I'm not usually tempted by infomercials, other than the Time-Life Ultimate Rock Ballads collection, and you can't blame me there--it had that one Glass Tiger song--how is that NOT worth $118? But give me a half-hour pitch for some new kitchen gadget, and I will stare at the tv transfixed, wondering, "How have I managed to even feed myself without this?"
Television has taught me that my way of doing things in the kitchen will just lead to spills, messes, and wasted money . Why, according to an ad I saw for some vacuumy sealer thing, last year alone I threw away more than FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS WORTH OF FOOD!
I wasn't into cooking when Ginsu Knives came out, and since I've started taking cooking seriously, I've still never needed to slice through an aluminum can. I have considered the Magic Bullet set, partly because it's the only infomercial product I know that's named after an assassination conspiracy theory.
For a hundred bucks, you start with a high-torque power base, and I think it was the great chef Escoffier who said, "La cuisine est tout au sujet du couple, bébé!" (Yes, I looked up the French word for 'torque' for you people.)
Naturally, you get your cross blade and your flat blade, your tall AND short bullet cups, some steamer/shaker tops, and your resealable containers. You also get party mugs with 'comfort lip rings,' because who hasn't had a party ruined by uncomfortable mugs?
At this point I'm sure you're thinking "That's probably all there is," but in fact...THERE'S MORE! There's a Magic Bullet Cookbook that's worth the hundred bucks by itself--if only because it includes a recipe for 'snazzy' egg salad. I've made egg salad before, but it's never had any snazz!
And they'll throw in a blender, and a juicer that "works as easily as the two-hundred dollar juicers." You know, those two-hundred dollar juicers so many of us grew up with.
That's twenty-one pieces of time-savin' convenience. Which isn't as impressive as the Cake Pops kit--that has twenty-five pieces, although, to be fair, eighteen of those are the sticks you use to hold the cake pops. I'm just sayin', that's really only one item--The Sticks. Weirdest part of the ad is when they talk about not wanting to deal with "the hassle of cake." Yeah, because After "The Man," cake is probably the biggest source of hassle in my life. What?
I own one "As Seen On TV" product. As a fiftieth-birthday gift, a well-meaning friend bought me a Slap-Chop. See, in order to chop with it, you slap the top of it, so it's basically for people who feel the chopping experience doesn't include enough violence. And I gotta say, you can release a surprising amount of aggression slap-chopping.
Around the same time of night when you might see a Slap-Chop ad, there are also a huge number of career oriented ads, but I don't imagine they're very effective. I'm pretty sure most people watching basic cable at four in the morning have already made peace with not having a job.
No matter which barely-accredited almost-fictional school is being pitched, the ads are the same. Perky people telling their friends about the rewards of an exciting career at the cutting edge of tomorrow's jobs in the growing field of computer science. Or refrigeration and heating. Or medical transcription.
I saw the same actress on two different ads--she must be taking a double major in dental hygeine and motorcycle repair. What really caught my attention was an ad for Le Cordon Bleu, because they have an online program! Really? How does that work? Unless Apple has come up with a computer interface that allows you to taste or smell what you cooked, how do they know if you passed a test?
I think it was Marlon Brando who once said in an interview with Playboy, "Regret is a useless emotion," and I would have to agree (though I'm guessing he DID regret appearing in The Island of Dr. Moreau with Val Kilmer). So, I wouldn't use the word 'regret' but I will say, I wish I had discovered my inner foodie when I was younger, because I would have considered culinary school.
But no, I entered college as a cybernetics major, because you know what they say, "If you have a cybernetics degree, you can...build cool robots?" Actually, I'm not really sure what I was planning to do with a cybernetics degree , or with any of the other degree paths I tried.
My last major of record was English--clearly by that point I'd given up on the idea of 'earning a living'--and I constantly had to answer the question, "What are you gonna DO with your degree?" If I'd been in cooking school, it would have been so much easier. I could have said "I'm gonna cook, dumbass."
The Culinary Institute of America seems like the Harvard of cooking schools, and their curriculum features all the classes you might expect--food safety, nutrition--plus something called 'meat fabrication,' which sounds a bit too Orwellian for my tastes ("Lunch will be served immediately after the meat is fabricated.")Also, you're required to take two foreign languages, meaning the average chef, when he graduates, is more globally aware than most other Americans.
I was seriously considering a career at the cutting edge of tomorrow's jobs in the growing field of...meat fabrication, when I learned how much a culinary education costs. At the Institute, tuition is just over fifty THOUSAND dollars. Now I know why duck confit is so expensive. Hell, a duck probably only costs ten or twelve dollars--the other forty bucks is so the chef can pay off his student loans!
At this stage of my life, though, if I somehow came across fifty grand, I think I'd pass on culinary school. Instead, I'd invest that money in some sort of cooking gadget that I could sell for $21.95 in a half-hour show. Maybe a quinoa sifter ("Tired of sifting your quinoa the old-fashioned way?"), or specially-designed asparagus tongs.
All you have to do is tell people that the way they've always done some kitchen task is "too much hassle" or "throwing money down the drain." Maybe add the phrase "space-age technology." Sure, I'd have to spend money on a B-grade celebrity spokesperson ("Now here's TV's Scott Baio with a testimonial for the revolutionary new Asparagus Master!"). And I'd have to actually invent something, but after that, it's pure profit.
"Are you spending too much time flipping your omelets by hand? Do you always overcook one side of the pancake? Tired of burgers sticking to supposedly non-stick pans because you didn't flip them in time? How many meals have you ruined with flimsy spatulas? Then you need The Flipper! Powered by the same technology used in NASA's advanced weather satellites, a tiny patented mechanism activates the Turbo Food Paddles on The Flipper, so you can serve perfectly-flipped food every time!"