Pressure cookers are holding tight, while cookie guns have shot their wad.
That's the message from the garage sales, where kitchen items that are in supply and demand are a good index of culinary treands.
Not so good a guide are kitchen specialty shops and housewares departments, which are to the average kitchen as Parisian fashion shows are to ordinary people's closets. Only a fraction of the wares they introduce with great fanfare last beyond a single season. On the garage circuit, though, the laws of the free market operate.
The items in greatest supply at the garages on a recent weekend were those erstwhile wedding gifts, blenders, percolators and electric knives. Blenders have obviously been superseded by food processors, percolators by coffee machines or Chemex cones. Less easy to explain is the disfavor into which electric knives have fallen. Perhaps people have learned, as a result of the emphasis on physical fitness, that the arm muscle, if properly developed by daily jogging, can surpass in precision and strength a vibrating serrate blade -- and without buzzing too.
If the garage sales are any guide, there is back to basics movement in the kitchen that will mean profit for promoters who demonstrate the versatility of vessels suspiciously resembling the pots and pans of old.
The demands that can't be met at garage sales are likewise a good guide to the items with staying power. Although electric can openers appear regularly for sale, manual ones can seldom be found. Either this situation is analogous to that of the electric knives, or nervous cooks refuse to part with their manual openers, in case of power failure. True pessimistics keep handy that C-ration staple, the P-38 for when the more complicated manual opener breaks down.
Also missing from the garages are luxury items that only those obsessed with a particular food would even have bought. If the fanatics have lost their taste for the food in question, they are at least shrewd enough to know that a garage is not the place to sell cappuccino makers, pasta machines, Irish coffee warmers and snail plates.
A forecast for next year's kitchen corner at garage sales can be made by noticing which applicances are no longer used at dinner parties. A few diehards still try to wow their friends with meals prepared in woks or crocks, but most people have banished them to the basement, the first step to the garage.
Still lying around basements, however, are fondue pots -- not because they are not officially "out," but because no one is now willing to admit even having owned one. Fondue pots will pass in our estates to our children, who wil sell them at garage sales. They may even, like the clothes of the '40s and '50s, experience a rebirth. One born-again appliance that occasionally appears at garage sales and auctions, and is immediately snapped up, is an electric mixer made by Kitchen-Aid several decades ago. With attachments to grind, grate, whip, squeeze juice and knead dough, it is the original food processor.
If any moral can be drawn, it's that culinary immortality is assured to applicances and gadgets that expedite cooking and serving, while a short, if exciting, life is guaranteed to those that produce exotic dishes or require special handling for cleeaning or storage. Hence, silver-plated servers and cookie guns are much more common in the garages than pressure cookers and cast-iron pans; and, possibly under the influence of the energy crisis, knitted egg and muffin cozies are hotter than electric warming trays.