By Tammera J Karr PhD
What are your must-have gizmos, gadget, tool, or appliance in your home or RV kitchen?
This question had come before me frequently of late and got me thinking about all the tools we have available today, designed for one form or another of food preparation. It is quite overwhelming when you do a small search on Amazon, Overstock, or Wayfair for Kitchen tools and appliances. As a food historian, I have seen kitchen tools from colonial days to the present, some have lasted over the centuries, and others came and went. The one tool every kitchen has at least one of is a knife. History and archaeology can show us blades of every shape and material dating from man’s earliest forays into tool making.
When reading about pioneers coming west and what individuals started with, then left along the trail; the list is long from furniture to wood cook stoves, books to rugs, copper pots, and pans to bone china. But the knife always seemed to make the list of must-haves. When families packed up their belongings and moved during the dust bowl, the kitchen knife was secured in the load once again. So what about today – does the humble knife still have relevance with food processors, electric carving blades, mincers, blenders, and more?
Ohh, Ya, our fascination with knives is still very real. Each time I open one of my social media pages, an ad for Damascus steel kitchen knives with wood, ceramic, bone, and composite handles of every size and color greets me. I feel like a magpie drawn to shiny – wanting this one and that.
Unlike the pioneers or my grandmother, I have to consider the requirements of another kitchen appliance that rules supreme – the dishwasher. My grandmother never had to weigh the acquisition of her mixing bowls, hand tools, dishes, and knives against Dishwasher Safe. Ok, many folks don’t have dishwashers, but what about microwave ovens?
The microwave oven made it big in the mid-1980s when the once expensive countertop high-tech oven became affordable to the masses in North America. A whole new approach to cooking took the states by storm. Candy, bacon, rice, and potatoes in minutes, and soon freezers were filled with not the functional aluminum oven TV dinner but the snazzy plastic dish quick meal. I admit that this is one electric appliance short-lived in my kitchen and RV. After three years of not even using the microwave’s timer function in our RV, we removed it and turned the space into convenient storage for those kitchen tools used almost daily. I enjoy cooking and find it as fast as ready-made meals. The motions involved with preparing a meal are timeless and allow one to slow down and take stock in the day’s events while flavoring the food with intention and care. On the practical side, I’ll admit at home and in the RV counter space to use those nifty knives on will always win out over another electrical gadget.
Did you grow up with Pyrex? Pretty much every wedding from the 1940s to the present has had at least one set of Pyrex mixing bowls if festive or retro colors. Countless batches of popcorn, salads, mashed potatoes, and pasta have been offered up to family members in Pyrex over the decades, and they were the first freezer to oven to tableware of the modern age. There are downsides to grandmothers stoneware and Pyrex. The heavy metal content and exposure from ceramics pre-2015 are serious considerations, especially if children eat from these dishes. But will this champion of the kitchen be replaced with Silicone? Maybe, but there is a lot we don’t know about silicone cookware – remember how Teflon took over the kitchen in the 1970s and 80s? Today we know there are health dangers from cooking and using Teflon, so much so that the US government banned its use. Ok, they may have excluded it more for the threat to the ozone than your health, but we will take this win any way we can get it.
There are still more appliances filling the cupboards; electric frying pans, instant pots, hand benders, ice cream makers, popcorn poppers, and more. When it comes down to it, just how many of these appliances do we really need, or even use more than once a year? If we were loading a wagon to head west today, how many of these would be left behind? There is something to be said for simplicity. When we use the knife, rolling pin (reminiscent of the mortar and pestle), and spoon, we are using tools that have passed the test of time. The physical motions we do of slicing, chopping, ladling, pouring, rolling, and pressing are little changed from that of the pioneers or ancient peoples who first settled our world. When explorers of old went forth, simplicity ruled due to practical needs. Today millions of people in other parts of the world still use rudimentary kitchen tools to prepare their daily meals; these tools may have been passed down through generations or fabricated from available materials. Why they are still in demand comes down to serviceable, dependable, and portable.
