I hate this potato peeler but it’s precious to me. That means I can’t throw it out and buy another one. It is a peeler laden with meaning.

But it doesn’t work right. Every time I use it, I wonder why I don’t have a better peeler. I think about using a knife which could work on a regular potato but not on a sweet one. And then I puzzle over the space this peeler takes up in my head and wonder if other people feel so obligated to keep dysfunctional kitchen utensils.

This particular peeler has a companion potato masher that I also dislike. The masher lacks sturdiness, it can’t handle serious mashing. It’s made to mash the already mashed. It would be good for show if a cook wanted guests to think she was making real mashed potatoes but they had actually come out of a box crammed in the bottom of the garbage bin. Such a thing should be hidden.

Both utensils came to me as gifts after our beach house burned down. The insurance money was enough to build a new house but not to put anything in it. So everything in the house came from the curb, as in loading up sofas and whatnot that people had put on the curb for scavengers, or from St. Vincent de Paul stores, which if you are interested, always have remarkable assortments of dishes and housewares.

So I frequented the curb and the resale shop and carted these used, worn things to our new house. One friend gave us his mother’s favorite chair which she didn’t use anymore because she’d moved into a new apartment and another gave us their old dining room table. Everything we brought through the doors had lived somewhere else first. And I was oddly proud of that.

I wanted the house to speak to the notion of making do. So nothing was new except what people gave us. Like the peeler and the potato masher. And all of it became dear to me.

Last summer, we replaced the St. Vincent de Paul dinner plates that had orange daisies on them with old white plates from home. The white plates were bigger and there were more of them that matched so it seemed a simple matter to make the swap but it wasn’t. I thought about the change for a long time, keeping the white plates in a back bedroom in a cardboard box for months before making the move.

It seemed disloyal to replace the daisy plates. They had been with us since the beginning of our new house and were part of the idea of making do, of being grateful we were alive to buy dishes, to cook meals, to sit again around a table and look out the window at Lake Superior. So I retired some of them and left others stacked in between the white plates to represent, I guess, what had come before.

I’ve forgotten who gave us the potato peeler but I haven’t forgotten the feel of having it. It is still a gift.