Cooking Utensils: the Truth Behind the Hype

Using the most suitable cooking utensils can make the difference between a wonderfully planned gastronomic banquet and an awkwardly made excuse-for-food. Or so the celebrity chefs who are sponsored by the major kitchenware companies would have us believe. The question we novice chefs have to ask is, ‘Do the correct tools genuinely make all the difference?’ ‘Does the way you chop, slice, dice and dish out your meat and two veg physically affect the flavour?’

Okay, granted, if you lack the appropriate utensils, it may be tricky to drain your pasta without picking up a couple of third degree burns, and you might find those curly radishes to top your salad bowl difficult to pull off, but is there really an optimal shape and size for food intended for the human mouth? To get a short answer to this question, we need to take a look at Chinese cuisine.

Chinese recipes emphasize the importance of presentation. Eating is a sensory experience. If the food looks, smells and even sounds good (think of sizzling woks wheeled to your table in a good restaurant) we’re salivating even before the first morsel gets anywhere near our mouths. Chinese chefs have long understood that your senses are connected. Your senses all lead to the same place – your brain. And it’s your brain that makes the final assessment. As innumerable sponsored-up-to-their-eyeballs master chefs will fall over each other to inform you, the way you prepare your veggies and present your dishes will have an enormous affect on the way your meal will taste The other definitive feature of Chinese cooking is the way the vegetables and meat are cut. There are strict rules concerning the size and shape of the food on the plate. Each dish should be easy to handle – it should invite you to pick it up… but then again you’ll have to use chopsticks.

Cooking utensils, it would seem, really can transform a mundane meal into a feast… if you know how to use them. Owning the appropriate set of knives to chop and cut, nip and tuck, is one thing; owning the skills to use them is another. However, to develop your technique, you need to own the utensils in the first place. You have to start somewhere, and leafing through a kitchenware brochure at the behest of some celebrity chef or other is as good a place to start as any – the best place to start is from the recipe. After all, the recipe is what you are interested in, and what you and your family is going to end up eating.

What makes a cook into a master chef? The salient factor is their ability to shower their creations with loving care and attention, as anyone who has read an Isabelle Allende novel will testify. Once you have your tools and skills, the possibilities for experimentation and gastronomic exploration are boundless. And you can bet there is a specially designed set of cooking utensils to cope with any culinary creation you might dream up. For the majority of us, one appliance can be adapted to manage a diverse range kitchen tasks, but for the experts there is a specific tool for each and every kitchen task.

This apparently trivial distinction between the two ways of thinking about cooking can have a profound affect on your meals. Take an onion, for example. According to the experts, it should be sliced a particular way to enhance the flavour, although, as we have learnt from the Chinese, the visual result is at least as big a factor in determining how the food will taste. Viewed in this way, slicing the onion ‘after the book’ becomes as important as, say, the amount of oil you add to the pan. It would seem that using the right kitchen utensil in the chef’s domain is imperative. In short, prepping your ingredients by following someone’s mealtime master plan can transform the appearance and flavour of the final dish. Get this right and you are no longer a cook. You are a chef

Selecting The Best Utensil

Selecting the right set of cooking utensils is dependent on the content of each individual recipe. Suggestions for cooking utensils are very often presented within the cooking book or online recipe page and, traditionally, they are accompanied by clear instructions to enable you to choose the right utensil for the right job. Cooking utensils, it would seem, do have a central role to play. Your family is certain to enjoy the excellence of your cooking if it is prepared with skill and loving care, but if not, they may reach for an entirely different set of utensils.

There are many companies that produce fine cooking utensils, but on balance, it is better to start from the recipe book and build up a collection of what you need as needs arise before you start leafing through the pages of glossy catalogues.

Happiness Or Housework – Get Organized For Both!

If you are like most women with a family, you are still at work on your “free” time. Time off is not for rest or play, but for trudging up that steep hill of never-ending chores. Housework organization is necessary, but remember as Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project says, “The days are long but the years are short!”

How do we master the tricky balance of keeping our sanity while having a reasonably clean and organized home?

Delegate

Many working women, including “stay at home” Moms, still do more than their fair share of work. Think about this: if someone had to pay for that family maintenance work, the estimate runs upwards towards $100,000 yearly!

Want to see your time? Get some paper and divide the page into three columns. In the first column, list all of the weekly household tasks. In the next column, the approximate time it takes per week. In the third column, who’s doing it. Now add up everyone’s time, and get delegating!

