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ENTERTAINING : California Parties--Past and Future : MASTER MECHANICS : In an age of planned obsolescence, it's nice to know that some things neverchange.

November 04, 1990|JONATHAN GOLD | Gold writes the Counter Intelligence column every Thursday in the Times' Food section.

When form, as they say, follows function, it can be a beautiful thing. Even in a century that brought us the Veg-O-Matic and the AMC Pacer, machines occasionally mesh with the jobs they're supposed to do. And in this age of planned obsolescence, it's nice to know that there exist certain perfect things, that no quantity of microchips or high-impact plastic will ever be able to improve.

50th Anniversary Waring blender. In 1935, fancy cocktails were in, the Depression was on its way out, and any host worth his salt whirred his newly fashionable margaritas in the original version of this heavy, stylish machine. The base is chromed Art Deco, sort of a round ziggurat kind of thing, and the capacious 40-ounce container, almost thick enough to stop bullets, is glass. The blades, nonremovable, are made of sharpened steel. The motor will go on forever. This is a machine of limited choices--Hi, Lo or Off; none of your namby-pamby pulse or puree controls--because this is a man's blender. If you want to make quiche, Jack, use a Cuisinart. About $110.

Martini strainer. A classic martini shaker might be one of the most beautiful objects ever manufactured, the gleaming chrome embodiment of illegal Jazz Age refreshment and all that's slightly dangerous about booze. The catch, of course, is that nobody but James Bond ever loved a shaken martini, which can end up both cloudy and over diluted. Martinis are made to be stirred. So logically, this inexpensive gizmo, spring-loaded and neatly adaptable to any size cocktail pitcher, should be the real symbol of the era. Unimproved upon since, it kept the pesky ice out of F. Scott Fitzgerald's (crystal-clear) drinks. About $3.50.

Lifetime Selectronic Dualit Toaster. Shaped something like an old-fashioned bread truck, the time-tested Dualit is high-toasting technology in a low-tech package. You control the degree of toastiness with a mechanical timer at one corner of the Dualit--there's a satisfying clunk when the toast is done--and the toast stays warm and, well, toasty, inside the handsome, British-made unit until you're ready for it. (A tug on a lever flips your toast out of the machine.) The Dualit has an energy-saving setting, too . . . why heat up two toasting slots when you have only one slice of currant-rye bread? About $195.

Hamilton Beach DrinkMaster. Undeniably lightweight, gleaming like the fender on a vintage Buick, the '50s DrinkMaster is not the sort of thing you would find in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. The switch is inconveniently set on top; the rotor is plastic; the stainless-steel container is attached to the mixer not with elegant magnets but with plastic clips, one of which fits inside the cup and will invariably get crudded up with chocolate syrup. But hey, we're talking about a machine designed to make milkshakes, not fly man to Mars, and the tang of nostalgia flavors any malted. About $50.

Acme Supreme Juicerator. Dating from a time--1955--when carrot juice was slightly disreputable, like imported cars or lady bodybuilders, this post-Streamline machine goes through a hunk of beet in nothing flat; its removable basket is easy to clean. But most important, it tells the world that you were into health food when most people hadn't even heard of it. About $265.

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