My Food Dehydrator and Me: A Dysfunctional Love Story |

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My Food Dehydrator and Me: A Dysfunctional Love Story |

For a decade, I’d vaguely intended to make my own yogurt. All that I needed was a heat-proof flask, an airing cupboard, and will power. At some point, I told my sister of my secret ambition. On my next birthday, I received two electric yogurt-makers, one from her and one from my mother, and suddenly the urge to create solidified milk products had passed. Other kitchen projects ended similarly. Homemade ice cream: snore. Fresh pasta: save me. No, the only item that I truly wanted—needed—was a food dehydrator.

Why, you ask? I do not live near laden hedgerows or an obliging pick-your-own farm. I don’t have easily impressed small children in my house, nor do I believe in hiking. What use could I possibly have for an electricity-slurping behemoth whose sole purpose is to dry bits of shop-bought fruit? None. In truth, I was content to fantasize about the pillowy spring of the dried apples from my childhood, safe in the knowledge that even I would not stoop so low as to make them.

Then, this year, I spotted a barrel-shaped item under the Chanumas tree. I feigned puzzlement, but a terrible truth was dawning. Like an accursèd girl in a fairy tale, my careless wish had come to haunt me. My girlfriend had bought me a bloody great food dehydrator: ’twas a Christmas miracle, no better than I deserved.

All week, I gazed aghast at its colossal white plastic base and multiple tiers, its mysterious digital display. I suffer from a genetic inability to read instruction manuals, but I tried nonetheless. The leaflet talked of microwave blanching, fish jerky, potpourri, venison for Stroganoff; there were stacking options and multiple temperatures. Apparently, a simple carrot would take twelve hours. And what kind of a pervert dries asparagus? I found myself dabbling in an online dehydrator community, which, impressively, was worse than it sounds. Most members reported keeping their machines in the garage to allow air circulation; they talked merrily of powdered onion, of drying lettuce for their dogs. Just because one can doesn’t mean one should.

Meanwhile, in what remained of my galley kitchen, visitors laughed openly at my worktop white elephant. Eventually, resignedly, I chopped a banana, slid the surprisingly glutinous slices onto a tray, reread the manual, dribbled the fruit half-heartedly with lemon juice, fired up the stupid machine, and set the timer for an outrageous twelve hours. And, in the morning, I discovered magnificence. Not being a toddler, I hate banana chips, but these were chewy, complex, violently addictive. I immediately ate the lot. Next, grudgingly, I attempted to slice an orange into perfect horizontal cross-sections. Have you noticed the absurd trend of dehydrated orange slices in cocktails? Now I know why it’s so popular. My orange was beautiful, a rust and amber stained-glass disk, tasting of the soul of citrus: almost too bitter, sweet, sharp, and so intensely orangey that I had to try another, to be sure, and another.

I went to buy fruit. The machine transformed apple slices into glorious, leathery curls of nostalgia. The trauma of finely sectioning pineapple and mango, both unpleasantly slithery en masse, was forgotten once I tried the dried slices—tropical, sour-sweet heaven, and barely twice the price of the store-bought kind. The world of desiccation was mine.

I tried beetroot (tough but gorgeous, like purple petrichor), cooking apples (sour, in a good way). Ignoring the online idiots who dry parsley to tastelessness, I was thrilled to read that tomato leaves are not poisonous and that, when dried, they add their magical sweaty fragrance to soups and sauces. This, sadly, proved to be a lie; the gray-green tatters that I produced smelled no better than elderly hay. But I was inspired to experiment with other leaves. Why not, for example, make my own delicious bath essence by drying pine needles to mix with Epsom salts? The result smelled of nothing; in the tub, I looked like a molting hedgehog. But I can’t stop. The corner shop can hardly keep up with my banana requirements. Soon enough, it’ll be cherry tomatoes, zucchini, apricots. I once read a recipe for a soothing tea made of beechnuts. If the thrill hasn’t passed by the time they’re back in season, I don’t see why I shouldn’t try.

Sourse: newyorker.com

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