The Rachael Ray Garbage Bowl, and Other Ridiculous Kitchen Products

ColumnDo we really need all this stuff?

I think there should be a special place in hell for single use kitchen implements.

Bagel slicers. Avocado slicers. Egg slicers. And those are just the slicers. Who likes these bulky, cheap plastic uni-purpose utensils cluttering up the kitchen? Someone must, because marketers work themselves into a froth trying to convince people that they need a special appliance or tool to accomplish each kitchen task. And they’re upping the ante, with celebrities putting their names on everything from skillets to spatulas to food. Yes: Paula Deen has her own ham.

Here are my top nominations for most useless kitchen items:

Rachael Ray Garbage Bowl: (shown above)

I received a press release the other day that breathlessly informed me that a Rachael Ray “Garbage Bowl” would “reduce wasted time in the kitchen.” Rachael’s technique of keeping a bowl near your prep area to gather scraps and dispose of them all at once is a good idea, though hardly original. But I take issue first with the construction of this argument. Saying it “reduces wasted time in the kitchen” implies that all time spent in the kitchen is wasted. I just don’t believe that. Some people like to cook. Secondly, won’t any similarly sized bowl in my kitchen cupboard do the trick? Well, according to the press release, no.

Here are the selling points of this glorious bowl:

It’s lightweight melamine so it’s never too heavy to lift.

As regular bowls are too heavy to lift when full?

It can be easily cleaned by hand or in the dishwasher.

So amazingly versatile!

The retro speckled design hides unsightly peels and other scraps.

Are onion peels and carrot tops really more unsightly than that weird, flesh colored bowl?

A rubberized base keeps it from skidding off counters or tables.

Good point. You never know when a bowl is just going to up and skid off the counter.

In the event the Garbage Bowl drops to the floor, it won’t break.

Why not make everything plastic so it doesn’t break?

For cooks who are growing vegetables and composting this summer, the Garbage Bowl provides an aesthetically pleasing way to carry food scraps from the kitchen to the garden.

They’re serious. I think.

Hot Air Popcorn Poppers:

I thought those enormous, electric hot air popcorn poppers had gone the way of Fantasy Island, but evidently not everyone is eating microwave popcorn these days because they are still manufacturing them. Let’s not even talk about why people can’t make popcorn on top of the stove.

Electric Muffin Maker:

Are we now so incredibly lazy in the kitchen that we can’t make muffins or cupcakes in tins in the oven anymore, nor time their readiness? This snippet of sales copy should tell you how stupid the manufacturers think people are: “A red power light lets you know the unit is on. And a green light tells you it’s ready. So simple to use!”

Electric Pancake Maker:

Since it’s admittedly taxing to flip pancakes over after you cook them on one side, you’d better make sure you put a pancake maker on your wedding registry. And, since whisking, measuring, and ladling is such an unnecessary pain, this wedding gift wouldn’t be complete without a couple cans of Batter Blaster.

Recloseable Can Toppers:

For those times when you just can’t finish a can of soda or beer, here are these nifty toppers that make the cans look like bottles! And they’re colorful!

Countertop Paper Towel Holder:

One of this aesthetic train wreck’s crimes is overdesign. Look at all the parts on that thing! Do we really need our paper towel dispenser to help us tear it right, every time?

Leave a comment and tell us about your favorite wasteful or just plain silly gadget.

This is the latest installment in Vanessa Barrington’s weekly column, The Green Plate, on the environmental, social, and political issues related to what and how we eat.


Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.