We all know some people are suckers for trends and they have to have the latest, greatest, most high-tech things they’re willing to shell out money to buy. I had a front-row seat last year when the iPhone X was unleashed in a local mall:
I was going to delete this photo since it was blurry, but my husband (who is a graphic designer/artist) saw it and told me to keep it because he wanted to have a little fun with it! Scene from Briarwood Shopping Center in Ann Arbor, MI. Customers lined up outside the Apple Store.
These shoppers kind of disrupted my lunch break routine by making me walk around them as I headed to the “food court” with my brown-bagged lunch with designs on using Starbucks’ free WiFi. Who were these zombie-like persons blocking my path? Oh yeah… iPhone zombies…
But it’s not just the latest phones that make people go a little wacky and say “I must have this thing…like right now” – and it’s certainly not clothing. It’s also blenders, coffee makers, slow cookers, air fryers… the “industry term” for these things used most commonly in kitchens to pulverize and heat food is “small electrics.” Believe it or not…some shoppers will lose their shit in the pursuit of getting the latest, greatest kitchen appliance that they think will solve all of their cooking problems. Until they tire of them six months later and relegate the things to their basements, garages or stuff they donate to thrift stores or sell in garage sales.
There are “basic” small electrics that everyone should have in their kitchens – toasters, blenders, coffee makers, slow cookers (commonly known better by the trademarked brand name “Crock Pot”), microwaves, etc. Then there are the “icing on the cake” small electrics such as coffee grinders, food processors, waffle irons, electric skillets/griddles, sandwich presses, fondue pots, hot air popcorn poppers. After you’ve already acquired all of the things necessary for heating, pulverizing, liquefying and mutilating your foods into submission, maybe you still feel empty inside…and want more. You’re still hunting that white whale – THE kitchen accessory that will truly transform your cooking experience and let you ascend into culinary Nirvana. Maybe this “new hotness” will be SO awesome that one of your other appliances will have to go – or you will make them fight to the death. Now are you picturing pitting your reliable, stalwart slow-cooker you’ve had since you got married against your new “multicooker” in an ultimate battle royale? Well, maybe you should (more about that in a bit). A Bloom County storyline from the 1980s chronicled Opus going crazy about a kitchen gadget called a “Turnip Twaddler:”
Opus and his “Turnip Twaddlers.”
I can speak anecdotally about all of this because I’ve worked in a department store for almost 20 years (I will hit the 20 year mark in November). But first, let’s go WAY back a bit…remember “Salad Shooters?”
The “Salad Shooter.” What better way to get vegetables from point A to point B?
Rewind about 20 years (give or take)…remember “George Foreman Grills” and all of their clones? How about those multi-grill things where you could switch out the heating plates for different things like burgers, panini sandwiches, waffles, etc? Do you have such a hard-on for baking that you have a stand mixer? Maybe you don’t even use it and think it just looks impressive in your kitchen. Do you have a restaurant-grade blender just for making margaritas? How about a deep fryer? Did you decide to ditch carbs and buy a gadget that will let you turn vegetables into pasta-like strands? Did you drink the “cleansing” Kool-Aid and buy a juicer that cost more than $100? Talk about pulverizing your food into submission! Do you have a “pod” style coffee maker that allows you to make just one cup of coffee at a time in a variety of flavors? I think these things are essentially gang-raping Mother Earth with their wastefulness (but I digress). Do you own a convection air fryer?
The most recent “small electrics” feeding frenzy I witnessed was in 2017 when my store’s entire supply of air convection fryers sold out within hours of opening on Thanksgiving. You’ve probably seen enough commercials to get the “gist” of what convection fryers are but if you haven’t – they are basically fryers that don’t use as much oil and use hot air to distribute thin layers of oil over your favorite fried goodies. They let you eat your favorite fried foods without all of the guilt – at only half the decibel levels of a 1976 Who concert (I’ve read that these things can be noisy).
Forget about convection fryers. They are SO last season…it’s time to start thinking about “multicookers:”
Meet the “multicooker” – it slices, it dices…wait…it doesn’t slice or dice (but it does a lot of other stuff)
So what’s next? I believe people will be going apeshit for “multicookers” this holiday season. What’s a multicooker? Well, let’s see! It resembles a slow cooker in its appearance, for one. It can cook your rice for you (though not all of them cook rice, it depends on the model)…cook soups/stews for you…pressure cook your raw beans/grains…steam your vegetables for you…Depending on the model, you might even be able to cook more than one thing at once! Come on…who doesn’t enjoy the “double team?” If you are in the market for a multicooker, check out this Consumer Reports article listing the best multicookers.
You can even make your own yogurt with these things. I’m not sure WHY anyone would want to make their own yogurt, let alone EAT yogurt, but that’s not important right now! What’s important is that a “multicooker” will do it all…and could wind up replacing your rice cooker and slow cooker. Hell, why not replace your whole damn stove while you’re at it? Why continue using those pots and pans like a sucker when you can just plug in your “multicooker?” Isn’t that stove/oven just taking up valuable space in your kitchen? Remember what I said earlier about the appliance battle royale and making two appliances fight to the death? In this battle, your slow cooker will have to go toe-to-toe with your shiny new multicooker. Do these things even have toes? Hmmm….
I have mixed feelings about the multicooker. Part of me says, “Hey, cool – I like things that can do multiple jobs.” The other part of me is skeptical of an electronic device with too many jobs to do. Will it do them all equally well? Have you ever had a cell phone that took truly great high-resolution photos? I was also unimpressed with a claim I read on a box: “Will cook rice in 23 minutes.” Hey…I can cook rice in 24 minutes on my stove! I’m not going to spend $100 on something just to shave one minute from rice’s cooking time. You’re going to have to do better than that, multicooker marketing people!
I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy a “multicooker.” If I want to make soup or stews, I’ll use my trusty slow cooker. Or cook it on my stove. If I want to make rice, I’ll measure out water and rice (with some butter and salt) and cook it on my stove. If I want fondue, I’ll get out the fondue pot. Sure, we seldom use our fondue pot more than once or twice a year, but believe me – the fondue nights are TOTALLY worth it. Fondue nights are EVENTS in my house. Talk about ascending into culinary Nirvana! And I don’t need a “multicooker” for that! I think I’ll close out this blog with some food porn involving fondue (seriously, if you have never tried fondue…try it):
This photo shows our “fixings” from our most recent fondue night – 4Elf beer from Dark Horse Brewing Co. in Marshall (it’s a high-alcohol spiced beer made around the holidays), MI; Havarti and white cheddar cheeses, lime juice, and garlic. High-quality cheeses are essential for fondue, and (pro tip) Aldi sells a good variety of cheese for cheap (the white cheddar from Costco is also very good AND economical). Funny thing about our fondue pot is the temperature control goes to 11 (I am not making that up). The designer must be a fan of This is Spinal Tap. You can also make chocolate fondues in your fondue pot – which NEVER fail to impress at parties.
What are you waiting for? Go buy a fondue pot now!