Fondue on Fast Forward

I love these little cooking videos on speed. You know the ones I mean? The hands and ingredients fly together so quickly the dish makes itself!

Peach crumble cobbler in three easy steps, boom, boom, boom.

Cheese and egg bake, just layer in fast forward and throw in oven. Literally.

Avocado, chili and lime dip, zip and rip in blender with sea salt.

Little containers of sea salt, which, of course, everyone has lying around, appear magically in these revved-up recipes.

Are these videos inspiring? Yes, they inspire me to THINK about bringing something fancy to my next potluck or to invite friends for dessert or appetizers … or to venture beyond my basic meals. Not to actually DO, however.

What I want is that little hopped-up chef to pop right out of my computer onto my kitchen counter and get to work! On demand. Like a single-serve coffee brewer, only with more ingredients. And many, many ideas for delicious, healthy, fun meals.

If 3-D printers can now make many silly doo-dads and possibly human skin, why can’t we have little foodie nutrition robots to keep us well-fed? (I realize human skin may not be a good example here, but it’s  for testing drugs and cosmetics, thus saving bunnies and mice.)

We already have the Roomba vacuum cleaner clanking around and soon we will have self-driving cars (a dream or a nightmare, I can’t decide), so why not mechanical chefs? They could be as varied as our budgets and dining rooms allow.

For party givers, cooking machines as large as a pantry. And stocked like a pantry too, with a big variety of menus and goodies for all sorts of events, from drop-in cocktail parties to sit-down five-course meals. And why not include cocktails, wines and beers to accommodate a variety of tastes and entertainment?

For families, a do-not-let-up diner, breakfast and lunch maker programmed to keep everyone healthy and away from the grocery store for at least a week, maybe two! Special program corners for fresh baby food and tea and coffee.

For singles, no sad-sack burritos or wasted leftovers. A compact robot friend to weigh out just the right amount of whatever appeals to us at the moment. Hey, one advantage of being single is that we can eat strange foods at strange times without reporting to anyone.

For health fanatics who are into juicing, a cute little citrus-colored robot replacing the blender and shooting out vitamin pills. Whipping up low-fat guacamole and hummus and spitting out the carrot and celery sticks.

Finally, let us not forget our animal friends, dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles and so on. Since I have three cats, part of my resident robotic chef would cater to them. It would know when they were in the mood for chicken pate and NOT flaky tuna bits, for example. No more stare-downs trying to outwit their stubbornness while the unwanted food of the day lumps into smelly cement.

So, move over Cuisinart and NutriBullet, I am making room. In June of 2015, Newsweek ran an article on the kitchen of the future: “Good to the Last Byte: Food Gets Digitized.” It pictured two big robot arms hovering over a stove. Seems creepy to me. Who wants to embrace two disembodied arms? No, I’m putting in my order for the whole little chef.

Kitchen robot
Newsweek June 21, 2015

Food Fashion. What’s In (Our Mouths)?

“Remember when sushi was so popular? So what’s in now?”

My son was asking as we passed a former sushi restaurant turned deli, next to the old theater turned rug store.

Hard to say. Almost anything goes. We have endless food fusions and varieties – Chinese/Japanese, Italian/Afghan, French/Californian, Thai next door to Mexican, Hawaiian next door to Indian, ice cream and yogurt next door to cupcakes.

What’s in seems to be two extremes. On the one menu-held hand, we have farm-to-table and organic restaurants and juice bars. On the other, we have some new restaurants featuring old-fashioned comfort food, where the chefs like to show off their childhood and family favorites. If they’re from the South, they fix lots of fried chicken, catfish, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy. If they’re from New York or New Jersey, pastrami, liverwurst or submarine sandwiches, deep-dish, pepperoni pizza. If they’re from Kansas City or St. Louis, how about them ribs?

DiningWho doesn’t want to go back to childhood sometimes, especially before we worried about measuring our cholesterol or waistlines?

