I Have A Weakness For Kitchen Gadgets

“Only one in four has a chance at making it…. And right there, I knew that if one of us was getting off dope, and staying off dope, it was going to be me. I was going to live. I was the guy.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

I have a weakness for kitchen gadgets. I always have. By no means am I a gullible person – I believe nothing I see or hear until there is proof. Most of the time.

But show me a slick salesman on a well-produced infomercial hawking some hunk of slicing, dicing, heating, non-stick, time-saving machine and I will invariably think, “Hey, that thing will change my life – possibly even for the better.”

I’m too embarrassed to make a full list, but here’s a few I have purchased over the decades:

Fry Baby (can’t believe I bought one of these – it was in the 1970’s though)

Automatic Bread Maker (Fine if you like cylindrical bread with a big hole from the stirrer in one end – at least it made the house smell great at three in the morning)

Spiralizer (a good idea that didn’t work – too cheaply made and takes forever to set up and clean)

Fancy Mandolin (cut the end of my thumb off – afraid of it now)

Hot Dog Maker (another incredibly bad invention of the 70’s. You put the dogs between two electrodes and it heated them with 110 AC voltage shot right through the “meat”- tasted like burned ozone.)

Home Espresso Maker (there’s a reason that coffee shops use machines that cost thousands of dollars)

Toaster Oven (I already had a toaster and an oven)

Banana Slicer (OK, but half of my bananas curved the wrong way)

Dedicated Vegetable Steamer (Seems like a good idea, but converts crisp, flavor-filled, beautiful veggies into bland mush)

Crock Pot (yeah, you have one, they have stood the test of time – but I call it the “Flavor Removing Machine”)

On and on.

Probably it’s the simple combination of two more basic weaknesses of mine – food and gadgets. The intersection of these frailties leads to a synergistic and symbiotic effect that ends up, in my case as an addiction. The desire to purchase the last kitchen gadget I see is tough to resist.

Still, I usually do. I have a lifetime of cobwebby kitchen cabinets full of forgotten contraptions to learn from. My life doesn’t change and I don’t buy the stuff. Of course, the advent of the internet, especially Amazon Prime, has made resisting my obsession infinitely harder. A few keystrokes and a “buy it now” and that box will soon be at my front door.

So… I was doing better. And then, about a year ago, came the ultimate kitchen gadget. I resisted for about six months, but the pull became too much. I called up Amazon and ordered a six quart Instant Pot.

I have always used an old-school pressure cooker to make beans. It saves time and has the lure of having a bomb steaming away on your stove. And now there is an electric, computer controlled pressure vessel available for consumer use. I had to have one.

And, I must say, I really like it. I use it almost every day. The claims of, say, cooking a roast in ten minutes aren’t exactly true… they don’t include the warm up time to bring the food to pressure (which can take a while) or the cooling-down period. That’s not the point though, the big advantage over the old pressure cookers is that you don’t have to watch the damn thing to make sure it doesn’t explode. It’s all controlled by a finicky microprocessor which you command with an absolutely unintelligible array of buttons and an out-of-date red LED display which seems to display random numbers.

Still, as long as you ignore all the online recipes and printed instructions, it works. All you do is press “Pressure Cook” and some sane amount of time, and a hot, cooked meal will come out.

Oh, and one more thing. I can’t believe it, but I make yogurt in the thing. One of my weekend chores is to make yogurt for the next week. Half gallon milk, can of evaporated milk, boil, put in starter, heat overnight… and there it is. Save a little container for starter on next batch. It sounded so crazy and disgusting I made my first batch as a joke/experiment – but it is so much better than store-bought yogurt, it really is. I use it in a lot of stuff – smoothies, curries, salad dressing, coffee creamer, with walnuts for breakfast. It’s cheap and once you have the routine down, easy.

So now I’m happy. I have the ultimate kitchen gadget and I can stop looking… my addiction is done.

Wait… Wait! Someone I know has this new thing… an electric lunchbox. It’s a sort of Bento Box with a heating element built in. You fill it with stuff and cook it at your desk. Or in your car! It works on 12 volt or 110! This thing will change my life!

