Recently I acquired a few small objects that have personal meaning and memory for me. I didn’t want furniture, silver, china or wall decorations but I found my treasures while clearing out her kitchen. As I contemplated these items a few weeks later at home, I zoomed in close to their elegant functionality and practical design. They are one-purpose gadgets that will never become obsolete, need to be upgraded, cease working with an older operating system, fail, crash, be shamed, or fall out of favor. When viewed out of context in macro view, some objects’ purpose is not obvious, but reveal odd shapes and deliberate designs. Here are the first three humble inventions of a possible, occasional series.
1. The Hard-Boiled Egg Slicer
Remove the hard-boiled egg and this machine could appear to exist at any scale for purposes that are not so benign. Insert the egg and we realize the beauty of the only invention that perfectly slices an egg into equal portions, to garnish, say, a spinach salad or…(blank). Maybe there were more culinary uses for this machine in the 1950s.
2. The Tableside Wine Opener
On its flat side it seems like an extinct tropical bird fossil or an oil derrick. It’s only about 5” long and folds into a neat pocket-sized slab: the wait staff’s tableside wine opener. This one is Swiss and it could be considered a vintage item; I got it when I was working in restaurants in downtown Chicago. Once I learned how to use it (which was a lot at that time), it became my go-to wine opener, revered for its simplicity and quick flick to get the cork out. That is all it does and it never breaks.
3. The Bulldog Clip
Some elegant gadgets reside in the office, never to compete with digital machines. In this time of decreasing paper copies, mini bulldog clips have migrated to my kitchen where I use them to seal cellophane bags of fresh greens. There is a lot of power in the clip for its size, and it performs reliably to hold things together. The macro view takes on the appearance of a logo for a metal band, a minimal sculpture or a stylized big game head on the wall. Golden “eyes” at the bottom glare under an elaborate headdress.
The buzz is about artificial intelligence and its spawn, robots—complicated technology and controversial implications. I read about that, but I’d rather go to the kitchen and make some egg slices with my prized, mid-20th century momento.