Even young children can put clothes away, pick up after themselves and help with simple chores. My six year old granddaughter can run the vacuum through the high traffic areas. Encouraging kids in positive ways from a young age saves countless hours spent arguing later on! My Mother was always stressed over doing housework on her day off. I don’t blame her, but it didn’t help motivate me much!

Get Organized With The 4 B’s

Life Coach and author Martha Beck created a prioritizing tool called The 4 B’s: Bag It, Barter It, Better It and Batch It.

Bag It means ditching it!. If you’re dusting once a week, can you Bag It and do it twice monthly? Let go of what you can. People that truly love you don’t care about a little dust on your end-table.

Barter It means trading, including with money, to have someone else do it. Women often say they can’t afford a cleaning person, but regularly spend it on a casual dinner out. Feel guilty paying someone to do “your” work? Think of it as a priceless investment, giving precious time back to you and your family!

Better It means adding something pleasurable to something dreadful. Hate doing dishes? Better It by making a playlist that rocks your energy! Make it a game and count the songs it takes to empty the sink. “Better it” for your kids and Google “games to get your kids to do chores!”

Batch It means doing similar tasks all at once. Pick one hour for family “just do it” time. Shut down the electronics and don’t do anything else during that time. Make it fun, and set up rewards for everyone, including yourself. Rewards are powerful motivators and don’t have to be complex or expensive.

Organize In Baby Steps

Break big jobs into small steps and start with the smallest one. Give yourself permission to stop after completing the first step. Telling ourselves we only have to take one baby step relieves motivation-sapping mental stress, and we may end up inspired to keep going!

Little things add up. Stash natural cleaning wipes in the bathroom and wipe surfaces a few times a week after your bathroom routine. You’re already in there and it takes 60 seconds to wipe out a sink. When you walk through a room, pick up a few things. (See next.)

Get in the habit of putting things in one place, even if it’s just in piles. Assign specific areas for papers, mail, dirty clothes, coats and shoes. Even a little bit of organization saves huge amounts of time looking for lost items, reduces clutter, and makes cleaning more efficient; sorting one pile is easier than finding it all over the place on cleaning day.

Well begun is half done. (Mary Poppins had it right!) Pick one thing, and just get started! It’s never as painful a task as we think and it’s usually done before we know it. Find a balance, make it fun, get it done and go on to live your life!

The Impact of Technology on Marketing and How Brands Can Use Technology in Marketing

The virtual realm ranges from the daily humdrum to some of the most astonishing and complex utilities that have changed the way we live our lives. Today, each one of us have become a creator and designer, which was not very appreciated a decade ago. In 2008, Nike got recognized as the World’s Most Innovative Company, all credit going to Nike iD, which helped the customers to imprint personalized designs onto Nike sneakers. We are living in the age of technology and creativity, where latest and easy to use tech tools accessible on our phones through apps are available. You talk of any sector or industry, technology has not only enabled, but also encouraged a unique customer experience.

Let’s see some examples:

Real Estate: Real Estate professionals are leveraging VR to allow home buyers to visualize, interact with, design and experience their homes in immersive 3D. You can now design your interiors even before the house is constructed. You can now view every corner of your house and see what it looks like in real life, rather than relying solely on 2D models and other people’s advice. To the builders, it helps them is giving confidence to the customer in terms of designing, purchasing decisions and above all saves a lot of time.

Retailers’: Technology has changed the way people explore a store. Now if you want to buy furniture or even a car, you can make your selection sitting on your couch. The pricing and other relevant details are made available just in few clicks and your order gets placed. Also so many technologies, including VR have come up where the customers can take part in an experience where they can design their wardrobes, kitchens, bathrooms, etc. and even share it ahead with their friends through various social media channels.

Advertising: Advertising houses are making big time use of VR and related technologies and are designing their campaigns in context of the brand culture. Mountain Dew for example, created content and videos using Samsung’s Gear VR. Industry players and experts believe that if there is anything that is going to inspire mass consumer adoption, it will be Virtual Reality. It has also been observed that commercials with an interactive experience holds on the visitors for a longer time, in comparison to others!

Entertainment: You can now enjoy the music of your favourite artist anytime and anywhere. Music companies, specially are already exploring the role the technology can play in live music experiences.

