On the Table: Shower Them with Practicality | Features

Even before COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, bridal showers and wedding gifts had changed. Couples who live at the same address have already accumulated basic kitchen equipment, other housekeeping tools. Most couples register online, which means the wedding guest may never see the gift.

Where’s the fun in that?

The problem is that these days small kitchen appliances are manufactured in a wide range of qualities at a wide range of prices.

Example: in 14 years I have had three microwaves. The middle one lasted only a year. I researched why. Computers that run touch pads are poorly made and installed. Advice was to find one with rotary dials, which I did, with difficulty, but I love it.

Perhaps my experience will guide the kitchen shower/wedding guest.

Blenders and toasters lasted for many anniversaries before plastic took over. ’Tis better for two or three friends to chip in for professional grade than waste money on lightweights. Find a better brand blender (with glass canister) online and at kitchen specialty shops, starting at about $100. A powerful blender turns ice cubes into perfect slush. Douse with frozen lemonade concentrate and sip away. A heavy metal four-slot toaster (with easy-clean features) costs at least $100.

A KitchenAid mixer is practically forever, as it should be, for $300. Pass the hat among a few friends. I’m still using their cheapest (yet powerful) model, decades later. While you’re at it, spring for a meat-grinder attachment. A chuck roast, put through the grinder twice with a sweet onion, makes heavenly burgers.

Nothing in a jar or tube replaces freshly-pressed garlic. Too bad pressing is such a challenge — best met by Zyliss, the Swiss company with high standards whose first product, in 1951, was, no surprise, a garlic press. Their super-duper model (also peels cloves) costs about $25 online.

Other kitchen “smalls” that come highly recommended: Spatula with thin, flexible metal blade by Oxo from Bed Bath and Beyond or online, removes cookies from cookie sheet, crepes from the pan with precision and grace. I could not bake without one.

A super-sharp potato/vegetable peeler with comfortable handle and non-serrated blade so the groom won’t be tempted by instant mash.

Unless the couple has a cavernous kitchen, avoid big, bulky flash-in-the-pan appliances that gobble up counter space. I’m sure Instapot, air fryer combos and others offer interesting results, given the room. But some, like doughnut machines and tea-makers, are silly tag-sale prequels. Remember those big red electric woks that didn’t get hot enough to stir-fry anything? Instead, put your money in an heirloom-to-be; a big, oval enamel-coated cast iron stewpot with heavy lid, preferably by le Creuset, the European granddaddy of roasts and stews. Cheaper ones sometimes cook unevenly or crack, I hear.

A Bundt with benefits: Select the heaviest metal nonstick fluted pan in the shop. The benefit is the pound or other cake you bake in it before gifting the bride. Include the recipe, wrap in a large cellophane bag from the dollar store. Aluminum cookie sheets last forever, are far less likely to burn bottoms. Include silicone baking mats. Whip up some cookies for the bride, as proof.

Terrycloth aprons for him and her — so convenient for wiping hands but hard to find. If you’re successful, buy two or three. Actually, aprons are easy to make, with a smallish bath towel, heavy shoe laces or cotton tape, a matching washcloth sewn on as a pocket and big buttons for decoration.

These days, when every cook and her sister have a blog, recipes can be a gamble. Food magazines still put theirs through rigorous testing. Would a subscription be too old-fashioned?

Not just for laughs: put several gift cards from informal local eateries in a small pouch or wallet labeled EMERGENCY RATIONS, CAN’T COOK TONIGHT. Another quickie; a basket lined with cute dish towel, filled with bottled ethnic/international sauces. Last, this proven winner: a turkey kit, with roaster, cradle, baster with glass or metal shaft, infusion needle, gravy separator, trussing pins and string, meat thermometer, maybe a favorite stuffing recipe.

Because when push comes to shove in the kitchen, practical always takes the cake.