Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Needful things

There is a curious contradiction in the observation that the modern, two-income, over-worked, over-stressed, up-scale nuclear family is being sold on the notion that they need Martha Stewart-sized kitchens in order to be happy. Given that these families rarely have time to sit down to eat, much less fire up their twelve-burner gas ranges to prepare five-course dinners, one would have thought that such families would be far more content if kitchen designers and builders would install the culinary accoutrements needed for the creation of “Happy Meals,” tacos, and buckets of fried chicken.
The fantasy being sold is that once the family moves into their new monster home, it will be able to cook gourmet meals for friends, and host the annual corporate soirée in their industrial strength kitchens. But the unpalatable reality remains that these dinners have to be catered because no one in the family has the energy at the end of the week to do much beyond nuke a frozen pizza.
That’s not to say that the concept of the kitchen-as-validation-of-success is not selling well with up-scale home buyers; it is. Every time they pick up a publication devoted to the home-style gastronomic arts, the new home-owners are bombarded by an assortment of food preparation devices and appliances that would put the kitchens of the average five star hotel to shame. Not only that, but with fifty different kinds of herbs draped artistically from the overhead racks, and more pots, pans, skillets, and crepe pans dangling from copper brackets than you can shake a $50 spatula at, these kitchens are obviously the domain of people who make their own sausages, bake herb and cheese bread without having to look at the recipe, and who know what a compote is.
But does that describe the gastronomic leanings of the average North American family? Hardly. Ours is, after all, is a continent more famous for inventing instant coffee than café latte, and for creating hotdog buns rather than croissants, and where people still labour under the misapprehension that French fries have anything to do with France, that Chinese food comes from China, or that take-out pizza in any way resembles an Italian pizza-pie. Turned loose in one of those alarmingly well equipped kitchens, we would make a beeline for the microwave oven as the only recognizable appliance in the place.
But this in no way prevents homeowners from ponying up the several thousands of dollars it takes to create the physical environment of the gastronomic savant. Built-in pasta makers and floor-to-ceiling solid brass cappuccino machines, along with Italian tile countertops and Corinthian leather-handled utensils used exclusively in copper-bottomed sauce pans, the price of each of which could send a child through college, are but the beginning. Bedroom-sized copper hoods for the exhaust fans are a must, as are solid Ethiopian burled, polished black walnut cupboards, and built-into-the-reclaimed-brick-wall six-tiered ovens.
Still, when faced with all this kitchen glory it’s hard to imagine what the average North American homeowner, who has to read the instructions before using a four-slice bagel toaster, would make of an eight-burner, self-cleaning, smoke-free, greaseless copper and nickel-plated cast-iron remote controlled two-oven gas range. We would probably use it to make toast.
Asking you to pass the ketchup, I’m Otte Rosenkrantz
Who Links Here Free Website Counter
Free Web Counter