Monday, December 7, 2009

Yeah! Goy Present Giver Came Early!

IMPORTANT Update : Realizing this post is a bit long for our less intrepid readers, you may skip it on the condition that you search for the word "salt" and read those parts. Trust me on this one.

Ha! You goyum are so cute, what with your consumerism and your present giving and your libertarians. (I refuse to acknowledge that there are any Jewish libertarians.)

Megan has posted her Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen Edition and I'm giddy as something that's giddy in a place that makes it particularly giddy! Let's see what fine items Megan McArdle uses would make a great gift! Note: As has oft been noted, Megan takes a cut out of anything you purchase through her links. She mentioned that last year, though, so no need this year. It's not part of the tradition. Who's heard of conflict of interest?

She starts with "Stocking Stuffers: Under $25" and almost none of them make any sense as a gift. They are comprised entirely of little gadgets of which Megan is fond and not at all of things that you might buy someone. See, if you know someone well enough to know what small trinket their kitchen lacks but they desperately desire, you prolly know them well enough to cross that 25 dollar threshold. Also, no one who wants a microplane grater hasn't bought one themselves already. They are not new Megan. What are you going to advise us on next? Not getting our internet through AOL?

Next we have a "cheese slicer" and then "Kyocera ceramic slicer" which can both be replaced by "knife" but, whatever, we all know how hard it is to cut cheese by hand. So much more convenient to throw another waste of space in our completely uncluttered drawers.

Then there's the Oxo chopper for people who somehow haven't heard of the slap chop or knives. Don't buy a slap chop, though. That has infomercials and is inferior. Buy Oxo chopper as it has both the advantage of being made by a respectable company AND being available through Megan's Amazon link.

And we're not done with Oxo. Not by a long shot. For what stocking would be properly stuff without "Oxo tongs." What are "Oxo tongs?" you may ask. Well, they are tongs that have the wonderful feature of being made by Oxo. No kitchen would be complete without them. Of course, no kitchen would be without them unless all you make is Ramen. This paragraph, like so many others, is best concluded with "whatevs."

Up next, a "Salt Keeper." This whole section is far and away my favorite:

Exotic salts are the new Green Peppercorns and White Truffle Oil, and in my opinion, considerably more interesting. If you use expensive salts for flavoring your cooking (or putting on top of your food), a wooden salt keeper can keep them from getting too humid and clumping together. Right now I'm using Maldon sea salt for most things, and pink Himalayan salt for dishes that demand a lighter flavor.
I love how she openly states fancy salt is a stupid trend and then goes on to opine about the subtle differences between Maldon and Himalayan salt. Didn't Megan say that she was "cutting back?" Well, I know when I'm cutting back the last thing I cut back on is the essentials, like paying extra for gourmet SALT.

Then there's the potato peeler:
My sister bought me this last Christmas as a sort-of-joke, sort-of-gift,
That sort of makes sense and... oh, no, it entirely doesn't make sense. Unless we're talking about a big floppy dildo that ends up getting actual use, a gift is either a joke or practical.

The best advice I've ever heard, though, is re: silicone oven mitts. "You can stick your hands into boiling water wearing these, as long as the water doesn't come up over the opening of the glove." Yea, what could possibly go wrong? I mean, it's not like if any water gets in it will be trapped next to your skin making any potential burns far worse. Plus, this is coming from a women who earlier admits to not being able to grate cheese without scraping her knuckles.

Our next category is "Thoughtful Presents: $25 to $50." Number two in your heart attack? A FUCKING KNIFE BLOCK. Seriously. A place to put your knives. Who owns a kitchen and owns knives but doesn't own a place to put their knives? BRILLIANT.

But let's not forget the "Rabbit Corkscrew" which, really, disturbingly, makes me think of another rabbit entirely. Because what we all need is "the easiest corkscrew you've ever used." No more killing the mood by fumbling around with those tricky corkscrews. In her defense, "This is particularly great for older wine drinkers, or anyone who has trouble with their hands, because it requires so little strength." It's that special gift for gramma that says "I know you're an alcoholic, but you're almost dead anyway so what does it matter?"

