Collaborative consumption, the concept that gave us ride, skills, and bike sharing, has infiltrated the kitchen. Or at least it has in Portland, Oregon, where a group of citizens are developing the SE Portland Community Kitchen Tool Library.
As its name suggests, the lending library will allow members to borrow from a cornucopia of kitchen appliances its creators hope will eventually include everything from bread machines and knife sharpeners to pressure cookers and grain mills. Like North Portland Preserve and Serve, a lending center that provides home canning equipment and tableware, the library will lend out most appliances for a week at a time. According to TreeHugger, members will sign up on the library’s website for a pickup time at a location staffed by volunteers, take the equipment home, mill their grain or sharpen their knives, and then return whatever they’ve borrowed.
While this sounds like an excellent way to prevent your kitchen (and basement) from turning into an appliance graveyard, the library will undoubtedly cater more to premeditated acts of canning than spontaneous 4 a.m. desires to, say, press your own cider. And while that could certainly be a good thing for your bottom line (though not for Williams-Sonoma’s), I wonder if libraries like this will be an incentive for home cooks to do less rather than more.
It’s true that passing fancies more often than not yield neglected appliances, but there’s also an argument to be made for ownership: Spend money on something and you’ll feel more compelled, whether by enthusiasm or guilt, to use it, and to keep using it.
Skeptics will point out that the road to ruin is paved with good intentions, just as true believers will claim that the road to salvation is cobbled with borrowed stand mixers. And then, of course, there are the germaphobes, who blanch at the idea of using anything they haven’t personally sterilized.
So where do you fall on the spectrum? Would you happily borrow kitchen tools, or does appliance ownership encourage your own creativity and productivity? And can you see libraries like this one catching on outside of the idealistic confines of Portland and San Francisco?