Weakness always rears its head…. once an addict, always an addict.

What I learned this week, March 7, 2014

This is not a frame from a science fiction movie

This is Real

This is not a frame from a science fiction movie

 


5 Ways to Drink in the Great Outdoors


Foldylock


sri

The 17 Greatest Sriracha Hot Sauce Food Recipes


This video explains the current crisis in international relations


How to wake someone up with a laser pointer and a dog.


A New Dallas



Why Everyone Needs to Read Steve Blow’s Pro-Highway Argument


M. Emmet Walsh!


I read in a lot of places – car drivers that are hostile to bicyclists because, “They don’t pay gas taxes, so why should they be allowed on our roads.”

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

from the Oregon Bicycle Transportation Alliance

What I learned this week, February 28, 2014

I have written below about a presentation I attended concerning a small piece of freeway near Dallas’ Downtown. It was an important and interesting meeting, but what I wrote about it goes on a little long, and I wanted to write a little about what I think is the real crux of the matter.

I’ll write more at length about it later, I need to do some thinking and some research and some more thinking first.

This is the speaker, traffic planner Ian Lockwood’s presentation. Watch the whole thing. His talk should be available on youtube soon.

What jumped at me in particular were two slides (13 and 14 in the presentation). The first, printed from a book, was this statement:

In his 1911 book The Prinicples of Scientific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor, a pioneer in the efficiency movement, wrote: “The goal of human labor and thought is efficiency. Technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgement, in fact human judgement cannot be trusted because it is pagued by laxity, ambiguity and unnecessary complexity. Subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking…. That which cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value….The affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.”

The bolded part of the quote was underlined, with a handwritten note and arrow that said, “THE BEGINNING OF THE END.”

The bullet at the bottom of the slide emphasized the point, “That which cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value….The affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.

This is contrasted to the next slide, which is a quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves. And if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.”

Thomas Jefferson September 28, 1820

The contrast, the frisson between the two ways of looking at the world illuminated by these quotes is an amazing concept. If I learned nothing else, this was worth taking the train downtown after work.


I-345 near downtown Dallas

I-345 near downtown Dallas

Dallas has this nasty, falling down 1.4 miles of freeway on the east side of downtown. It’s name is I-345, though nobody knows that. It is an elevated monstrosity that is an ugly barrier between the city center and Deep Ellum.

It also needs replacing. A movement is growing to remove the freeway instead of rebuilding it.

How Dallas is Throwing Away $4 Billion

The more I thought about that idea – the more sense it made.

Of course, the government has no imagination and soon, this headline came out.

TxDOT to Repair, Not Tear Down I-345: Lipstick on a Traffic-Fed Pig?
TxDOT tells Dallas it will repair and not remove the highway separating Deep Ellum and downtown
TxDOT has decided to keep the highway separating Deep Ellum and downtown, but Mayor Rawlings hasn’t

This pissed a lot of people in Dallas off, including me.

So I found out about a meeting at D Magazine (Great write-up about it here) with a presentation on how the modern American Urban High Speed traffic system is killing the city. I sent off for a ticket and rode the train downtown after work. I was more than a little ragged after a tough day at work and felt out of place – but the talk by Ian Lockwood was more than interesting.

They were taping the talk and I think I heard someone say it would be going onto Youtube. I’ll put it on here if I find it, but in the meantime, this one covers most of what he said. I know it’s long, but take the time to watch it if you can, it’s a revelation.

Here’s another photo I took of a typical day on I-345

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.


Hall & Oates “Rich Girl” wasn’t about a girl after all.

I feel as if I have been living a lie all my life.

“Daryl wrote it,” John confessed, talking about his other musical half. “It was about a guy who was the heir to a fast food fortune.” We can’t help but feel like everything we know in life is a lie now. “He realized ‘Rich Girl’ sounded a lot better than ‘Rich Guy.’”


11 Books That Will Definitely Disturb You


This is an interesting list – there are some amazingly strange films on this. And they all can be piped directly into your living room.

The 50 Best Movies on Netflix Instant (My Version)


10 Awesome Bottle Openers