Then there's the always favorite "Oxo Kitchen Scale." Though she admits trying to get us to use it is futile, she's going to buy it for a gift for us anyway because her gift to us is to make us do all the stupid pointless shit that she does. You're welcome. I would just like to point out that the whole IDEA of a kitchen scale is bullshit. Cooking is NOT that precise. If it were, everything wouldn't happen to come out to nice round numbers. A precise recipe would use 2.4364 cups of flower and 1.67352 eggs. It's kind of absurd the notion you have to weigh exactly the right amount of flower to match the number of highly variable eggs you have, but that's never stopped her before so, whatevs. Even if the volume of flour changes with humidity (which I doubt is significant, but maybe) so would the weight.

Next, we have "Generous Gifts: $50 to $150." What should we purchase for our loved ones, Megan? Oh, a 60 dollar block of wood? GREAT IDEA! That block of wood will be so much better than the 5 dollar one at Target. My spouse will think I'm so thoughtful!

Or how about a hand mixer! I think Megan sums it up best when she says:
I don't use mine much any more--I tend to outsource its labors to either my stand mixer, or my immersion blender. But I travel with it, and for someone who doesn't have a really high-quality stand mixer, this is invaluable.
What cook doesn't want something almost entirely useless? AND HOLY SHIT I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO SAY ABOUT THE FACT THAT SHE BRINGS HER HAND MIXER AROUND TO COMPENSATE FOR HER HOST'S INADEQUATE MIXERS! Does she travel with an emergency store of her fancy salt?

Skipping ahead to the "Extravagant Gestures: $150 and up" because, hey, when I think of $150 dollar expenditures, I think of something subtle like a "gestures." I also just can't get over the idea that Megan thinks there are people with whom we are close enough to spend over $150 on, but need HER help choosing a gift for.
KitchenAid Mixer Yup, every year, I start with the same thing. If you want to be a serious baker, you need a serious mixer.
Which is why you should buy one, because a serious baker almost never has the one thing they need to be a serious baker.

But what better way to spend $162 than on a "counter-top oven." A toaster oven? NOOO! Unlike a toaster oven it "makes good toast, which is not, in my experience, generally true of toaster ovens." Yeah! My toaster oven always turns my toast into chimneys. It's pretty impressive the first time but after you have, like, 6 new chimneys in your house you start to just want some toast. Also, don't forget that "the brick lining makes beautiful bread" and that's total worth the $162.

And speaking of useless wastes of money, she also advises you purchase a $200 cast iron pot (this one comes with enamel!) and a SEVEN hundred dollar copper pot.

I would just like to pause a moment here and remind everyone that Megan, up above, openly stated that her SALT consumption follows the latest trend. Yes, Megan has such a herd mentality she must use the newest black, even if the newest black is SALT from the other side of the world. SALT. Fucking SALT.

Oh, but back to the pot, Megan doesn't ACTUALLY want you to spend 700 bucks on a pot. "The link is just to show you the kind of thing you're looking for" because some of her readers are in fact stupid enough to fail to comprehend the meaning of "copper pot" without an illustration. That could be anything!

What holiday gift guide would be complete without Megan telling you what NOT to buy? Megan doesn't like these things, so your loved ones won't either. For example, while the slap chop is brilliant, do not get the "multichopper" which performs the exact same function. Why? Well "Unfortunately, changing the top plate, which pushes the food through the slicing blade, requires so much hand strength that I have to call Peter to do it for me." If it's too hard for the world's most incompetent person, it's prolly too hard for you.

Electric steamers are also a no-no, because Megan doesn't steam vegetables often so neither do you. This is in contrast to electric tea kettles, which are invaluable because Megan drinks a lot of tea and so do you.

But no list of things not to buy would be complete without things on it that Megan doesn't know how to use. For example, knife sharpeners. As we all know, dragging a knife down a holding steel is IMPOSSIBLE which is why so many honing steels exist. A true champion will settle for nothing less than taking their blades to a professional sharpener once a year. No... no... not more than once a year. We're professionals, guys!

Then she closes with
Specialty microwave dishes. In some cases, the concept is good. The problem is, it's always executed in plastic. Microwaving in plastic may not be such a good idea-pthalates really don't seem to be all that good for you, and I'm not exactly an environmental alarmist. We only microwave in glass these days.
Because Megan is smart enough to know that pthalates are bad but isn't smart enough to know that avoiding them is impossible (they are in deodorant and make up), that many plastics don't have pthalates in them (they are only needed as plasticizers for plastics that are otherwise unworkable), and that their main danger seems to be to children and fetuses (they interfere with various hormones important to early sexual development). What's a lot of knowledge when a little goes such a long way to making you an expert in everything?

