Happy Giving Tuesday! Say, did you read this article published in the Wall Street Journal last week? In it, Keith Blanchard, former Editor-in-Chief of Maxim, laments the sorry state of American kitchens. He points to a particularly noxious culprit for their recent plunge: “hipster cooking gizmos.”
Blanchard begins his piece by announcing that he’s “a card-carrying dad of a certain age" who's just gotta make his pancakes. Lately, though, he's noticed that his children have turned into joyless automations, their reaction to their old man's cooking considerably more muted than it was before the advent of the cronut. His kids, he suspects, have fallen victim to the buzz that surrounds the latest innovations encroaching upon the kitchen.
He addresses the reader and points out what he assumes is on “your own pantry shelf,” like an aging panini press or forlorn bread maker of yesteryear, before turning his scalpel to hipsters, bemoaning their penchant for Stumptown coffee and non-normative meats like quail. He calls their now-popularized, hegemonic diets “insupportably decadent." He believes that food must now, as a mandate of the hipster control over the dominion of American cooking, be “intriguingly hyper-complex.” This has resulted in the creation of gadgets that are entirely too cumbersome to clean and maintain, and distressingly specific in their aims, like mini-donut makers or coffee art pens or macaron kits or waffle cone makers. “I have some reservations about all of this,” he writes late in his piece, in case we missed it.
Uh, yeah—as Nell Carter once sang, give me a break. Blanchard's piece teeters between humor and anger, and I'm afraid its occasional virtues are undone by the thrust of its non-argument: Blanchard, to me, doesn't ably make the case that this particular demographic is to blame. How demonstrably different is this recent trend Blanchard ascribes to hipsters, a demographic that's much easier to hate than it is to define, from previous kitchen creations? Innovation is sewn into the arc of history.
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The article sent a good number of smart people into fits of fury and rage, for they suspected that Blanchard was sneering and punching down at youth. Two days ago, NPR's Linda Wertheimer interviewed Blanchard about his piece. It’s a startlingly uncritical interview that barely lasts four minutes. Wertheimer doesn’t press Blanchard enough on the, I think, valid criticism to be made of his piece: Is he just getting churlish about kids these days?
Are ‘hipster cooking gadgets’ like mini donut makers and coffee art pens *really* ruining the comfort of cooking? https://t.co/zh6pwBwfth
So, earlier this morning, I posed the question that Blanchard's piece asks to our hotline. I got a grand total of five responses, many of which were variants of the same hesitant answer: Some contended that unitask-oriented cookware is too good to be true; others believed that such tools are meant for the green and inexperienced. But, as Cav wrote, if the resultant dish is as good as it would've been created under more traditional circumstances, who gives a shit? This was a small sample size, so I moseyed on over to the greatest public forum of them all, Twitter. The responses were, as of writing, near-evenly split between yes and no, skewing slightly towards, "No, that's absurd!"
I will offer this: I don't really have any of these gadgets, because I'd rather siphon off my precious capital elsewhere. These gizmos he writes of? In this economy? Just can't afford them! But many of you have been cooking for much longer than I have, and with alarmingly more dexterity, so I'd like to know if you think that these are killing cooking. I’m going to go with “no.” But tell me what you think.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.