Health care: With a 3-D model, doctors can now explore a 360-degree view of the patient’s body or a particular part before the surgery and thus spot and work on some critical issues that need to be addressed. Moreover, it also helps patients get a better sense of what will occur during the procedure, which can help put them at ease.

Travel: A lot of airways have found a new way of entertaining the customers while waiting for their flight. Airports now have public VR kiosks, where they can virtually visit a place even before they board. Experts have shared these experiences are not only a wonderful source of in-flight entertainment, but also drives the customers’ attention towards things like services, etc.

Thus technology is helping the brands to create a unique and memorable experience. While every sector and industry is becoming competitive; creation of a viral and immersive customer experience is something that the marketers will have to think of. Being ‘tech forward’ has a lot of importance these days, but at the same time, not many brands and agencies are well-versed with it. So think smartly about how will you use technology to create an engaging and memorable experience for your customers!

Traveling in Mexico: Internet Cafes in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa

INTERNET CAFES IN THE ZONA ROSA

While you're tooling around Mexico, you'll want to stay connected. Mexico City has excellent internet café facilities even for those who Spanish is not the greatest. English is spoken in many internet cafés in the Zona Rosa and Historic District. Here are some of your e-café options.

Café Internet Victal

Address: Hamburgo No. 108 local 101 at the corner of Genova

Phone: 514 – 4161, 672 – 3821

With a going rate of 20 pesos per hour, this is one of the cheapest full-service Internet cafés in the area. Chats, computer games, and office programs (word, Excel, etc.) are also available. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful. The Victal is open from 9am to 9pm Monday through Saturday and is open on Sundays half a day. There are many computer-related services available – if it has to do with computers, they can probably do it or have it. Getting into the place is tricky at first. From the corner of Genova walk down Hamburgo about a quarter of a block. Enter the building through an arcade doorway and go up to the second floor. The entrance will be there but you'll have to look closely for the signs. The only visible signs from the street are above your head at the second story level with no clue for finding the entrance. You may have a short wait to get onto a computer but this place is worth the trouble.

Coffee Net – Zona Rosa

Address: Florencia No. 35 Local E (between Hamburgo and Londres)

Phone: 533 – 0844, 533 – 1760

An Internet café – cafeteria featuring a variety of gourmet sandwiches, salads, gourmet coffes and cappuccinos. The hourly rate is 25 pesos. Services are acceptable quality but a bit costly. Centrally located with good quality but pricey food.

Coffee Mail

Address: Amberes No. 61

A 24 pesos hourly rate internet café with standard fare. Similar in structure and price to Coffee Net but with less selection of sandwiches, coffees and foods. Regular customers typically come in to check or send e-mails. Other services are available but not heavily used.

Café Internet Red 2000

Address: in the Insurgentes metro station plaza

Phone: no phone

After exiting the metro at the Insurgentes station, this Internet café is in the outside plaza surrounding the station entrances. Long distance phone services are available through the internet. Rates are: 15 minutes 8 pesos, 30 minutes 16 pesos, 45 minutes 24 pesos, one hour 30 pesos. Only sodas and packed snacks are available.

Conecte Cafe

Address: Liverpool No. 140 (near Amberes)

Phone: 587 – 6179, 587 – 7737

A very well run internet café with full computer services including scanner, photoshop, translations, printing, Microsoft office and MP3 software available, all at reasonable rates. The internet use rate is 20 pesos per hour but there are only a few computers. Located across from Harmon Hall and Quick Learning building. There is also another Zona Rosa location at Genova No. 1. 71 on the first floor near Londres.

NOTE: There are other Internet cafés around the Zona Rosa area with varyingly higher prices for similar services.

In the Historic District:

LAFOEL Internet Service

Address: Doncelles No. 80 first floor (two blocks from the cathedral)

Phone: 512-3584, 521-2978

Open Monday to Friday from 9 am – 8 pm and Saturdays from 10 am – 5 pm. Rates for services are: 10 pesos for 15 minutes, 20 pesos for 30 minutes and 30 pesos for one hour. Conveniently located near the Zocalo but a bit on the high side for service costs. Okay just to check mail or send a quick message though. They also rent computer equipment. Just be sure to confirm the rates before signing anything or leaving the promises with equipment.

Finally, be sure to check out my other articles in the two continuing series: Teaching English in Mexico and Traveling in Mexico. If you would like more information, have questions or comments, the author can be e-mailed, see below.