Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dicing Men

Well, here’s a piece of interesting news. According to research conducted by someone who obviously got a government grant, it would appear that droves of men are suddenly out there shopping for kitchen appliances. The people conducting the research are postulating that the male of the species must have started to take an interest in doing a little cooking, and as a result, he has also taken an interest in buying the kitchen gadgets needed to work some culinary magic.
This may be news to the general public, and it is certainly wonderful news for those who run kitchen gadget stores, but it is not news to men. For years guys have been slinking off to kitchen gadget stores to rummage around in the cappuccino maker and bread machine sections in the pretence of buying presents for their mates. This is all just hokum, of course. Men have not been going to kitchen stores to buy 12-speed blenders, smokeless indoor grills, and remote control meat grinders just because they’re trying to score points with their partners, or because they like to eat their own cooking. They have been going there because these places are just hardware stores for food.
If a guy wants spaghetti for dinner, he needs a large pot and that’s it. The spaghetti goes in the pot with lots of water. Once the spaghetti is cooked it goes on a plate. A jar of sauce is poured over the spaghetti which is still hot enough to warm the sauce, and presto Prego: dinner. And don’t give me that song-and-dance about men being fanatics about making their own spaghetti sauce, agonizing for hours about consistency, garlic content, and meat versus tofu. Sure, some men may do that to impress potential mates or new mother-in-laws, but most North American men couldn’t tell a strand of linguini from a lump of fettuccini. When they get really fancy, men will serve red wine, store-bought garlic bread and salad-in-a-bag with spaghetti dinner.
But tell a man that there are machines that will actually turn a sheet of dough into spaghetti, and he will suddenly approach the making of dinner with the same enthusiasm he brings to building a new deck. And of course before anything else can be done, the right tools have to be bought. This is really why men are disappearing into kitchen stores, and why they can be found in the machine section, perusing spaghetti machine users’ manuals.
After getting the machinery, a man will set about getting the ingredients for his food-building project in much the same way he buys nails, lag bolts, and lumber for a deck-building project: “A pound of meat, please, a yard of pasta dough, and a couple of quarts of stewed tomatoes – and toss in that electronic can opener. ” The beauty of building food is that you can eat the left-over parts.
The food they cook may be wonderful – men love to follow instructions for building anything, including homemade bread and stuffed mushroom caps, but it is the machines they lust after. A pasta maker comes with all sorts of blades that will, in time, hopefully, need to be sharpened, and will certainly need to be disassembled and cleaned on a regular basis. The male fantasy is to field strip, clean and reassemble a pasta maker in less than 10 minutes – 13 minutes in the dark. And what are automatic bread makers if not computers with a bucket? I mean, these devices have to be programmed in order to work – “programmed” being one of those trigger words that can set a man’s heart to pounding.
In addition to the machines, the kitchen hardware stores have an assortment of tools to make any handyman weak with desire. There are more knives in these stores than a woodworking shop. Knives for bread, meat, butter, grapefruits, escargot, and lobsters. Knives made with gorgeous wooden handles or exotic polymers. Knives that have to be cleaned, sharpened, and stored in special wooden blocks or on magnetic wall-mounted racks. And there are tools for mixing, blending, measuring, folding and stirring; tools that carve vegetables into swans and turn eggs into flowers, and tools that grind meat, squirt icing, and spread toppings. Compared to the assortment of scrapers, cutters, measuring devices and computerized implements in kitchen gadget stores, most hardware stores are woefully barren.
And storage devices! Everything used in a kitchen – especially the ingredients – has to be stored, each in its own, specially labeled container. That fact alone is enough to draw most men into the world of the culinary arts – or home food improvement as some men call it. With literally hundreds of things that have to be labeled and stored in special containers on specially constructed shelves, there are enough projects in the average kitchen to keep the average man purring with contentment without ever having to fire up the stove.
So while it is certainly true that men are hanging around kitchen gadget store in ever-increasing numbers and asking questions about things such as what cumin is used for, it is not necessarily because they are planning to cook with it; they are likely just looking for a really cool thing to store it in.
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