The twentieth century has seen the greatest changes in cooking and food storage since the introduction of fire. A real flame-kissed steak is a weekend luxury in a world where food is most commonly made safe to eat by the same high energy beam the military uses to knock down enemy satellites. Storing leftovers is easier than ever as refrigerators are made larger and more efficient. But those changes have also caused some adjustments in the way we cook our food, and plan our homes.
Technology and modern style trends have joined to create new cooking surfaces for ranges and cook-tops. The surface material is a special type of glass that allows computer controlled heat to flow evenly to the bottom of pots, pans and skillets. The material allows nearly perfect temperature control, and the smooth surface is attractive and easy to wipe clean. So, what’s the adjustment? It’s the pots and pans. If cookware isn’t perfectly flat on the bottom, it won’t make proper contact with the heated surface of the range top, so food won’t cook right. The cast iron frying pan is out because it can scratch the glass surface, and don’t even think of dropping it. Even the way food is prepared has to be more carefully monitored. Remember the “easy-to-wipe-clean” part? A salty or sugary boil-over can cause pitting, or harden to a heat tempered glaze. Some manufacturers are providing a “paint scraper” device for removing baked on spills.
Refrigerators have become larger, as cooling systems become smaller. But, efficient integration into common kitchen spaces is lagging behind. Some new models must be placed so doors can open back a full 180 degrees or the crisper drawers won’t open. Many existing kitchen floor plans put the ‘fridge in a corner which prevents new doors from opening back far enough. Everyday people bring home a new unit to an old kitchen only to find they can’t use all of the wonderful new features that looked so great in the show-room. Other models are too wide or too tall to fit into the space that used to hold the old “side-by-side.”
My college days saw the introduction of microwave ovens in campus snack-centers. The miracle of heating food at lightening speed was a mixed blessing, however. Everyone had a problem remembering to open food packages before placing them into the amazing magic oven. The contents rapidly heated causing trapped moisture to flash to steam inside the sealed package. The plastic packages of sandwiches and milk cartons were no match against the power of steam which would rip them open, often violently.
Early morning saw a constant parade of people desiring warm sausage biscuits or hot chocolate. Instead they spent time cleaning up with mops and paper towels, because they had blown up their breakfast. It took some adjustments in the way we thought about cooking, but gradually the number of hot food fatalities dwindled, and more warm food was consumed than cleaned off the oven walls.
Like it or not, things are still changing. Just keep your eyes open, read instructions and try to stay away from food recipes that involve explosions.
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