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August 5, 2009

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A Fine Vintage In the Kitchen

I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff; Regina Schrambling praises vintage stoves:

So many other essentials in life are clearly improved in their latest incarnation: Phones are smaller and portable; stereos are downsized to ear buds; cars are safer and run on less fuel. But stoves are a basic that should stick to the basics: The fewer bells and whistles, the less need for bell-and-whistle repairmen. Motherboard is not a word that should ever be associated with the kitchen—put computer technology in a stove, and you’re asking for a crash. Google “I hate my Viking” these days, and you get a sense of how many things can go wrong with techno-overload. Some of these ranges combine electric and gas elements, which is a recipe for trouble, as is microwave or convection capability. This kind of overdesign is what killed combination tuner/turntables—one goes, and the other dies from neglect.

I get kind of excited about things like self-updating blenders and coffee makers that I can control from my Blackberry, but there’s also, sometimes, something to be said for saying, “You know, I think we’ve kind of figured this out. Maybe we’ll work the kinks out on what’s next in another few decades, but until then, let me have my dumb appliance.”

This sort of dovetails with Michael Pollan’s essay about Julia Child and food TV — there’s something about the convergence of cooking with electronics that transformed it into entertainment, that elevated it into something harder than most people could or would do at home, that left us with celebrity chefs and high-powered gadgets and a vastly reduced proportion of us actually cooking anything on them.

Which in turn makes it harder for technology to help us - we’d have to actually KNOW what we were doing to actually make a better (as opposed to shinier, or more convenient) device.

Posted August 5, 2009 at 6:48 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Gastrosnark, Technosnark


This vintage stove is beautiful and still working, but: you have to light the pilot every time you want to use the oven (and sometimes when you want to use the stove), the broiler drawer screeches horribly, the oven takes forever to preheat, and there is no built-in temperature gauge or timer. I prefer an understated electric oven.

I ate at this wonderful restaurant called Camino in Oakland the other night, and the kitchen setup was thus:

* Giant fire-hearth
* Giant wood fire
* Dishes arrayed around fire, cooking

It was all open to the air, and to the restaurant, so you could just peek over and see everything baking and browning in the heat. It was a) beautiful and b) simple.

Not saying I want a fire-hearth in my house.

Actually, maybe I kinda do want a fire-hearth in my house...

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