'You Just Have to Have It!'

By McArdle, Megan | Newsweek, March 15, 2013 | Go to article overview

'You Just Have to Have It!'


McArdle, Megan, Newsweek


Byline: Megan McArdle

$2,000 to make coffee? $800 to boil rice? In any color you'd like! Inside the American housewares craze.

The Kenwood Cooking Chef looks sort of like a cross between a stand mixer and a movie robot. It can chop, slice, shred, mix, and even cook your food--a gadget surprisingly close to one of those household helpers the Jetsons schooled us all to expect in the future. At the International Housewares Show in Chicago last week, the little fella had an exhibit space to itself, prime real estate in the center of the kitchen electrics pavilion where a chef imported from New York whipped up flawless risotto almost hands-free. "This is perfect," said the attendee next to me, a local cooking instructor. "Just perfect." And so it was. The only thing standing between us and equally perfect, effortless risotto was the $2,000 we'd need to bring the Kenwood Cooking Chef home.

Is America really ready to drop that kind of cash on a cooking appliance? The Thursday before the show, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that they'd revised their estimates of fourth-quarter GDP growth upward ... to a sluglike annual pace of 0.1 percent. The Friday after the show, America woke to the news that unemployment was now only 7.7 percent, which amounts to a four-year low, but is still 5 million more people than reported being out of work in January 2008. In the area of Chicago's South Side where the housewares expo is held, the rate is closer to a recession-level 11 percent. Not exactly, you'd think, Ken-the-brushed-stainless-Chef's shining moment. Shouldn't we be tightening our belts, getting back to basics?

Even in flusher times, Americans seemed largely uninterested in these massively expensive "kitchen machines," which have been popular in Europe for years; Thermomix, Kenwood's main competitor, pulled out of the U.S. market in 2004, and Kenwood only started selling the Cooking Chef through Williams-Sonoma last October. The kind of from-scratch cooking that these machines are meant to enable has been in decline over here. During the decades when this country's economic growth was the envy of the world, Americans' spending on home cooking plummeted even while restaurant spending went up. Kitchen machines, says Jack Schwefel, the CEO of Sur La Table, "offered a convenience the American consumer wasn't looking for."

The irony, however, is that with the recession, Kenwood's moment may have come. We might be holding onto the old car for a few more years and booking a staycation instead of a week at the shore. Between 2007 and 2012, personal-consumption expenditures rose a scant 3.5 percent. (For comparison, during a comparable five-year period around the 2001 recession, the same numbers rose more than 15 percent.) But we are still spending a lot of money on flashy kitchen equipment.

Pricey "kitchen machines" like the Cooking Chef are still new to the market, of course, but dozens of other upmarket, automatic-everything, newer-than-next- week gadgets I saw scattered throughout the show are making their way into more and more American kitchens. Stand mixers, coffee makers, juicers, blenders, and, increasingly, machines that do more than one thing. According to Debra Mednick of market research firm NPD, sales of kitchen electrics were up 10 percent last year, following a 9 percent increase the year before. Mednick's ability to gather data stops at the cash register, so she can't say whether we're cooking from scratch. But the growth in our gadget purchases seems to indicate that if we aren't cooking from scratch more than we recently did, we're certainly preparing to.

Chicago's McCormick Place, where the housewares expo is held, is the size of six football fields, and during the four-day event, virtually every yard is crammed with ... well, the same stuff that crams your cabinets. Except more of it, in every style and color and price you can imagine.

I don't need more kitchen gadgets. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'You Just Have to Have It!'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.