National Geographic magazine, a mail-order Caring About Things merit badge for baby boomers, has been running a "Future of Food" series on the Plate, its food blog, for the past few months. This month's entry was written by Mary Beth Albright, an attorney, food writer, and former contestant on Food Network Star's seventh season, and it's ... hhhehhhhh ... it's something.
Ms. Albright has some ideas about the future of cooking. About how computers for dorks will change the future of cooking. About—well, let's just let her explain it for herself.
Back in April I was asked by a group of food product developers to identify the most important kitchen appliance of the past five years. My answer: the iPad.
"The what?" — like 99.999999 percent of all the people who cook food on the face of the earth.
But I may need to revise.
"Y'see, turns out there's this thing called [exaggerated finger quotes] the stove [close exaggerated finger quotes] that's quite popular in certain demographics."
Smart clothing and accessories, perhaps most usefully Google Glass, could revolutionize—again—how we cook.
Shit, man, and here I was thinking "again" meant that it had already happened before.
[Chainsaws dictionary in half.]
I had the cooks at "hands-free."
Cool, cool. How did they feel about "Retails for $1,500?"
Glass's images go wherever your line of sight goes,
"...only sorta up and to the right, in the area of your line of sight that opthalmologists refer to as 'not in your line of sight.'"
Glass's benefits go beyond the obvious hands-free recipe searching and viewing. Watch an instructional video on how to dice an onion, directly over where your own hands are chopping an onion.
"Whoa, this is so cool! I can watch an instructional video on how to dice an onion, directly over where OH GOD I JUST CHOPPED MY ENTIRE FUCKING ARM OFF"
Or convert measurements by saying "OK Glass, what is the conversion of grams to ounces?" and tapping your eyeglass temple.
"OK Glass, what is the conversion of millennia-old kitchen practice to overpriced Borg cosplay for white people?"
[Taps eyeglass temple.]
[Gets onion juice and arm-blood on eyeglass temple.]
[Vaporizes the entire stupid hands-free fantasy.]
Combine Glass and the NSA's monitoring of citizens' internet use, and those people who claim the FBI is listening to them through dental fillings don't seem so crazy anymore.
Google Glass and the NSA: a match made in culinary-school heaven!
although Google warns "some eye makeup might throw off the wink sensor."
WARNING: Certain Clairol products may cause Google Glass to clamp down on your cranium and turn your skull into an incubator for Eric Schmidt clone fetuses.
It's the perfect gift for your Instagraming foodie friend who frequents restaurants with no-photograph contracts.
"No cameras allowed, but sure, wear your sketchy creep-shot faceputer, we're totally OK with that." —none of the restaurants.
I don't know about you guys, but I am super-eager to share a restaurant with a bunch of Randroids winking at their artisanal bacon-foam amuse-bouche to upload photos of it to Instagram. In a fair and just world, that gesture would summon a fucking cruise missile.
Wearable technology could do what all of the cookbooks, food TV shows, classes, and counter-top sous-vide circulators haven't: transform the actual practice of cooking. Paradoxically, technology will make cooking more accessible for some by making it virtually hands-free and voice-activated.
Yes! At long last! Finally, someone has endeavored to make cooking more accessible for tech-industry millionaires.
The actual practice of cooking could use another iteration
Yeah, and let's review its deliverables, too. This "food" stuff turns to shit every time I chew and swallow it.
because people are simply not cooking much any more, at a cost to health, well-being, and communities.
I know, right! I've often thought to myself that I could get so much more cooking done if I spent half my monthly income to have a smartphone strapped to my forehead.
And yes, this is a problem in households that can afford Glass although we're less likely to discuss that demographic because they can just pick up a nutritious prepared meal at Whole Foods without worrying about the price.
"And yes, I'm speaking exclusively of the richest 0.000000001 percent of all humans, who can eat literally whatever they want whenever they want. But ...."
Oh, shut the fuck up.
the fact remains: They are still not cooking, and their health will almost certainly improve if they do.
And weren't we all worried about the health of our vampire class?
Google needs to get the memo on Glass's potential with home cooks. Currently its culinary push appears geared toward the go-go restaurant crowd. The Glass website features a single cooking video, with the instigator of the modern gourmet food truck trend Chef Roy Choi. The video has a staccato style with Choi joking about pureeing leprechauns for green sauce because "they have no bones" and trying to get his mom off the phone while he's cooking. For Choi fans or swearing tattooed chef fans (I'm both) it's funny and endearing but it's disappointingly aimed at a niche and small demographic, limiting Glass's potential.
Google is presumably trying to capture young early adopters of technology with the video; the company also had designer Diane von Furstenberg design frames exclusively for Glass. But the iPad didn't similarly limit itself in early days—I bought my first-generation iPad in line next to 70-year-old former Secretary of State Bill Cohen—and its influence was monumental. Glass needs to speak to more than just Google's choir and it needs to speak in more than one dialect.
See if you can make sense of this. I read it five times, and now I've got a bag around my head. (Google High-Density Polyethylene!) For one thing, why in particular does Google need to do this? For Google's sake? So that it can tap into a heretofore unexploited market opportunity? Why should a National Geographic reader—or Mary Beth Albright—give a fuck whether Google figures out how to market its dumber-than-hell skullculator to various kinds of rich people? Did National Geographic become a magazine for Google investors while I wasn't looking?
Also, not for nothing, but "former high-ranking federal government officials buy iPads, too" maybe isn't the best evidence of the iPad's populist appeal?
"iPad: Rich people love it, and old rich people love it!"
Look, I'm ambivalent about Glass.
[Eats nothing but oranges for 25 years.]
[Drinks nothing but orange juice for 25 years.]
[Wins a Grammy for her song, "Oranges Are the Best of the Fruits."]
"Eh, I'm not really all that into oranges." —Mary Beth Albright.
Ha ha ha, no you are not ambivalent about Google Glass, Mary Beth Albright. You are "ambivalent" about Google Glass like Jared is ambivalent about Subway. Not. Not ambivalent. You ambinlovewithit.
When Paul Simon sang of the crazy lady who had diamonds on the soles of her shoes, no one predicted three decades later we too would demand equally expensive objects in our clothes.
Even at $1500 each, even with the forthcoming iWatch and smart shirt spun from a fiber that monitors your heart rate and sends it to your phone, Glass is the most exciting wearable technology for food lovers.
"Look, I'm ambivalent about Glass."
"Look, when you really think about it, up actually is down."
Hopefully Google will deliver that message to the over-Millennial crowd.
"The future of Instagram depends on it."