On the second shelf of a makeshift liquor cabinet in my apartment in Brooklyn, New York, there is a memento from a Thanksgiving past. It is a tomato-red oven mitt, the thumb of which is singed so badly the stuffing pokes out, suspended inside a shadow box frame. The mitt was a gift from my aunt, who, in a frenzy of lightning-round cooking, once handed me a dish of stuffing that had caught fire in the oven. When I protested, she motioned for me to hustle it to the table.
It is hard for me to conceive of a cooking experience that doesn't involve negotiations with heat, a cacophony of sounds and a tangle of smells. For me, the pleasure of preparing a meal (besides serving it and eating it, of course) is visceral. I love the scent of bacon grease and the sound of the whirring fan in the oven hood. I am lulled by a hand-cramping hour of stirring polenta. My most cherished cooking memories are the ones marked by burnt tongues, tricky pilot lights and imperfectly browned vegetables. But this year, I decided to go modernist, sleek and flame-free. My goal was Thanksgiving dinner made entirely with high-tech cooking equipmentthe kind of shiny, stainless steel appliances, with display screens and touch pads, that do silent, odorless work. A sous vide machine created for at-home use. A state-of-the-art induction burner. A newfangled electric pressure cooker.
- Food Tech: Websites and Gadgets
- Gastronaut Files: The New Sous Vide
- Induction Cooking: New High-Tech Ranges
- Gastronaut Files: Pressure Cooker Recipes
- Perfecting Thanksgiving Dinner
- Perfecting Thanksgiving Dinner: How to Cook Turkey
- Perfecting Thanksgiving Dinner: Vegetables
The aim was to find out whether using these appliances resulted in a more delicious dinner. It was also to find out if the experience of cooking with equipment designed to minimize human errorto make preparing a meal easier, faster and less messy by keeping the human mostly out of itwas somehow less fulfilling than cooking the old-fashioned way. Would food made in a machine that looked like R2-D2's baby brother taste better than food made with a wooden spoon and a sauté pan? I was certain it would not. I was also certain that, having done more pushing of buttons than fending off of flames, I would be putting this Thanksgiving dinner on the table feeling a little empty inside.