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27 August 2014

The Natural Kitchen


I remember growing up as child in post-war America that food seemed to be the center of life in the Henry household.  Sunday was a family chicken dinner, Thursday spaghetti and meatballs, Friday was fresh bread and pizza from Bruno’s and the other nights we had TV dinners on the sofa watching our favorite shows, or more like my father’s favorite shows.  Although I can’t recall my mother cooking, other than our weekly chicken dinner, I do have vivid memories of Saturday morning shopping missions to the local Safeway supermarket in the San Fernando Valley.



Living in the shadow of nuclear war with the Russians, those “Godless commies” as my father would call them, we shopped as if we were shopping for the end of western-civilization.  Eggs, bacon, breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, assorted fruits and a few vegetables and cans upon cans of Jolly Green Giant corn and peas, mother would rotate them from time to time…I remember years later, helping my parents to pack up the house for a move to New Hampshire and finding cans of corn and peas in the pantry dating back to the Kennedy administration.  And meat, my God we purchased and froze more meat than we could ever possible eat…again, I have no memory of ever actual defrosting anything, other than my dad drive down to the butcher for fresh steaks because the ones he had were still frozen and far from ready to barbecue.

The point of this jog down memory-lane is to point out that much of America’s shopping and eating habits have changed very little since the 1950’s and I would go so far as to say that they have gotten far worse.  Today we need to worry about everything from an increase in food-allergies to diabetes.  As well as added growth hormones, anti-biotic to genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and that directly effects our overall health.   I believe that it’s time to rethink how we eat, what we eat and most importantly how we shop and prepare our meals.

For years I have been traveling back and forth to Europe for my work as a kitchen designer, and the opportunity presents its self to stay with friends instead of a hotel.  It has always amazed me that the kitchen, like in the US,  is the hub of daily life…it seems as if the same care and thought went into each meal, but something was very different, every meal was a symphony of color, taste and texture.  From the morning meal of eggs, cheese and assorted meats, as well as juice and coffee to the evenings meal of fish or chicken, vegetables, bread and wine.  For years I thought it was just the fact I was in a different environment than I was use to and that somehow this made the experience different.  And then it came to me.

In the middle of a lively debate, over an after-dinner glass of wine and a plate of assorted cheese, at my friends kitchen table in the Italian countryside, we were discussing the merits of American verses European kitchen design when we happen upon the topic of refrigeration, when the fundamental differences between European and American life hit me…the average American family was still living and buying food on a 50 year old model based upon an Industrial Food Complex of corporate farming, industrial processing and packaging and national retail food distribution, all which encourages mass consummation and storage of food stuffs that have been pumped  full with additives for longer shelf life. And as when I was a child, we still go out once a week and buy as if the world is about to end…hence the need for a huge, monolithic, stainless steel box we call a refrigerator. 

On the other hand, our European cousins are living an almost Utopian lifestyle when compared to ours.  Thinking that the smaller, 60cm (24”) refrigerator was due to the smaller nature of European kitchens, it was quickly brought to my attention how wrong I was and the smaller fridge was reflective of lifestyle and the daily nature of meal preparation.  Almost everything is purchased for that day’s preparation and consumption.  Fresh bread from the corner bakery, fresh fish or poultry for the evening meal, eggs, milk from a local farm and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from the weekly farmers market or freshly picked from their own home garden.

The question is whether or not we can change our eating and buying habits for better health and nutrition.  Dr Mark Hyman believes that modern health care is flawed because it is based upon the premise of treatment and not prevention.  Dr Hyman believes that the future of health care will take place in the family kitchen and not the doctor’s office.  

He went on to say “We ate ourselves into this problem, we can eat our way out”.

I have to agree with the good doctor, I to believe we can eat our way back to a healthy lifestyle and I also believe it starts in the kitchen. I have given much thought to this and feel that we all can make a few minor changes in the way we approach the way we purchase, store ad prepare food.

The Natural Kitchen is a healthier as well as a sustainable environment. Here a few simple ways you can change your life as well improve the world around you.
The Natural Kitchen:
1.    Buy local. Buy fresh, Buy daily.      
2.    Plant a garden…Grow your own 
3.    Use your leftovers
4.    Store your food correctly for longer life
5.    Use a larder for vegetables and certain dairy products
6.    Replace your appliances to reduce energy consumption
7.    Compost your organic kitchen waste
8.    Reduce, reuse and recycle!
9.    Support the Non-GMO Project
10.  Use natural lighting when possible, LED’s when necessary.
11.  Live mindfully. Eat consciously. Choose as if it makes a difference.




 




 






31 May 2014

THE NEW PRINCIPLES OF KITCHEN DESIGN, a re-post

I have been designing kitchens for over 30 years and like most of my peers, associates and contemporaries, I have followed religiously the holy tenets of our faith…the un-questioned “work-triangle”, that was until I met a holy-man from a far away land called Michigan, on a pilgrimage to share his vision of how things should work and a set of principles to live by.

It is truly hard to believe that we are still design kitchens based on an idea born out of the “rational” movement of the 1900’s. The work-tri-angle was created to maximize the efficiency and eliminate unneeded steps and movements in the preparation and cooking of the daily meals, thus allowing the woman of the house to free up her valuable time for more important tasks like cleaning, laundry and childcare.