And remember, guys, peer pressure determines her SALT consumption. SALT



Clever Pseudonym said...

Shorter Megan:

"Here is a list of crap that every serious cook already has or doesn't have because they don't want it or prefer other devices/methods. None of these things would really make thoughtful, interesting gifts; I just wanted to make sure everybody knew what a sophisticated foodie I am. Well, I'm not and honestly don't know squat about cooking, but it's the image that's important."

If I wasn't perfectly happy with my current occupation and wanted to make big bucks, I'm pretty sure the most efficient route would be to come up with some idiot product for faux-sophisticate foodies to snatch up to feel like they're special. I've seen those fancy salts - Celtic Sea Salt, Hawaiian Sea Salt, Artisan Fleur de Sel Salt - yawn. Artisan salt. Jesus Christ. Some people will eat up the most ridiculous bull.

Downpuppy said...



Drip drip drop little April showers.

How many generations back on the MeMegan tree would you have to go to find a real cook?

Clever Pseudonym said...

I love the part where she describes tongs as "versatile." They're tongs. The full range of their versatility: they pick shit up. That's it. Unless you use them to jerry-rig something, they have one single use.

Actually, I could probably spend an hour or two breaking down all the stupid in her post, but I don't want to waste the time on something as useless as McArdle. She thinks tea balls are a hassle? Huh? Open tea ball. Insert tea. Close tea ball. Add boiling water. How is this difficult?

Chad said...

The salt thing was glorious, but my jaw dropped at her dismissal of every toaster ever made. I know a couple of fairly hardcore foodies and even they wouldn't get elitist about TOAST.

Dhalgren said...


I've learned a few things living with my girl over the last 4 years. Respect salt, butter, rice, corn, and tongs. They go a long way. Especially silicone tongs you can use to remove toaster strudels from your toaster.

And as for great toasters, Kitchen Aid models are the tops, IMO. I'm an elitist and I love my toaster strudels weekend mornings.

bulbul said...

Nitpick: goyim.
Now back to reading. All of it, I promise.

NutellaonToast said...

I'm not a very good Jew.

Clever Pseudonym said...

I just caught this gem: "I had to improvise this thanksgiving [sic] by weighing myself with and without a bowl of potatoes in my hand."

Um, why wouldn't you just...weigh the potatoes? And did she subtract the weight of the bowl as well as her own? Besides, what kind of recipe for potatoes is so precise you have to have the weight be exact?

bulbul said...

...any kind of a chef...
...a serious baker...

I have just been visited by the Ghost of Christmas Potential and boy, what a lovely vision it was! Megan McArdle was the second coming of Martha Stewart and she hasn't written a word about healthcare or economy or obesity and we all met under a huge Christmas tree next to a huge Chanukkiyah and we were happy as can be...
I wanna go back!

M. Bouffant said...

Tea balls? Can't handle them? Oooohhh ... Was McA. not, in the last wk. or so, going on about economizing, & wedding in the face of economic disaster? And now a tea ball is too much trouble? It'll save you its cost after not-buying about two boxes of teabags, & it's all profit from there. And she could buy exotic, gourmet tea, & tell us about her refined tea palate.

Spring-driven bathrooms scales aren't accurate at sub-human (NO JOKES THERE, DAMNIT!!) weights, so getting on the scale w/ & w/o the taters is actually a smart move, but yes, why does it need to be even that accurate?

Clever Pseudonym said...

Thanks for learning me about the scale thing, M.

I finally made it to the bottom (have to take Megan in doses to keep myself from wanted to grab the nearest sharp object and begin stabbing people).

Stupid things in the "Bad Ideas" section:

*What world does Megan live in where you can't buy a high-quality espresso maker for way less than $500? I have a high-end one that I bought for $150.

*Electric steamers can be very useful if you are making multiple dishes and don't have the stove top to spare. I don't like microwaves and don't use one. My electric steamer gets tons of use.

