur. There are a few legitimate kitchen catalogues available that you can flip through. "The Cooks Store" by Consumer Guide magazine is a paperbackbook guide, complete with color pictures, on how to buy and use gourmet gadgets. Not counting major kitchen appliances, co-author Linda Carter considers the following to be kitchen essentials: mushroom brush, green bean slicer, lemon zester, citrus spigot, zipzap knife sharpener, nutmeg grater and mill, salad spinner, feather pastry brush, whisks and a pie bird.
"The Cooks' Catalogue" and "The International Cooks Catalogue" by Beard Glaser Wolf, Ltd. also carry a listing of over 4,000 kitchen toys that will fix any gadget junkie.