This once private domain of the feminine world has now given way to a new social order and reflects the world that we live in. Today we find a more “democratized” environment, where everyone is welcomed in the kitchen, a place where family, friends, and guests are invited, if not encouraged, to participate in the ritual of preparation.

And with this increased activity and additional bodies, all in a high-traffic ballet of fire, boiling water and sharp pointy things, we find that the assembly-line kitchen of the past century, with its uniform horizon of sink, dishwasher, cook-top, oven and refrigerator, forever locked in its limited one-person “work-triangle”, must make way to a new way of thinking.

The pilgrim I speak of is industry thought-leader, designer and manufacturer, Pete Walker. His evolutionary or maybe more correct, revolutionary concept is called the “Proximity Principles©”. According to Pete’s first principle, “A kitchen should be arranged around a series of task based work centers in relative proximity to each other and in proper sequence relative to tasks as they actually occur in the art of cookery”.

According to Pete, the Principles dictate the adaptation of the site conditions to various task-appropriate layouts and the results of their use are uniformly functional. As is true of any situation, site and structural issues and the constraints of budget,  will impact the final result. In other words, no matter the size, shape or budget of the kitchen, the Principles always improve the use of whatever space is available.

To further his beliefs, Pete has created a line of eco-centric kitchens that embody his philosophy; the Proximity Kitchen System™ eliminates the vast number of unnecessary options, elements and configurations currently found in both domestic and imported mass-manufactured kitchen product lines. His streamlined collection leaves the designer with an elegant intersection of minimalist product and maximizes achievable function.

A kitchen based on the “Principles” is therefore no longer skewed by geometric happenstance; the obsolete “work triangle”, but, based on a set of irreducible “first principles”. These principles organize a clear set of design techniques and protocols which create space that allow an individual to move gracefully through a kitchen where everything comes easily to hand as it is needed or as Pete would say, “Life within reach”.

Like any movement or belief out of the norm, Pete and his “Principles” have its share of nah-sayers and distracters, but there seems to be an ever growing legion of architects, interior designers and kitchen specialist, who call themselves “Proxies”, that have embraced this new thought in both mind and heart as well as action in the practice of their trade.

If you would like to know more about Pete and the Principles or would like additional information regarding the Proximity Kitchen System, I would encourage you to visit www.proximitykitchen.com

05 January 2014

WHERE DO YOU COOK? REDEFINING THE CULINARY EXPERIENCE

Just imagine for a moment in the not so distant future that you have been delayed at work with and unscheduled meeting and find yourself running 45 minutes late for dinner…no worries...you just pullout your mobile device and access your oven and with a couple of well placed taps upon the screen, you simply re-calibrate the cooking time on your roast to finish at 7:30 when you arrive home…Science-fiction?  No…not anymore.

The Connected Kitchen will be the next big thing to hit your home…with smart phone  technology slowly creeping into all of your home electronics…it will be just a matter of time before the kitchen, once again becomes the central core of family life.  

Easy, convenient and connected, that’s what the modern homeowner wants in their next appliance. With both partners working, time has become a luxury, so appliances need to step-up and participate in the process and take some of the burden in meal preparation.

The American consumer wants a true smart appliance and not just another mindless drone, They want appliances that can be accessed remotely via a smart-phone or tablet, so they can be free themselves from the confines of the kitchen and to monitor their meals or appliances from where ever they are.  Pre-heat the oven from the office, or start the casserole from the soccer field or maybe the range will speak directly with the factory regarding the results of a remote diagnostic system check. 

Dacor, the Southern California based luxury appliance manufacturer, is no longer imagining the future as much as defining the future with the launch of the Discovery iQ Wall-Oven and Discovery 48” iQ Dual-Fuel Range at the 2014 International Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 7 – 10, 2014.

"It’s not about technology for technology sake…it’s about simplifying the process, to make the culinary experience accessible to everyone and to empower the individual" said Steve Joseph at a CES press event.  He went on to say, “Our new products are breaking new ground in the kitchen appliance industry with smart technology that makes cooking an extension of the connected lifestyle." Said Steve Joseph, President of Dacor.

The proprietary iQ Cooking App, accessed through an integrated Android interface,   eliminates the guesswork associated with preparing popular dishes and family recipes by way of a pre-programmed guide.  It enables users to prepare a wide range of dishes to perfection with the touch of a finger. Simply select the desired recipe from the display menu, insert the dish, initiate the program and relax as the oven takes care of the rest. Additionally, when the desired cooking time has been reached, the oven will place the dish on warming mode and send you a text that your meal is ready to serve.  

“The Discovery iQ Wall Oven and 48” iQ Range are truly revolutionary and have raised the bar for cooking convenience and performance by combining advanced cooking technology with the insight of the iQ Cooking application. Dacor has empowered the novice chef to perform at expert levels with a simple swipe of a finger. With control features such as Guided Cooking, Quick Start Guide, Slow Cook Mode and Personal Recipe Storage, the home chef is almost guaranteed to cook all their favorite dishes to perfection.

As Arthur C Clark once wrote, "Something is about to happen...something wonderful.". Dacor has truly taken the next step in the advancement of cooking technology and yes Mr Clark...Something "wonderful" is about to happen.

Follow this link to a great YouTUBE video on the iQ Wall Oven : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-e1o93JFiM&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLGKHQD1-BqQkhz2IWjOEkXh6NM0wEhSs4