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Mar 20, 2009 05:00 AM

Is quality worth the expense? You bet your ass it is.

In the late 80's, I made bread every other day, hadn't started roasting coffee yet, but was buying from a local shop that did every day and grinding the coffee in a hand powered mill.

I wasn't 30 years old yet, but arthritis had started to take my hands. Realizing I wouldn't be able to do many of the things that brought me joy, I started buying commercial quality appliances.

Woke up at 02:30 today, put a pot of coffee on and started a pot of onion soup. While grinding the coffee, I thought... I've had the same burr coffee mill for twenty years!

When I bought this machine in 1989, girl of the day was sure I had gone mad spending $300 on a coffee grinder. Twenty years later, she's long gone but that machine still works once or twice a day as it has for the last 7,300 days! That's .04¢ a day, you can't beat that.

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    1. a $300 Pasquini burr grinder and $400 Gaggia espresso machine in 1991 still in service.

      1. My experience with Miele confirms your comment. My first Miele d/w lasted for almost 25 problem-free years...I'm on my 2nd d/w & also have Miele vacuum cleaners & washer/dryer...They're very expensive but completely worth it...the company stands behind their products & IME the products can't be beat.

        1. Your $.04/day makes me laugh. So very true.
          I think of my ancient Cuisinart - the very first model imported into the US - still going strong at 30 years old. My KA mixer is close to the same age. They weren't even discounted when I bought those things and they were soooo expensive by the economic standards of 30 years ago. The Maytag washer now does my grandchildren's spills.
          There are copper pots that I dragged back from Europe when you couldn't get them in the US. Small kitchen utensils that are still better than what you find in upscale shops. Things that I've bought in estate sales that had been used in other kitchens for decades and are still going strong with everyday use in mine.
          A hard rock maple cutting board that will still be here when your "sustainable" bamboo one is long gone.
          I've stopped buying stainless steel flatware and now use the silver even if it means hand washing a few pieces after every meal. It gets prettier every day. The china gets used rather than stored. Somehow it doesn't break, chip, and fade like the inexpensive stuff did.
          Even the damask and linen napkins cooperate. They're so soft that they don't need ironing. Some of them were from eBay and estate sales so their monetary value was next to nothing but they're quality nonetheless.

          It's not always about the money. It's about value, not cost.
          But it IS about quality. There is nothing as expensive as cheap stuff.

          9 Replies
          1. re: MakingSense

            "..There is nothing as expensive as cheap stuff."

            There it is. The plain Truth that nobody in their Right mind sees... you have to be Left-brained to get this one!

            These days I encourage most people to buy what they want! Leave the real tools from eBay, et c. alone and in the hands of those who will use, maintain and cherish them. At least until they find an apprentice to pass them forward to!

            ...May the Higher Powers bless and keep the mediocre... far away from us!

            1. re: toomanypots

              I'd get cheap plates though. I love plain round plates, and they're £1.20 each. I only have 2 right now, and 2 square ones, but I'll get more

              1. re: Soop

                I love plain white plates but after years of using good quality ones that still had to be replaced, I'm about ready to spring for porcelain or bone china dinner plates. Yeah, expensive. The Revol ones at Sur la Table are $18 each. Yikes. But they won't get the scratches from daily use that the pottery and ceramic ones do.
                I've got a lot of Pillivuyt and Apilco serving and bakeware pieces, some that I've had for more than 30 years, and they still look like new. Both of those firms also make good porcelain dinnerware.
                If I amortize the cost of those plates over 365 days of daily use for years, they make sense.
                I'll start saving my pocket change and watch for a sale!

                1. re: MakingSense

                  i recently picked up bone china,plain white at home fair ,individual pc.s and most of a set could be put together if you want all to match, they usually have most sizes and some serve pieces-very reasonable but i don't remember price, they seem to have two brands and one was better than the other

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    The Revol usually goes on sale at SLT in either Sept or Oct for 20% off. Williams Sonoma has the Apilco on sale right now for 10% any purchase of 8 or more pieces.

                    I love the French porcelain too but had a hard time spending the money so I bought some SLT porcelain last year. So far I've been really happy with it, we'll see how it holds up.

                    1. re: ziggylu

                      Porcelain is very durable. A lot of high end restaurants use Aplico for that reason. The serving pieces and bakeware that I have are in wonderful shape and I use it regularly in the kitchen and still can put it on my best company table.
                      Yes, it's expensive but I figure that I would have gone through lots of cheaper stuff over the years, and the total cost of all that (which would have ended up getting pitched or contributed to charity when it got shabby) would have exceeded the good stuff.
                      I've been lucky enough to find it on sale every now and then and snap it right up.

                      I'll bet you do just fine with that SLT porcelain.
                      Candy swears by bone china and says that it is the most durable of all. Lasts a lifetime, so I hope rich51's kids like it. He'll be passing it on!!!
                      My daughter got bone china as her wedding china and it is just beautiful.

                    2. re: MakingSense

                      I've always had cheap dishes and none of them really end up looking that bad. My college roommate still has the cheap Corelles we got 13 years ago and they look exactly the same. You can do almost anything to them and they seem to be indestructible. My mom swears the next time she gets dishes, it's going to be Corelle.