Consider the appliance invasion that may have been going on in your kitchen. Before buying the newest gizmo, pause and ponder how much space it takes up, and if its value is real or just because everyone else has one. Keep those tools that increase the enjoyment of cooking, that connect you to family and friends – the rest pass them by in favor of less stuff to weigh you down.
To read more on the modernization of the kitchen by Tammera Karr
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Every year I have clients tell me they made a New Years’ resolution to eat better, lose weight, and exercise more. And like clockwork, there’s, and my resolutions are so far down on the priority list by February that there is no motivation to drag them to the top again. Why does this happen – is it we are weak in caricature, deficient, bad people?
It turns out we have been trying to initiate change in our lives under a faulty premise. I have said for years the best way to help a client is “To Not set them up for failure” by asking them to change too much at once. The Stanford Behavioral Health Lab had to work with 40,000 clients to learn the same thing.
Think back on all the things you have learned and accomplished in your life. You didn’t learn or do it all at once; some things took practice, familiarity, and confidence others you wonder how in the world did I get through that? We often time hear the phrase “take baby steps.”
The Stanford University Behavior Research Lab has found a painful gap between the changes people want and what they actually do. For the most part, we tend to blame ourselves for not being willing to work hard enough to adopt new habits. Behavior research shows, to be effective, change doesn’t have to be hard at all—and shouldn’t be. Tiny adjustments that come easily and make us happy are the ones that work best. It’s our approach to self-improvement that needs to change.
According to behavior researcher BJ Fogg, PhD., “It turns out that there is a formula for any successful shift in behavior. This applies to everything from flossing your teeth to running a marathon. To instill a habit, the first thing you need is motivation: Pick a behavior that you want to do rather than one you merely feel obligated to do. Second, you need to be able to do it: Make the change simple and small at first. Third, you need a personal prompt: Identify a way to reliably trigger the behavior. Finally, you need to celebrate your new habit, so that your brain associates it with positive feelings”.
First, don’t think you have to create motivation. Choose habits that you already are eager to adopt.
Second, go tiny. Why? Small is successful and sustainable because it is simpler.
Third, design a prompt.
We respond almost automatically to hundreds of behavior prompts each day (for instance, when you feel a few drops of rain on your arm, you open your umbrella); no behavior happens without some kind of prompt.
Here is an example: I was talking to a client about their InstaPot. For two years, it had been in a box on the counter – never opened. The whole idea of a pressure pot, something they had no experience with, created anxiety and procrastination. This client with a high-stress job in healthcare had to change from the regular pot or pan to using this appliance in small steps; they had no frame of reference for using a pressure pot, or canning, these where different tools with a foreign language. It wasn’t about motivation. It was the uncertainty over doing something for the first time that made the roadblock.
“It isn’t primarily repetition over a long period that creates habits; it’s the emotion that you attach to them from the start.”
So, while we were on the phone, with my experience with pressure canning, she opened the box and put it to work. Was it a complete success? No, but it wasn’t a failure either. The InstaPot was no longer a boogie man waiting to blow up; it was easy to operate, clean and convenient. Now she is willing to try again and keep trying until her comfort level becomes second nature. Because I was on the phone with her, she felt like she had help, and we made it fun, less stressful. We celebrate her tiny victory by treating the next step like a detective story, reading researching and watching videos while comparing notes.
To making tiny sustainable proactive changes for our health.
On the Journey to New Habits, Take Tiny Steps: New Year’s resolutions fail because people aim too high and get discouraged quickly. Instead, celebrate small accomplishments. – https://www.wsj.com/articles/on-the-journey-to-new-habits-take-tiny-steps-11577985523?emailToken=e941c82b2acd54635b41bfbf06c38a11NOmjXHECRogTse0J4ZgD2L+35NukdsYmUhsbsU/3e4Tm7ywSen9rB6QVPgyd3YAxHyqDeWmBcxbkjdRFYSfNnqxdGFN4+hKSb3gD6NiuFsw%3D&reflink=article_email_share
“Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything,” by BJ Fogg, Ph.D. 2020, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt