Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dear Alton Brown

The only unitasker allowed in my kitchen is a fire extinguisher - Alton Brown

Dear Alton:

May I call you Alton? I feel like I know you. After all, you spend a great deal of time in our home, via a variety of media.

Alton, you recently did a video that is everywhere on the Internets, regarding the dumbest kitchen gadgets of 2015. I also heard the guest spot on NPR. I am with you (mostly) on unitaskers, and I agree there are a lot of useless hardware on the market. That egg extruder? Yep. Banana slicer? Ditto. But, there are some items that deserve a second look.

I am reminded of the time, some years ago, that the erstwhile Food Editor of the Buffalo News, Janice Okun did a similar feature. It included a poke at the concept of a battery powered pepper grinder. At about the same time, a cook I greatly respect (and consider a friend), Bob del Grosso, did the same in a blog post. How could one disagree – a manual pepper grinder is so simple and easy to manage.

That is, unless you were a child of the 50’s and had a pediatrician who didn’t believe in the polio vaccine. And you were one of the last cases of polio at that time. And left you with limited use of one hand. Such is the case with my wife, Trish. For her, the electric pepper grinder is somewhat of a godsend. It allows her to grind fresh pepper at the table with one hand.

I brought this point both to the attention of Ms. Okun and Bob. Ms. Okun responded with a cursory brushoff to my email. Bob, being a man of honor took down his whole blog post.

I am with you on the many useless gadgets you highlight, but more attention should be paid to those devices which may help people with physical limitations. I am not just a professional cook, I’m a professional cook with rheumatoid arthritis. Concentrated mainly in my hands.

The act of shredding (as opposed to slicing or dicing) animal protein is one of the most excruciating exercises I have to do. My hands usually need to be soaked in ice after shredding pork shoulder, or chicken, or even mock crab. Over the past month, I’ve been taking a drug designed to treat malaria, which also has the side benefit of helping with RA. My hands have improved, but that shredding motion is still difficult and painful.

Those bear claws, or Wolverine claws, or whatever you want to call them really, really help. The grip on them is less painful and difficult than doing this with my bare hands.

I do not underestimate your point. That egg/hotdog creator is ridiculous. I would simply ask that when evaluating such products you would least consider whether they might be an aid to those with personal limitations.

Thank you,

Your friend, Scotty.


Peg dafittr said...

Excellent point Scotty! I am sure Alton meant no harm but maybe he needed to look at things through another (more compassionate) set of glasses.

Amy Halpern said...

Scotty I am realizing as I get older that some of the tools i thought id never use or need I am now using.

My dad had a home health division of his pharmacy where we sold tools for people with disabilities and I used to think oooh I could use that...the zipper puller on a chain, the long handled shoe horn...but rarely were there handy dandies for the kitchen.

I think we all need to step away from why do we need it I know people who could use this...thanks for the post. Well done.

Warner said...

First, I think well of Bob del Grosso, this simply confirms it.

My wife has very limited use of her right hand, so we have more than a few gadgets that 36 years ago I would have gone - Why?

Scotty Harris said...

That's my point. A lot of things are crap, but some things can make life easier for some people. Amy, how about the gizmo I used to put on socks after my hip replacement?

Cassandra said...

I understand and respect your post. But honestly for the average person or even the average cook some of the things out there are just pretty darn ridiculous. I got a set of those bear claws for Christmas and yes I did use them but honestly as someone who has some troubles with grip strength and my fingers I didn't find them any easier than using large forks - actually I found it a little more awkward. (Plus trying to cary my turkey out of a pan with those would never happen it would just fall right off the bones).

You would have to agree on the basic premise that there are far too many unitaskers that don't make sense.

Cassandra -

Scotty Harris said...

Thanx Cassandra.

It may be a question of torque, or angle, but forks don't do it for me. The claws work. Not a necessity, but for me they work.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -