He reached out and grabbed the dusty contraption with both hands.
Our trophy. The prize. The Holy Grail.
We too would own an air fryer - autumn/winter’s hottest accessory since the puffer jacket. My husband’s late mum had bought it for us and we’d forgotten about it.
It had been sandwiched between the bread machine and the slow cooker for about five years.
She loved a trip to TK Maxx, and we had all sorts of gadgetry gifted to us, including a kiwi slicer, a spiralizer and a milk frother. We’d always feel guilty about eventually sneaking them into the charity bag. I imagine the buyer at that particular chain is always hunting for the elusive piece of colourful plastic, requiring eight batteries, that can whittle a whole pineapple into a naturalistic looking hedgehog.
Thanks to my lovely mother-in-law, Sheena, we were way ahead of the curve.
We may not have ever unboxed the kiwi slicer, but since its recent unearthing, we have used the air fryer every day. I’m not saying our dinner has been gilded by the perfect Maillard reaction.
Chefs aren’t going to be using it. It’s not a sous vide machine. The Palmerston won’t be serving air fried halibut anytime soon.
It’s efficient but, most importantly, cheap to run - I’ve heard some people saying that an oven costs 71p an hour, while an air fryer is 7p. And that is all we have to aspire to this winter. That and the acquisition of my new electric over-blanket.
My oven will be relegated to a book cabinet or shoe storage. It is absolutely rubbish at its proper job anyway, takes three hours to warm up and leaks heat faster than Liz Truss saps hope.
Just don’t ask me how the new air fryer works. I made the mistake of mentioning it to colleagues, and now feel qualified to get a job in the kitchen department in John Lewis. No, you don’t need oil, and it does more than just frying. Yes it’s a stupid and confusing name. Think of it like a convection oven. Imagine you’re cooking with a very hot hair dryer, in a fishbowl.
Anyway, though it is practical, it will never be loved. It’s just an object and an ugly and awkward one too. It looks like a tiny space craft and hogs most of our worktop.
My husband is the official cook in our household, so he’s especially attached to the rice cooker, his precious Nutribullet and the ninja-sharp knives.
I reserve my affection for the more tactile and sentimental kitchenalia. The stuff with personality, like Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast.
I’m very fond of our oversized toastie machine. It was a comfort during lockdown, and there is a satisfaction to cranking the lid down, squashing the sarnie tight and hearing the sizzle.
We are pals, but fall out when it’s time to do the washing up and I have to peel the crusty cheddar off its extremities. That’s forgotten when lunchtime comes around again.
“Toastie?” he says, at 11.59am. Yeah, go on.
We also have a cheese slicer that my father-in-law made. I never met Derek, as he died a few months after I met my husband. He carried out a clever prosthetic job on a broken gadget, and it now has a beautifully sinuous and smooth wooden handle that he carved himself. It fits in your palm perfectly. Rather than throw it out, he did a bit of kintsugi, and that extended its life for about three decades. It is useful for those that get through a lot of toasties.
If there was a fire, we’d rescue this, since we have no children, pets or items of value. And we’d go back for all the fromage, if it hadn’t been fondued.
I also have a weakness for ceramics. I love my espresso cups that look like crinkled vending machine containers, and the butter dish that resembles a piece of mint-coloured retro Tupperware. The Portuguese cabbage leaf plate with a striped caterpillar on it, and the ridiculously Baroque plates that Anthropologie sells for £20 a pop. These are barely used. They’re on display. Special.
I did a mug count during lockdown, and there were 62. I don’t adore them all, but I’m fond of some. There is the one printed with the slogan Gabriele die Starke that I once used in the office, so nobody would mess with me. It’s my emotional support mug.
When I was a child, I loved my mum’s gadget for making the butterballs she’d serve alongside the bread at dinner parties. There were two wooden pats that you rubbed together, with a knob of butter in the middle, and you’d end up with the perfect sphere. Making those was always my job, along with filling bowls with crisps, and trying to get away with extorting 16 per cent.
Mum is now 86, and there are no more dinner parties, but maybe we should revive the butterballs. She also has a jar opener that I love. It must have been made in the Forties and is an ugly and brutally industrial-looking thing, with Tasmanian devil teeth to grip the lids. The jams and pickled onions quake in its presence. It gets the job done.
I’ll never love the air fryer quite as much and I don’t think it’ll have the same longevity, but it’s going to be useful this winter.
Thanks to Sheena, and her TK Maxx-ing.