Daily Archives: August 6, 2009

Hot Off the Range: Speedcook Ovens

I’m travelling again so here is another old article from Technocopia.com. First published in 1999 or 2000.

The heat wave has arrived with the best of conventional ovens and microwaves blended with a pinch of something new.

Microwaves were popular in the 80s but never really caught on as an alternative to the conventional oven. They have maintained a place in most homes for warming leftovers, drinks and soups, and for making popcorn. The Wall Street Journal Europe (07/01/99) reported that “Just 19% of all home-cooked meals last year came out of microwaves, compared with 20% five years ago, according to NPD Group Inc., a Port Washington, New York, market-research firm.” The problem with a microwave oven is that many foods lose their appealing texture; pizza crust becomes tough, cookies look unbaked, steaks turn into shoe leather and roast chicken has skin that looks like…skin.

Conventional ovens brown and roast and seal in flavors but they require preheating and longer cooking times. Cookies can end up burnt on the edges and raw on the inside. In today’s rushed world, whether you’re a single person with a hectic work and social life, or a family where members run on different schedules, there is often little time for a prepared, oven made meal. If only there was an oven that was fast yet kept the best of flavors and textures.

With those ideas in mind appliance manufacturers researched and came up with several alternatives. General Electric has introduced Advantium, which uses the newest technology of halogen light cooking. Three set-in lamps, which come with a 10-year warranty, emit intense heat and light. Along with timed bursts of microwave energy, a roast is cooked, browned evenly and juices sealed in, its cooking time shortened significantly. The meal has a superior flavor, even when compared to a conventional oven. One downside is that paper will burn and plastic dishes melt from the hot halogen light. In that way, the Advantium is more like a conventional oven than a microwave, but has an 80-meal preprogrammed menu.

GE, believing Advantium will be a big seller, has devoted a $50 million dollar budget for promotion. The Wall Street Journal (10/18/99) quotes Jeff Moody VP of GE marketing: “We expect a good selling season for this . . . and by the end of next year, we should be at a decent run rate… If it takes as long as a microwave did,” he says, “I’d be disappointed.” Advantium can also be switched to its microwave only mode.

KRTBN Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News (11/02/99) reports that “halogen light cooking has been available to the commercial food preparation market for about seven years.” GE chose to do studies and perfect their range first with licensed technologies from Quadlux in Silicon Valley. Quadlux introduced the FlashBake 120 last year for about $1600. It uses halogen flashbake technology but without the microwave burst. Through “thermal-pulsing” the FlashBake directs heat into and onto the food. FlashBake can be plugged into a regular socket like a microwave, whereas Advantium needs to be wired in like a regular oven.

Maytag, with TurboChef Technologies, Inc., has come out with the Jenn-Air Accellis 5XP. The 5XP stands for five times faster than a conventional oven. The Accellis works by jet impingement. Hot air is sucked out and recirculated at about 56 mph around the food. Microwave bursts make sure the interior is cooked. The downside is that the oven’s circulating fan is nosier than standard oven models.

Maytag promotes the easy, time-saving aspects of the Jenn-Air, and points to a “1996 survey by Working Mother magazine that said nearly 60 percent of women surveyed listed ease of preparation as their first or second most important factor in determining what to serve.” Associated Press (11/01/99) A “time wizard” interface allows the cook to choose from a menu for times and settings like a microwave. Maytag plans to market the oven at the beginning of 2000 and with a heftier price tag of $3500 compared to the Advantium’s $1300, it may be an item only for select consumers.

Thermador, with Enersyst’s (KRH Thermal Systems, San Bruno, CA.) commercial cooking expertise, has brought out JetDirect, which takes convection cooking one step farther and channels air into the food directly. Like most of these new ovens it has an automated “CookSmart” feature, which converts conventional cooking times to JetDirect’s. Thermador will also be producing out a “double-oven configuration, with the JetDirect located above and a thermal-convection oven below,” reports National Home Center News (07/19/99). At a cost of $5700 for the JetDirect models, it will be a while until the regular consumer will be using one.

According to Dealerscope Consumer Electronics Marketplace (06/01/99), Frigidaire has come out with its Speed Bake range that by a user-controlled fan system speeds up cooking time by 30%. It “differs from traditional convection in that it does not reduce oven temperature and requires only the flick of a switch.” It is price between $650-$750.

Amana Appliances is the final contender in new faster cooking ovens but doesn’t use microwave technology, reports Tom Robbins for The Times (07/11/99). Although Robbins mentions that the Wave uses only halogen technology like the FlashBake 120, their website only lists the EvenAir, which is a convection range.

All these ovens promote faster cooking times with better textures and tastes to cooked foods. Each one has some automated menu or time-setting feature for cooking, and the halogen ovens include conversion charts from conventional oven recipes. According to the Associated Press article (11/11/99), it may be possible in just a few years to download recipes from the Internet into the oven’s memory. With programmable menus and cooking temperatures, it will not take much more to add the chips to make this possible. Speed cook ovens are just another step toward an integrated, automated kitchen that makes the most of time and cooking easier.

