Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The end of cooking?

Recently, I've attended a party at a friend's place where a certain kitchen appliance was presented. The mood of the evening was fun and friendly, a nice mix of half a dozen women watching in awe as the presenter transformed grains into flour, cooked fruit into jam, kneaded dough, chopped and sauteed onions, steamed pasta... and showed us a hundred other functions we were told the wondrous machine could perform in no time at all. This was no simple food processor, but a highly sophisticated miracle worker that could also cook and steam!

But somehow watching the presenter throw carelessly ingredient after ingredient into the pharynx of the machine, pressing a couple of buttons according to her manual, brought an incredible sadness over me. While she enthusiastically told us how we would never again have to chop a vegetable or some herbs, never again have to mash a potato or knead a dough with the strength of our hands, never again be exposed to the odors of cooking which would be forever conveniently contained in the inside of the machine, I couldn't help but ask myself: isn't all this what constitutes the very joy of cooking?

I love the steely beauty of my knives and the sense of empowerment when using them. I love the feeling of accomplishment when creating something with my bare hands, the promising smells emerging from different pots and pans and the magic of transforming different ingredients into meals. Would my recipes in the future resemble technical manuals, specifying only the amounts of stuff to throw into a machine and which buttons to press in what sequence? Would this complete the alienation of modern humanity from food and nourishment?

To my deepest satisfaction, at least at our party, the machine quickly revealed it's true self for the others to see. After the preparation of each separate dish, the machine had to be cleaned and the food kept hot in a separate container, undoing the promise of reducing the amount of dishes to wash, and elongating the preparation of a complete meal by the need to do everything sequentially, undoing the promise of saving time. And the attempts of some of the group to actually use the machine and navigate the dozens of buttons and functions - so seemingly easy in the hands of the presenter - turned out to be a complex science, producing several mishaps.

That makes me hopeful that the kitchen will remain a place of mystery, of bubbling pots and steaming pans, of creativity and the utter satisfaction of the time-honored preparation of real food.

Life is good!


  1. was that machine by any chance that expensive thermomix?

    Knife empowers one, nicely said. I agree the cutting of herbes, veggies etc smooths my soul to the good. =)

  2. Very thoughtful post. I enjoyed this one. I too love cutting and chopping my veggies. I can't say I do it the 'right' way, and it's never perfect, but it's relaxing.

  3. I don't think any appliance is ever going to get in the way of me and my cooking. I love the process too much!

  4. You know, I felt the same way you did until I bought one of those machines. It hasn't changed how I cook but it does help on busy days. I can saute the onions or stir the gravy no hands and some days, even 5 or 10 minutes extra is a big help. I use it every day.

    I still cook my same recipes still come up with new concoctions and when I have time I do chop by hand. I would buy my helper again. :)

  5. Having lived in Florida where a hurricane can leave you without electricity for weeks on end, you learn to appreciate simple cooking tools.


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