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

Beware the Grocery Grumps

I recently passed a woman going into our neighborhood grocery store. She paused at the door and gave herself the sign of the cross.

“Way to go,” I thought, even though I’m not religious.

Now maybe she was praying for someone or something outside the store, but I like to think she was asking for blessings to survive the next hour inside.

I dislike shopping for food, but I have to go since I enjoy eating and cooking (mostly) healthfully. There’s only so much I can forage from the drugstore and the 99 cent stores. I mourned the day when the local CVS stopped selling tomatoes and a few pieces of tired fruit.

I wish I were like my friends who love grocery stores. The more they can peruse in one day, the happier they are. Each one fills a different creative culinary need and evokes visions of exotic dishes THEY ACTUALLY MAKE.

Asian Market in Cleveland taken by my friend Sandy Woodthorpe who loves grocery shopping
Asian Market in Cleveland taken by my friend Sandy Woodthorpe who loves grocery shopping

No such visions for me. There’s something about walking – or I should say squeaky wheeling – my way down the grocery store aisles that sends me into a grumpy coma, the same way I used to feel when looking at sewing or wallpaper catalogues. Alas, farmer’s markets have the same effect. The plethora of colors and shapes blurs together. I know I should be thrilled to find 10 brands of organic kale and 20 kinds of peppers, but my brain goes into hibernation mode. Or is it fight or flight?

I go early to avoid the aisle hogs, the cell phone blabbers and the mothers with screaming children in SEPARATE carts shaped like cars. Once I followed a woman who blocked every aisle. I turned each corner and there she was. When I finally left and was trying to get out of the parking lot, her husband pulled a car in front of the store, blocking the exit for everyone.

Lately I’ve been avoiding the store that is closest to me, only a half block away. It is like a huge dark cavern inside, hard to see, worse, the clerks are like crabby trolls maybe because they see no sunshine. Every few months they get to work rearranging everything. I try to follow the good eating advice – stick to the outer edges of the store. This works for two sides: produce and fish and meat. The third is a bakery with enough bagels and chocolate chip cookies to feed a convention. The fourth contains a Starbucks and Jamba Juice, a bank, a cleaners and a complaint desk. Oh yes, the deli – where you have to yell to get attention, then wait 10 minutes while a sandwich is put together, then be told you have to take it to the checkout line, even though they are standing behind a cash register.

So I usually go to smaller stores, recently checked out a new Haggen, formerly Albertsons. As far as I could tell, nothing had changed except the workers were wearing green instead of blue. Fortunately they are friendly and the store and its parking lot are easy to navigate. I can usually get in and out before the brain fog does too much damage.

I can also survive Sprouts and Trader Joe’s when not crowded. Sprouts is a mini version of Whole Foods with the healthy food but without the exorbitant prices and warehouse interiors. At Sprouts I like the bins of nuts and granola, although scooping them into narrow bags and writing code numbers on plastic ties is a challenge. Also, the cosmetics and vitamin section has that weird smell shared by all health food stores. What is it anyway? Gag me with tea tree oil.

Trader Joe’s takes some getting used to – layout, placement and packaging. Being a writer, I love the way their Fearless Flyer is written and it makes me want to buy several dozen items. Unfortunately, when I get to the store, the coma sets in and I usually get far more – and far different – items than I planned to and have to stagger to the checkout stand, since I didn’t get a big cart. At least the creativity here gives me some pleasure.

I realize I could probably buy many food items online. It just seems so decadent. Yet my grandmother, a great cook, ordered her groceries by phone several times a week. The local market delivered. She NEVER went to the grocery store. In fact, it would have horrified her.

By odd coincidence, her home phone number was one digit off from the store’s. So people were calling all day with their orders. She would yell, “I’m not the grocery store, you idiot!” and bang down the phone receiver.

Maybe it’s genetic.

Bite Me. Bad Behavior Sound Bites

Waiting room. Fox News blaring. My personal version of Hell. Trapped with the yelling heads. Everything is wrong, wrong, WRONG! No good in anything.

Another waiting room. A reality show. The sound is muted but subtitles are on and blast across the screen in capital letters. Family members blowing out the words from angry faces. MY MOTHER’S BOYFRIEND IS TOO YOUNG. AND HE’S A NO-GOOD CHEAT.

Bad behaviorWaiting in line for a bagel. A big, older man comes up too close behind me and looms down over me. “What’s good here?” he asks. “I like the cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter,” I tell him. “I’d like a redheaded, hot mama,” he says. “Well, you can’t have this one,” I say. “I didn’t think so,” he answers.

Waiting in line at Starbucks. At least half a dozen people in front of me. A woman breezes in and walks straight up to the counter. Two or three people tell her there’s a line. “Oh, I’m just here for a cup of coffee,” she says. There is silence for a few shocked seconds, then we all say, “So are we!” The woman stomps out.

More bad behaviorWaiting in line in a discount store. Extremely long and close lines. A woman in the next line keeps ramming her cart into me. The woman behind me tells me the thin pretzels are good with the ranch dressing. The woman in front of me puts down her basket in line and walks away. She returns a couple of minutes later with two additional items, picks up her basket. The woman in back of me says, “Boy, I’ll have to remember that trick the next time I’m in here. Save my own place in line.” The woman in front of me turns around and says to her, “Ma’am, I just went nearby for one or two things. I’m very busy and I have to get back to work. And I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.” I decided not to roll my eyes, give the peace sign or say that I had to get back to work too.

A man stands with his young daughter in the middle of the sidewalk. He sees me coming, gently guides his daughter to the side. “We have to watch for people, honey,” he says to her. He smiles at me as I pass by. I smile back. He gives me hope.