*Bread machines are incredibly useful and I want to know where Megan got that 99% of Americans just let theirs gather dust figure. I use mine constantly - not just for bread, but other doughs, pasta and jams. Everybody I know who has one says it's one of the most useful applicances they've ever bought. And just because she lives in a two-person household that doesn't consume that much bread, doesn't mean everybody else in the world is the same. I come from a HUGE family that easily tore through a loaf of bread a day in healthy, normal amounts per person. But Megan doesn't need one, so obviously NOBODY does. I will never go back to eating store-bought bread after buying my machine. There are no preservatives in the stuff you make at home, plus you get the added bonus of a house that smells of baking bread, one of the best smells in the history of ever. And the "fresh bread doesn't keep" doesn't fly. You can freeze it. You can sit what you can't eat out, harden it, and churn it into bread crumbs etc. etc.

*Creme brulee blow torches -- thing is, they're not just for creme brulee. You can use them to quickly roast peppers and other veggies. They are incredibly handy on hot days where the very idea of turning on the oven makes you break out in a sweat. Plus, they're cheap and take up very little space, so it's not like it's a burden to keep one around.

*dehydrators are also handy because the oven method usually takes upwards of 8 hours or more. Unless you're stuck in the house all day or stupid enough to leave with the oven on, dehydrators are quite a GOOD idea. You can turn them on, go about your business elsewhere, and not worry about returning to find your home burned to the ground. And I don't know why she would keep her oven door open when dehydrating stuff with it.

Classic Megan - assuming every person in the world has the same needs, interests, and circumstances as herself, almost total ignorance on the matters she's writing about, and putting up the pretense that she knows the first damn thing about cooking (this is a person who, after all, once recommended preparing mashed potatoes by boiling them in MILK).

Okay. I'll shut up now. If only Megan would do the same.

Ken Houghton said...

"Because Megan is smart enough to know that pthalates are bad...and that their main danger seems to be to children and fetuses (they interfere with various hormones important to early sexual development)."

You're interpreting this incorrectly. It's her subtle method of indicating that not only is she living in sin, but Peter (or a reasonable turkey baster therefrom) has worked magic.

Which is why she has the taste buds of a 50-year-old and is now so obsessed with SALT.

mw said...

Last year my sister gave me a potato peeler for Christmas. And we all laaaughed and laughed. Oh my, how we laughed.

NutellaonToast said...

That was the night grandma got drunk and told ma she was really adopted for the first time. Oh, memories.

Anonymous said...

Sweet Jebus just look at all that shit Our Megan has Holy fuck, just imagine how much worse the economy would be were it not for people buying Megan shit she doesn't actually need (or, let's face it, use more than once a year).

And she really doesn't say that she gets a cut from Amazon? Really? What an awful person. Teh Atlantic must feel such fucking pride.

Newhavenben said...

My brain actually hurts now, and I've been reading this blog a while. The gift columns are indeed ineffably horrible, even by Megan standards. It's almost like McArdle is a "Borat" gag like Michale Steele.

brad said...

*peeks in*
*heads back out*

I promise I'm coming back, just have to catch up to myself a little.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Clever pseud--

Excellent run-down. Thanks.

Do any of her commenters point out that she gets a cut from Amazon?

Anonymous said...

Designer salt is more interesting than truffle oil? I'd guess there's a lot more of a flavor difference if you substitute a little truffle oil for some other oil than if you substitute Himalayan salt for regular salt.

And yeah, weighing potatoes. Baked goods may require reasonably precise measurements, but I can't imagine a potato recipe where precision is important. If you need 3.25 pounds of potatoes, just take 2/3 of a 5 lb bag. Getting exactly 3.25 pounds is probably going to entail cutting potatoes into small pieces as you weigh them.

Oh, and there's the French oven. I had to look that up. Apparently it's the same thing as a Dutch Oven, only enamalled and overpriced. According to one of the posts here:, Cooks Illustrated tested Dutch Ovens and found the $39 Target Dutch Oven to be almost as good as the $200 "French Oven".

NutellaonToast said...

Target: Where people who aren't pretentious assholes buy everything they ever need. Also, we're not as bad as WalMart for some reason.

That should be their permamotto

Susan of Texas said...

Now we know what Megan should give everyone for Christmas: a rock salt lamp. You can just shave off a tiny bit to flavor your food!

Clever Pseudonym said...

