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For those not old enough to remember, there was this guy, Ron Popeil who was like the king of infomercials. Among the products he pitched were the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman and the Showtime Rotisserie. That last one came with the famous tagline “Set it and forget it!” because, according to Popeil, that’s how easy it was to cook an entire chicken.
While the Albrecht house doesn’t have a Showtime Rotisserie, we’ve got plenty of connected cooking gadgets. Their ability to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to cooking means they are getting more use than ever in these quarantine times.
That might seem counterintuitive at first. Being stuck inside gives us nothing but time to practice new cooking styles and techniques. But honestly, the automated cook programs of the June Oven and other devices have actually been a godsend.
Before I get too much further, I should caveat that I’m lucky and grateful. COVID-19 hasn’t made a big impact on our daily lives (knocks on wood). We are healthy, employed, and have plenty of food. A lot of people are not in that situation (if you can, consider making a donation to an organization like Feeding America).
The biggest disruption to our lives has been the schools shutting down. As a result, my wife and I are working our normal jobs and doubling as elementary school teachers. So by the end of the day, our brains are pretty much goo.
Which is when the promise of the connected kitchen is actually being fulfilled in our home! Oftentimes we find that what we make on a given night can be determined by the list of pre-set cook programs on the June Oven. Pasta or sweet potatoes? Well, the June cooks the sweet potatoes automatically and we won’t have to do anything, so . . . sweet potatoes it is. Set it on the oven and forget it till it’s done.
We’re also using the Cinder for proteins because, well, again, a few taps on the phone and the smart grill does all the work. We can go about our evening while the machine does all the cooking.
Purists might scoff at our algorithmic approach to meal making, and that’s fine. At this point, it’s all about preserving our brain power to get through the next day of work and teaching (and parenting and general adulting). If I can hand off at least one part of our day to a device so we don’t have to think about it, that’s great.
I don’t think there is a big takeaway here, or broader industry trend to follow. Everyone is finding comfort in this pandemic in their own ways. For us, it’s letting a machine make dinner so we can map out tomorrow’s school schedule, or catch up on emails, or squeeze in another quick episode of “Making the Cut” on Amazon (comfort viewing).
Whatever the reason, we’re going to be using these connected kitchen devices for awhile. School is canceled for the year and an uncertain future lies ahead of us. If you think we’ll get back to “normal” anytime soon, you can forget it.
No yeast for that homemade bread? No problem, here’s a substitute!
One thing we have also been using the June Oven for is proofing homemade sourdough. Yes, we are just like everyone else, finding comfort in fresh, warm loaves of home-baked bread.
But the only reason we were able to do such a thing was because someone gave us a sourdough starter. Otherwise we would be out of luck because you can’t find yeast (or flour) in a lot of stores. People are loading up on these ingredients to carbo load on bread.
Not to well actually you, but actually — you don’t need store-bought yeast! At least that’s what Sudeep Agarwala, a geneticist specializing in yeast for biotech company Gingko Bioworks explained on Twitter last month. Catherine reported on Agarwala’s yeast-storm, writing:
If you’re an adamant baker, you likely know where Agarwala, is going. In the tweet thread he goes on to describe how to make your own sourdough starter using dried fruit (which is covered in natural yeast!), water, and flour. If you follow the instructions correctly you should be able to have your own burbling sourdough starter in two days.
So don’t be down about your lack in packets of Fleischmans, rise up with your own yeast alternative! And once you have your starter going, consider building your own Sourd.io DIY connected sourdough starter monitor to keep it hella healthy.
Announcing The Spoon Virtual Event Series
Social distancing means we won’t be sitting shoulder to shoulder in lecture halls to hear great talks anytime soon. But fear not! We’re bringing the high-quality presentations and fireside chats you’ve come to expect from The Spoon and bringing them online!
We just announced our upcoming Virtual Events series yesterday, and are kicking it off with a quartet of amazing discussions:
- Building The Future Kitchen: Rapid Prototyping Your Way to A Next-Generation Kitchen Product with Scott Heimendinger and Larry Jordan Jr (It happened today, April 21, but be on the lookout for the video recast.)
- Hack-Proofing The Kitchen: Strategies & Tactics for Securing Connected Kitchen Appliances with Riley Eller (April 30 at 10 a.m. Pacific)
- A Conversation About Changing Food Habits in the COVID-19 Era with Susan Schwallie (May 7 at 10 a.m. Pacific)
- The Future of Kitchen Design in a Post COVID-19 World with Johnny Grey (May 14 at 10 a.m. Pacific)
All of these talks are free to watch so register for them today and follow us on CrowdCast to catch up on all virtual events we hold in the future.