A new recipe can be a beacon of hope on an otherwise dull weekday night. But when the instructions call for a Belgian waffle iron or Instant Pot you don’t own, the whole plan can go awry. “A standard version or lower quality model of this kitchen tool will not work,” the recipe warns. Considering that most folks don’t have the money or counter space to commit to dozens of specialized kitchen tools, it’s a comfort to see that a volunteer organization in Portland is running a kitchen tool library. Kitchen Share allows its members to rent the obnoxiously overpriced and elephantine kitchen gadgets no one actually wants to own.
Like the need to buy copies of massive hardcover textbooks and novels was omitted by libraries, the founders of Kitchen Share saw a need to provide home cooks with short-term access to less common kitchen tools like soy milk makers, food vacuum sealers, and $400 juicers. What began in 2012 as a desire to try out a dehydrator without committing to buying it, founders Robin Koch and Kim Hack created a network of kitchen libraries in Portland. Koch told Paste that she was already a member of Portland’s gardening tool library and wondered why nothing similar existed for kitchen equipment. She and Hack presented their idea to members of their community, and the group pooled their superfluous kitchen tools to create an inventory. Now, for a small membership fee, anyone in their area can rent kitchen tools regularly. Kitchen Share also rents commercial-grade tools for events, like large coffee urns and chocolate fountains.
Koch hopes that the program functions as a community instead of simply an organization, with members sharing recipes on its website and swapping kitchen advice in person at Kitchen Share locations. As Koch told Paste, “We see it not just as a library, but a hub where people can exchange knowledge and ideas.”
While Kitchen Share exists only in Portland neighborhoods today, with home cooks everywhere becoming more ambitious in the kitchen, there’s certainly reason to hope for the library’s expansion to other cities.