COMPANY

BRAND

COOKS BY:

COST*

TIME CUT BY**

General Electric Advantium 3 halogen lights (4500 watts max) & microwave $1300

75%

Quadlux FlashBake 120 8 Halogen lights (1650 watts max) $1600

35%?

Maytag & TurboChef Jenn-Air Accellis 5XP Jet impingement (forced hot air) $3500

80%

Thermador & Enersyst JetDirect Hot air & convection $5700

75%

Frigidaire Speed Bake Convection? $650-$750

30%

Amana Appliances Wave (EvenAir) Convection

25%

*approx. prices **Compared to conventional ovens (approx. times)

COMPANY SITES
http://www.maytag.com
http://www.frigidaire.com
http://www.geadvantium.com
http://www.geappliances.com
http://www.amana.com (convection ovens—nothing on the Wave)

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Society and Death

We have moved into a period in this culture where death is not part of life, nor the every day. Although death continues to happen to young and old, ill and hale, through accidents, disease and murder, still we talk about it in an all-encompassing way but ignore it in the intimate of the every day.

There may be somebody who will say death is not part of life and for the person who dies, life indeed is no more part of them. But for those who know someone who has died, death is very much part of their lives. It used to be that in small communities, such as mining or fishing towns, when someone died they were laid out upon the table in the family home. A table is where people break bread, eat of the earth, communicate and come together, and it is a place big enough to lay a body. Where it will be cleaned and dressed by family members. A place where a person lays in state for people to pay their last respects before being taken to the church and then buried. Funeral parlors weren’t in every small town.

Death now is the last great taboo of the Western world. When someone dies, people have no idea what to say and so say nothing at all. They’re uncomfortable with the concept of death and avoid it like the plague. Veer around the person whose loved one has died, maybe send an innocuous card. A brave soul might say, I’m sorry to hear about your mother/brother/wife.

The griever is expected, after missing a few days of work, to act normal, to show no emotion that may be seen as sad, maudlin, angry, or grief-stricken. Crying is verboten. After all, people will feel edgy and avoid the grieving. So act like it’s life as normal.

The truth is, grief takes time. There is no set limit but it often takes a year to process through a person’s emotions. People who deny their grief and don’t go through the process can actually do physical damage to themselves. The storing up of such emotions, rather than releasing them through a natural process, can also affect the person’s psyche for the rest of their lives. Studies have shown that you can’t put off your grieving for too long, that there is a crucial period when the grieving should take place.

And yet our society tries to make everyone a stoic, free from any emotions except those that are uplifting and bright. By doing this, we cauterize ourselves from the full range of what it means to be human, effectively castrated from all but the most superficial feelings. You cannot have joy without experiencing pain. A constant state of euphoria cannot last and becomes the norm on which a person then judges bad or good, happy or sad. What would normally be sad becomes huge trauma and depression, with no end in sight to it.

I believe it is this unhealthy avoidance attitude that society has to death and negative emotions which have caused an increase in drug use, both recreational and with anti-depressants, to handle what once our bodies could do on their own. We have fewer ways to cope naturally and must go to the drugs. Drug addicts cannot find that constant euphoria so they hunt it in the addiction, afraid to face a life that encompasses happiness and pain.

And death–we can’t avoid it. It will happen. I never knew what to say to anyone when their family member or friend died. We don’t hug our coworkers, we don’t pat them on the shoulders. We maintain distance. We don’t wail at funerals and beat our breasts. And yet we should, for in those acts we express the grief that otherwise builds up in us. We have an outlet that lets us return to a healthy mentality faster.

I regret that when my sister-in-law’s parents died (at different times) that I didn’t know what to say and said nothing at all. How callous. How ignorant. It took the death of a friend for me to experience the grieving process and to understand how people can feel, and just how long it can take to think of that person without crying and feeling as if someone has crushed your heart. I began to understand that a person grieving can feel very cut off and alone, and as if no one cares.

It is almost like being shunned, when someone has to grieve. Letting a person or a community grieve publicly, sharing memories, talking about the person who passed can help. It validates the feelings and a person will recover faster from mourning if they are allowed to express themselves. And yes it can take a year or longer. I have only lost friends and that affected me greatly. I can’t imagine the depth of the pain and loneliness that their spouses felt.

We can all change this debilitating trend by not being so scared of death and the process that we pretend doesn’t exist. The TV show Six Feet Under took a black humor look at death, from the death that opened each episode to the dysfunctional and very real lives of the mortician family that dealt with their own issues and the mourners for the dead. It was an adventuresome show because it touched on death in a very real way that we shy away from. And the show was a hit; witty, tender, irreverent, strange and examining some aspects of life we would rather avoid.

Now, when I know someone who has lost a loved one, I try to let them grieve, to make sure they know it’s all right, to help them and to express my condolences so that they don’t feel isolated. It is the best way to make life more meaningful, by acknowledging the death of friends, family and coworkers.

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