Penkava: The invasion of the gastronomic gizmos

My kitchen expertise used to lie solely in my uncanny ability to locate multiple snacks and deliver them to the TV tray by my Amish glider chair within a two-minute commercial break. That includes a trip to the fridge, a raid on the snack cupboard, a foray into the freezer and even a brief swoop into the microwave.

Well, that was all before I accompanied my wife on a trip to a kitchen supply store. I actually went with her voluntarily because I realize these stores are to women what sports stores are to men. I know what it’s like to drool over a Jonathan Toews jersey, and I’ve seen the same look on my wife’s face when she sees a Cuisinart food processor.

So, as we entered the store, I prepared myself to use my best anti-buying diversion techniques. You know, the fake “I really gotta go to the bathroom … number two … big time!” ploy. Or the “Oops! I think I left the bathroom sink running” gambit. Or the classic “Honey, you can stay here if you want, but I’m going to get a tattoo” ruse.

But before I could spring into action, something caught my eye. It was a pair of sleek, neon green and black eyeglasses. It had cool foam padding on the inside that sealed against your eyes. They looked like some kind of nifty protective sport glasses. So I glibly inquired of the sales lady …

“Excuse me, are these for when you are playing racquetball in the kitchen?” I asked, waiting for her chuckle at my vivid sense of humor.

“No, sir,” she replied with a straight face, “they are to wear to protect your eyes while slicing onions. The racquetball glasses are found in the glassware department.”

“Oh …” I stammered, trying to process her response, “Um … can I try them on?”

“Yes, indeed,” and soon I was looking quite spiffy and feeling quite safe from onions.

Next I spied these silicone squeeze bulbs in all kinds of bright colors. I thought they were some kind of culinary stress relieving toy, but they are actually called the “Yolk Out.” It sucks the yolks out of the whites faster than you can say, “Macaroon soufflé quiche.”

Then I found some weird stretchy sticky round rubber thingy’s called the “Cover Blubbers.” They are used in place of plastic wrap to cover up foods you put in the fridge. My experience with plastic wrap is tearing off a piece, clumsily crumpling it up into a little ball in my hands, and pulling off more pieces and doing the same until there is no more. But with these Cover Blubbers you just stretch them over whatever you’re wrapping and presto, it’s covered like white on rice.

As I wandered the store I discovered other cool kitchen gadgets, like a cool potato chip slicer/maker where you can microwave your own bacon-flavored chips. There’s the “Pancake Pen” which allows you to squeeze the batter onto the griddle into whatever shape you want … like Stanley Cup pancakes or Jan the Toyota commercial receptionist pancakes or the Great Wall of Aunt Jemima pancakes. Then there’s the “Cupcake Corer” that bores nifty holes in cupcakes so you can fill them with cream filling and eat ‘em like short, fat Twinkies.

Well, I guess maybe the kitchen is more than a handy food repository. With the unearthing of such fascinating kitchen gizmos, perhaps I can broaden my culinary interests beyond simple snack raids during commercials.

So look out, honey, for your bespectacled onion-protected, yolk-sucking, cover-blubbering husband is now on the loose in the kitchen. And my next purchase? I’ve got my eye on a groovy apron that says, “May the forks be with you.” 

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He is a regular customer at Kitchen Outfitters in downtown Crystal Lake. His wife now wishes he would had just gone and gotten that tattoo. He can be reached at

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