Gadgets: Getting too fast?
When I was a little girl, helping out in the kitchen was one of the most fun "help mama" activities (topped only by sewing, of course). My memories contain remnants of the sensory experience: sticky hands, brown sugar-coated tongue, sunlight streaming through the windows, fresh-baked cookie scents, and, of course, the steady ka-chunk noise of the Kitchen Aid mixer. My mother swears by her Kitchen Aid, and has promised that my kitchen will never be incomplete because my own mixer will be her first gift to me on my wedding day.
The Kitchen Aid is an extremely useful tool. Its heavy base and thick gears manage to spin the densest doughs, and the plethora of attachments available simplifies many daunting cooking and baking endeavors. In my kitchen at home, it stands out no more than the toaster, blender, or microwave. But where do gadgets cross the line from useful helpers to overachievers?
This New York Times Article explores the recent evolution of appliances, citing a toaster that poaches an egg as the bread is toasted. The NYT refers to America as a nation of "index-finger cooks" and says that we enjoy the satisfaction that comes from making something, even and especially when that something requires little to no effort.
Housewares sales have been dropping in recent times, but small kitchen appliances have been selling very well lately. Microwave meals, frozen pizzas, and envelopes of cookie dough are appealing because they are convenient while retaining at least a smidge of that "i made it myself" feeling. But what are we losing when we give up being able to lick the batter off the beater?
One-button cuisine offers ready answers for cooks with not much time to spend in the kitchen and not much of a clue about what to do once they get there.
The orange Kitchen Aid mixer of my future kitchen might save my arms some strain, but it is by no means a one-button machine. I will still be measuring, sampling, and modifying during every bit of the baking process. And I most certainly will have a clue about what I'm doing, because I can hear my mother's guidance right along with that distinctive Kitchen Aid stirring noise.
There is a boundary between those appliances that make kitchen tasks more enjoyable and those that take all of the work, pleasure, and process out of them. If more people started with Kitchen Aid mixers than toaster ovens complete with the "pizza bump", I think we'd be witnesses to an entirely different food culture.
photo credit: http://www.squidoo.com/kitchenaid-artisan-mixers
cross-posted to Food Craze