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Food unprocessed

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"It's dead."

"What's dead?" my husband asked.

"My food processor. It's pining for the fjords. I know I've been saying it for months, but this time it's for real. Look at this pesto. I processed it for five minutes, and half the pine nuts are still whole. Crap."

The spindle the blade fit onto was shot. This was never a great food processor, but it lasted 25 years, and I was initially distraught over its demise.

I quickly realized, however, that this isn't a big deal. I'm not beating pine nuts with a rock on the side of a mountain in Italy, although I can think of worse ways to spend my time. If you cook as much as I do, you develop a relationship with your kitchen tools. That relationship is not always a healthy one. Despite using my food processor almost daily, I've always been ambivalent about them. Mine made me lazy, and I always felt like I was cheating. Instead of taking three minutes to blend the flour and butter for biscuits with my fingers, I would throw everything into the food processor and let it do the work. The amount of time I saved was miniscule, and was far outweighed by my not knowing how the flour felt.

It's a cliché to say that the modern kitchen has ruined our connection to the food we eat, but ideas become clichés for a reason. If we just want to get a meal on the table as quickly as possible and eat it in 15 minutes, then we forget how great it is to spend the day preparing and sharing an old-fashioned dinner with our friends and families. I admit that the microwave has its place in the kitchen, but if it's always OK to mindlessly use it to heat up a frozen dinner, then we never learn what good food tastes like.

A good cook has to be willing to make a mess and get her hands dirty. Cooking requires all the senses. I periodically taste my red sauce while it's cooking, although that could just be an excuse to have more bread. I can tell if something is done by how it smells, how it looks and how it sounds. (You must listen to the bacon.) Great cooks know that a steak is ready by poking it with a finger.

When my food processor died, I thought it was a disaster. Instead, it's barely a minor inconvenience and has, in fact, become a blessing. My food processor is dead and I really don't care. When I use my hands, I get to play with my food. Just give me a bowl, a good knife and my favorite wooden spoon.

On trash night, I gave my food processor a little pat and my husband threw it away. And now I have the counter space for a kitchen scale.

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