                      1. re: queencru

                        Corelle is different than cheap glassware, though, since it's very resistant to chipping and breaking. I have a set from the 70s that still looks as good as new (except for the fact that it has a totally 70s-riffic yellow stripe) even after the entire set fell 6' off of a shelf!

                        That said, I do love Corelle for everyday dishes since they don't cost much and they are light yet durable. I'd definitely spend $30 on corelle before I spent $30 on whatever low-quality glass/porcelain is on sale at Target or Kohls.

                2. re: MakingSense

                  It's also how these items were made years ago, and how they are made now!! I you have an appliance for five years anymore, it's a miracle. Small appliances get thrown away, as it's more expensive to repair them then to replace them. Sad, but that's how it is. I too have the first Cuisinart that was imported here, actually the RC. I since have upgraded, but it is still as good as new. We got rid of our KA dishwasher, 25 years old, because it cost more to replace the inside pull out then to buy a new washer.

                3. I agree, with the caveat that it's not worth spending a lot of money on "the best" if you don't use it the way you cook. Too often you see wedding registries full of expensive tools that the couple is probably not going to use. For me the example is a stand mixer. I covet one, but know that for the couple times a year I'm likely to use it, my hand mixer works fine. I just don't tend to make a lot of things that call for it. Other things I'm happy to spend for.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: DGresh

                    I felt the same way about the stand mixer, though when I finally got one, I started coming up with plenty excuses to use it!

                    1. re: DGresh

                      You're absolutely right, but I also agree with jzerocsk. I think that stand mixers are one of those things that get used more just because you can. I also think it strongly depends on how accessible such an item is. If you have to keep dragging a big heavy item like that out of a not-easily-accessed storage location it probably won't get used a lot. I don't keep mine on the counter but it's kept on a waste high shelf right next to the counter so I don't dread retrieving it. I love my stand mixer! :)

                      1. re: flourgirl

                        I bought my stand mixer to make sausage and pasta. Now I'm making hamburgers, turkey burgers, etc. I'm using it so much it went from a high shelf to on the counter. I still don't bake :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          What can you do with a stand mixer you can't do by hand? Does it just make things less labour intensive? Sound like a gadget to me.

                          1. re: Soop

                            I don't know that there's anything the stand mixer can do that you can't do by hand but making things less labor intensive works for me. As it is I have all the labor to do that I need, thank you very much. ;)

                            For regular mixer functions as an example, there are some recipes that need to be mixed for long periods of time. I'd much rather let the stand mixer do it's thing and let me move on to other tasks within the recipe - huge time saver and helps make all the baking I do more managable.

                            My pro 6 stand mixer has a lot of power and can easily power through the job of kneading bread dough, pizza dough, etc. Things a hand mixer would have a very difficult time with and would burn out most every hand mixer I've ever seen. I often finish these things by hand - I enjoy the tactileness of it and I just feel I end up with a better product, but I am happy to let my stand mixer take on the majority of the work load.

                            Kitchen Aids also have a lot of attachments available which really enhance the functionality of the unit. I myself have the grinder c oliver refers to as well as the pasta roller attachments and I love them. (I also have the juicer attachment but I don't find myself using it at all - got it free, so I don't really care - I'll probably sell it anyway.) Lots of people realy like the ice-cream maker attachment as well.

                            There are also recipes that are just a lot easier with a stand mixer - like some cooked frostings where if you don't have a stand mixer, it would be very difficult to get the timing right between the portion of the recipe that has to be beaten and the portion of the recipe that's cooked on the stove at the same time and then mixed together. Trying to do this with a hand mixer wouldn't be impossible but very very difficult.


                            1. re: flourgirl

                              I find my KA pro under-powered and the power take-offs are not well designed. I was used to a Kenwood in the UK that was (I think) 1200 watts. It also had the advantage of tool attachments on top.

                              I was looking at the Cusinart mixer the other day and wondered if anyone had any comments about it.

                            2. re: Soop

                              I think part of it depends on whether you like to bake or not. It's much faster and more efficient than standing there while mixing batters. I can't imagine doing brioche w/out it (I think it's even challenging for the machine). It makes any bread dough fast and easy so yes, it's about being less labor intensive. Whisking eggs, whipped cream can all be done by hand but I can beat egg whites to a peak, all the while cleaning up and doing other things. It helps with multi-tasking. There is nothing you can't do by hand but then again, what can a stove do that a fire can't when you come down to it? It's about convenience.

                              1. re: Soop

                                Making bread dough, butter cream, whipped cream and many other things are easier and faster with a stand mixer. Was making bread every other day or so when I got a KA 5 quart commercial mixer.

                                The day I bought it... Got home, washed and dried it then set out to make bread. Mixed the dry ingredients, added the wet ingredients and turned it on. The damn thing hummed, made a popping sound and smoke poured out from under the housing.

                                After going through who I was, where I was, where it came from, what had happened and how much of what was in the bowl, the KitchenAid customer service rep. said it shouldn't have overloaded and hung up.

                                I was angry enough to gargle peanut butter!

                                Much to mad to call back and be civil, decided to call the following day once I'd cooled off. Arrived home from work the next day to find a new mixer in the carton on the porch.

                                1. re: Demented

                                  And please tell me that it's worked great???

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Haven't had a problem with it in over 15 years.

                                    1. re: Demented

                                      Excellent! You don't seem 'demented' to me!