Any food-nerd knows that it's almost impossible to keep up with every new culinary gadget or cool DIY kit -- but it's almost as tough to resist them. You contemplate giving up imported cheese or cartons of duck fat for a month just so you can buy some food-tastic item you really don't need -- but really, really have to have.
Here are five completely unnecessary, food-nerdy items that I dare you to resist.
5. Shiitake mushroom log ($30, Williams-Sonoma) It's a real, actual log on which you can grow real, actual mushrooms -- in your house, on purpose, instead of those accidental, inedible ones you find under a shower mat or in the back of a coat closet. This bad boy gives rise to shiitakes straight from the wood, which is inoculated with spores; all you have to do is dunk the log in some water, then give this magical wood a quick spritz every now and again until, a few weeks later, your first crop of mushrooms will be pan ready -- butter and garlic not included.
Sure, $30 plus shipping is a lot to spend on what is essentially a glorified forest-find that you could hack off for free, but you're also buying a certain comfort in knowing the mushrooms you'll grow will be edible -- read: won't be poisonous and kill you -- and standard forest cuttings don't come with a silver plaque listing the date of inoculation. And if you want to skip paying the light bill for a couple of months, check out the matching clear glass cloche for an additional $190.
4. Rubber duckie tea infuser (eBay, $10) "Rubber duckie, you're the one....you make teatime so much fun....rubber duckie I really must purchase youuuu....!" You can't help but sing when you see this tiny, gawd-awful adorable duckie tea infuser. If there's a cuter upgrade of the boring old tea ball out there, I've yet to find it.
This loose-leaf tea infuser has a yellow duckie top and a fine mesh screen bottom that comes off so you can fill it with tea shreds. When you drop it in a glass of hot water, the little duckie bobs around until the tea expands, setting the duck upright. And then wak-wak-wak -- your tea is ready. There is even a charming little drip cup to set the duckie on when he/she is done doing his/her job. As long as you don't get stupid and microwave the duckie, it will spend years making you delicious brown and/or green water, and look extra-awesome doing it.
3. Grow your own coffee kit ($10, ThinkGeek) I wake up every morning and say to myself, "Jenn, it sure would be awesome and not at all weird to grow coffee right here in the kitchen instead of buying it already roasted and packaged from the grocery store every week."
Okay, I didn't start saying that until I spotted this gem of a find on ThinkGeek: a grow-your-own coffee kit, complete with mini greenhouse, Coffea Arabica coffee bean seeds, planting mixture and dummy-proof instructions. Growing coffee plants is usually something that is done on a massive scale in other countries, so imagine the thrill of doing it in your own home. Fair warning: While the growing part seems easy enough, it may get complicated somewhere between the harvesting and the Turkish press.
2. Delicious jam jars ($25 for a set of four, Williams-Sonoma) Making jams out of your -- or your neighbor's -- leftover autumn fruits is a time-honored tradition. Making delicious jams and jellies is important, but so is style, and these jammin' jam jars from every foodie's favorite overpriced goodie-farm, Williams-Sonoma, are worth the extra bucks because they serve a purpose: They are labeled "Delicious Jam," to let everyone know that no matter what screwed-up, under/overcooked glops of sugary fruit- goob you squirt into them, the mixture is, in fact, delicious. 1. Darth Vader thermal lunch bag ($15, Amazon) May the lunch be with you...always. Or at least once a day. This genuine, Star Wars Darth Vader thermal lunch bag even makes the official Vader noise. The lunch bag is so effin cool that anything you put in it is automatically hip (good news for people who pack beanie-weenies and those squeezy yogurt tubes). Worth $15? Hells yeah. The only thing that could possibly make this midday-meal conveyance more awesome is if it had the ability to choke people you don't like while it repeats "I want those plans...".