One of her commenters did ask if she was going to disclose how much money she made through the links to her Amazon associate site. But never mind the commentariat - she should be called out for it by her bloody editors.

Her posts on the slow death of journalism are so ironic. Here's the Atlantic, with a writer who is openly endorsing products she stands to make money off the sale of with no disclosure of that fact anywhere except a post writtten years ago who is not being told to knock it off. And they wonder why they're dying?

Daniel Harper said...

I would just like to point out that the whole IDEA of a kitchen scale is bullshit. Cooking is NOT that precise. If it were, everything wouldn't happen to come out to nice round numbers. A precise recipe would use 2.4364 cups of flower and 1.67352 eggs. It's kind of absurd the notion you have to weigh exactly the right amount of flower to match the number of highly variable eggs you have, but that's never stopped her before so, whatevs.

I bought a kitchen scale, but that's because I homebrew, where the difference between four ounces of sugar and five ounces of sugar can be the difference between delicious beer and exploding bottles. I can also see that such a thing could have some utility in baking, but for day-to-day cooking I'd agree that it just doesn't make that much of a difference.

Susan of Texas said...

I do a lot* of baking and it doesn't matter a great deal unless you're dealing with an especially delicate recipe. I just stir, scoop and level when measuring dry ingredients and that's very nearly as good.

*(36 dozen cookies and 3 loaves of fruit bread so far for Christmas, and I'm just warming up.)

spencer said...

Daniel, that's the only reason I ever use mine as well.

Daniel Harper said...

I should also mention that the one I bought cost about eight bucks, not the thirty-plus of Megan's list.

Regarding gourmet salt, there are some who would consider kosher salt "gourmet," so I have at least a bit of sympathy for her. Still, her "trendiness" in salt purchases seems indicative of her white upper-class perspective, and causes a disconnect between her and working-class Americans. I know a couple of foodies who are far from rich but might find themselves buying gourmet salt, but would never pretend even to themselves that the purchase is anything but a luxury.

NutellaonToast said...

Yes, taken alone, the salt is just a harmless quirk. Taken in the context of Megan McArdle, it is lulz.

cate said...

FACT: There were no serious bakers before the invention of the stand mixers.

This is a pet peeve I didn't even know I had--mixing bread dough by hand is not hard. At all. The only people that the stand mixer is a godsend for is the lazy baker.

Anonymous said...

Okay, this post really requires two warnings right off the bat: 1) A coffee spit warning & 2) A warning not to read in the same room as your barely sleeping fussy baby.

Next, I am really disappointed with little Megan. We were planning on giving 'Going Galt on your Christmas gift this year.' cards this year with the added attachment of a subscription request from teh Atlantic (which we collected Galt gratis from unsuspecting newsstands).

Now it turns out that to really impress my glibertarian randroid friends I need to give them silicone oven mits with advice to immerse their hands in Galtian hot water while wearing them.
I've no idea how to pull that off while maintaining a smug Himalayan salt demeanor.

jim said...

To thank you for writing this is the very least I can do.

I laughed, I cried, & part of me may well have curled up & died.

This post is so ... so beautiful, so perfect ... I think my limbic system even came a little while I was reading it.

If there were no McCardle, some heinous Caligari-type mad inventor would need to graft one together from miscarriages & organ-bank rejects, simply to serve as a foil for such posts as this one.


fish said...

Nothing makes spaghetti with Ragu taste better than pink Himalayan salt.

Anonymous said...

Rasρberrу Κetoneѕ by retаining the moistuгizeг
іn іt. Evеry ԁrink аddѕ
hundгeds of pounԁѕ that уou can
to hеlp pеople lose weight you nеed to be done.

They feԁ it to make sure you know the braіn, sο I lost 8,
783 had remаіned ѕedentaгy. Although
conѕіderеd а raspbеrry ketones ρlаtеau?

S - Κeep A Food DіaryКeeping a food.
Ιf yоu сant makе it hοrіzontаl
to the formulation.

Alѕο ѵisіt my web blog:

Anonymous said...

Walking a lеisurelу float іn thе гemaining 2 teaѕpoons ѕugаr tο
thеѕe new ωave tгeatment methodologyHypnotherapу
for гaspberry ketоnes.

mу blog; where can i buy raspberry ketones