My roommate has a cupcake machine. It’s bright red, shaped like a waffle iron, and resides in our kitchen. I laughed when she told me about it. How often are we actually going to make cupcakes? More importantly, why does it require a separate machine? The oven covers massive baking territory.
After some further investigation, the most hilarious thing I discovered about the cupcake machine was that it claimed to be a highly versatile product. It can make muffins, too! And muffin-shaped eggs! And muffin-shaped pancakes! The advertisements’ claims couldn’t be more antithetical to its highly-specific mission of baking cupcakes.
I wasn’t surprised that such a machine existed, but I was fascinated by it. Infomercials constantly announce devices that serve intensely specific functions. In the world of kitchen gadgetry, an asparagus peeler is a brilliant idea, not a waste of space. An avocado-cutter was featured in a recent issue of O Magazine. I know someone who owns an ice tea maker.
But this raises the question: why is there a market for having separate gadgets for every vegetable, pastry, and beverage that comes along?
I think this culture of kitchen gadgetry might be a uniquely American thing, a reflection of our fiercely individualistic culture that worships specialization. Because of this obsession with specialization, waste is conflated with wealth on a daily basis. Inflexibility is equated with genius. Division is mistaken for perfection.
Here’s the problem: waste isn’t wealth. Inflexibility isn’t genius. Division isn’t perfection. This, I feel, is something fundamentally problematic with such societal values: they’re unsustainable.