If we do stuff down too much fattening food, we can walk, drive or roll over to the other, lean end of the street. Self-righteously order a wheat grass and beet smoothie, or even better, a two or three-day juice cleanse! Get rid of all the toxins! I swear this obsession with being “toxic” is the New Age version of Original Sin. We can never be good enough and so have to accept (without any scientific proof) that 20 carrots and apples a day will absolve us.

Give me (or let me buy) fresh, whole foods any day! Yes, I like the idea of eating organic foods and enjoying farm-to-table cuisine, even if it does conjure up images of cows and chickens walking through the door. If this is the latest trend, I think it’s a good one, encouraging us to eat healthfully, cook creatively, and respect the environment and animal rights. I’m not a vegetarian myself (some fish and chicken), but admire those who are and aim in that direction. Most of us would live longer with less ailments if we ate fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat. Of course, there are no guarantees. We’ve all heard of or know the 45-year-old vegetarian marathon runner who drops dead of a heart attack or the 95-year old aunt who smokes cigars and drinks bourbon and eats steak every day.

As long as I can have my cupcakes occasionally and eat them too, I am happy – and so far lucky enough to be healthy.

Who’s That in the Kitchen with Julia?

I just received another slew of catalogs from the home decorating and cooking stores, you know, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn. These to welcome Spring, as previous ones have fall and winter holidays, summer and Fourth of July celebrations.

Their purpose is not just to showcase individual items, from tables, lamps and rugs to coffeemakers and Cuisinarts. No, they are selling a lifestyle based on using these items in full-page, bleeding-edge color. It isn’t good enough that the coffeemaker can make 100 kinds of coffee, tea and hot chocolate, it sits on a sideboard surrounded by a sumptuous brunch, including the electric griddle for pancakes and sausages, the panini squisher for ham and cheese sandwiches, the waffle maker, the sherbert maker, the automatic melon baller and the citrus extractor. These require so much room they spread out from the breakfast nook to the dining table.

As for dinners, well they resemble a sort of modern, hip Downton Abbey without the servants. Wait! The servants are all the handy machines. We have crockpots for stew, a deep fryer for homemade dumplings and fritters, an electric wok for stir fry, a rotisserie oven for chicken, a convection oven for what I’m not sure, and a $1,000 outdoor grill for steaks, chops, fish, kebobs. And don’t forget the margarita blender, the soda machine, the turquoise or lime green mixer, and the red velvet cupcake mix and cute little baking pans.Gadgets

How many people actually entertain like this? Not many I know. Overall, dinner parties are on the decline, according to an article in the New York Times (11/29/12). People are busier, more inclined to cozy up at home or hold spontaneous potlucks when they do have free time. The few friends I have who enjoy cooking and entertaining are a rarity and receiving an invitation to their homes is something I look forward to. According to another recent NY Times article (2/12/13), many are now ordering the ingredients of meals close to ready made, so they can appear to be cooking.

In addition to the entertaining fantasies these catalogs promote, they also promote fantasies about day-to-day life. For example, the machine that allows mothers to make their own baby food. (I say mothers here because I can’t imagine any man having the patience for this.) Why? Why? Why? When in the midst of a sleep-deprived stupor, you can easily pull out a breast or a little jar of applesauce.

Again, they are trying to sell us an image that doesn’t exist in real life, perfect baby-mother bond, perfect health.

MixersJuicers and smoothie makers are also used to promote this idea of perfect health. If we squeeze 10 apples, six carrots and a beet into this machine with hungry blades and drink what the hungry blades create, we’ll look 10 years younger and live 10 years longer. Well, we’ll need those 10 years just to pull apart the machine, clean up all the peels and pulp, and reassemble the machine. And while I enjoy an occasional smoothie, I’d rather have something substantial for breakfast, like whole fruit, cereal or an egg that I can fix in half the time it takes to assemble and clean my Bella Cuchina Rocket Blender. (No, I didn’t buy it. It was a gift.)

When not in use, where do all these magical machines reside? Even the most sweeping marble-countered kitchens do no have anough room for them all. I suspect they are off in a secret room – with Dr. Oz, celebrity chefs, and the ghost of Julia Child, rattling her basic pots and pans.