I am about to move into a small house. The kitchen, while sunny and functional, is like that in a Manhattan apartment, which is to say Very Small.

My collection of kitchen equipment, on the other hand, is Very Large. I own more cake pans and pie tins than many kitchen stores. I own a special pan from Argentina for making flan, a special pan from Germany for making Rehruecken (chocolate saddle of venison cake), a special pan from a yard sale for making blini. I have two fondue pots and two waffle irons, and I live alone. Please do not ask me when I last made fondue. I own kitchen items, many items, that I have never used. Not even once: A pizza stone, a biscuit cutter, a cocktail shaker, a seltzer maker…

I have lost count of the number of aprons and spatulas that live in my – need I say overcrowded? – kitchen. Those last two, my neat and organized mother observed on her most recent visit. I think she thinks I need an intervention. My name is Peggy and I am kitchen hoarder.

I am also a book hoarder, but I have managed to persuade myself with this move to give away several boxes of beloved novels. If I want to read them again, I am trying to reason with myself, that’s what the library is for. (I’m keeping all my cookbooks, thank you very much.)

Which got me to thinking …

Earlier this year, the Maine Tool Library opened in the Bayside neighborhood of Portland, where members (about 60 so far) can borrow tools, just as you’d borrow books from the library. The bulk of the tools, more than 750 total, are for jobs that I ought, as a new homeowner, to be able to do or that I hope to learn to do, but can’t and haven’t. Truth be told, I don’t even recognize the names of many of them – cutting nippers, conduit bender, power scrubber, epoxy grout float – all squeezed into one well-organized room in the offices of the nonprofit Resilience Hub. I do know that when I am ready to take the next step toward learning how to fix a leaky pipe or patch a hole in the wall, the volunteer Maine Tool librarians will be generous with expert and unpatronizing advice.


The Tool Library also has a collection of kitchen tools (all reassuringly familiar to me). Why not join, pare down my own belongings and, the next time I require a fondue pot, simply check it out?

Joining the library is just a few minutes work that requires two forms of ID (more on that later), some paperwork and $50, an annual fee that pays for operating costs, including rent, insurance and tool purchase and repair. I was able to check out tools the day I signed up, plus I got a free Maine Tool Library temporary tattoo, which gave me the same thrill as the gold stars my childhood librarian handed out if you finished a book and could answer her questions about it. Members can take out up to seven tools per visit, for – with just a few exceptions – one week. Except for the “obscenely popular cider press,” as co-founder and librarian Hazel Onsrud put it, tools cannot be put on reserve. And if you are the sort of cook who needs a food sealer, jerky gun or electric smoker right this very minute, you probably need to own it, as the library is open limited hours, on Wednesday late afternoons and Saturday mornings.

I checked out a Vitamix on my first visit. The Vitamix is a high-powered blender with a steep price tag (about $500 for the model the library carries) and a cult following among chefs, vegans and many regular, kitchen-obsessed home cooks. I have long wondered what could make a blender worth that kind of money. I intended to find out and at the same time assess whether I needed to find a permanent spot for one in my crowded cupboard. Onsrud and a few library patrons who were milling about exploring the shelves offered me cooking suggestions – hummus, kale smoothies, squash soup, pureed apples. At home, I looked up the instructions to the machine on the Internet (the library website posts instructions to some of its tools), and I took two of the suggestions I’d been given, making hummus and smoothies, also basil-cilantro pesto.

The hummus was good and fast; I didn’t bother to peel the chickpeas, a chore that’s tedious and time-consuming but makes for very smooth hummus. Nor did I mince the garlic; instead I threw in whole cloves. Still, the result was very smooth hummus.

The smoothies were terrific. Unlike the food processor that I do own, it handily pureed raw kale into silken submission.

The pesto felt all wrong. Italian traditionalists insist on a mortar and pestle to make pesto (the word means to crush). Though I’ve not a drop of Italian blood, the kitchen purist in me prefers low-tech pesto. I never did make almond butter, which I’d hoped to, as the library machine came without the “dry blades” attachment, which I thought I needed; I didn’t want to break the machine by using the wrong blade (that said, one morning, I did guiltily leave it unwashed after breakfast because I was running late to work; it felt like leaving a library book splayed open, page side down, to mark my place).


So for me, the Vitamix was a mixed bag. We went out on a few dates, pleasant enough, and then we parted ways. No hard feelings and no need to form a lasting relationship.

The same happened with the hand-cranked meat grinder I took out the following week. Actually, I checked out two meat grinders, as the librarians were unsure which worked better (most of the tools the library owns were donated) and were concerned lest I ruin my dinner.

I have very fuzzy memories of my mother grinding meat. Those came rushing back – the smell of blood, the tang of really beefy beef (I used 85 percent chuck, 15 percent sirloin, per Bobby Flay). The burgers I made were tasty. But, again, I easily resolved I didn’t need to own a meat grinder.

The Maine Tool Library offered other pleasures. On my visits, it was a happy, helpful, friendly place. “I’m Hazel. This is Evelyn,” the librarian said the first time I went, pointing to her beautiful, blue-eyed baby, born nine months earlier, roughly the same time the library was born. “We’re the staff for the day.” The baby was appropriately clad in a Maine Tool Library T-shirt.

The patrons took an interest in one another’s projects and offered advice about appropriate tools and how to tackle daunting home or garden projects. Members drive the direction of the library, too. If enough people want a rototiller, then the library will (and did) acquire one. A wish list of desired donations – knife sharpener, fabric steamer, saw horses – hangs in the library.

“We like to think of (the Tool Library) as neighbors. That’s what we are, like a neighbor,” Onsrud said. “Because effectively everyone is a neighbor.”


And then there was the matter of my car registration. To join the library, I was asked to show two forms of ID. I had my driver’s license with me, of course, but hadn’t thought to bring any other identification. Onsrud said my car registration would work, so I stepped outside to get it. Where I discovered it had expired. Long since. When I moved to Maine, I had been carless for some time, and I apparently failed to recall that registration is an annual – not a one-time – obligation. That evening I went home and wrote a check that would have nearly covered the cost of buying a new Vitamix. And I sent it to the Department of Motor Vehicles.


On the bright side, I saved space in my kitchen and got one small step nearer to my goal of owning less. The next time I lust for an ultra-smooth smoothie, I’ll head to the library.

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or at:


Twitter: @PGrodinsky

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