Jewish World Review Feb. 8, 2002 / 26 Shevat, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Kitchen intelligence -- IT finally happened. Every major kitchen appliance is now smarter than I am. I don't mind that they've passed me by. What I mind is that they snapped the back of my legs with a wet dishtowel as they lurched ahead.

For real intimidation, get a load of the Internet Turbo Drum digital washer featured at the Chicago 2002 Housewares Show. This computerized baby comes with a 4.2-inch LCD window and 4Mbit flash memory. And you were looking under the lid for, oh, maybe a fabric softener dispenser? How '90s.

This is a hip washing machine, but what woman in her right mind needs one more computer screen in her life flashing "illegal operation"? The selling point to the digital washer is that you can tailor the wash cycle to your clothes. Just download instructions from the Internet that tell you how to reprogram the machine's washing method.

That might work for some, but I can tell you how it would work here. I'd have a portable phone cradled between my ear and neck, and be sprinting back and forth between the computer and the washing machine, all the while yelling, "Just be patient, kids. I'm on the line with tech support right now. You should have clean socks a week from Friday."

Of course, if you don't want to shout at the kids, you can always leave them a calm and soothing message on the LG Electronics Internet-enabled refrigerator that comes with a video message board. Then again yelling or splurging on a six-pad pack of Post-it notes might be more economical. The fridge retails for $10,000; a six-pack of Post-it notes, $6.59. You do the math.

Then there's the cutting-edge blender guaranteed to whip up perfect milkshakes. The blender has a 45-second preprogrammed smart cycle, an automatic shut-off feature, 550-watt motor, 18 speeds, unique Ice Sabre Blades and a SureLoc safety base.

My blender is a little more dated. It is roughly the same age as Art Linkletter and is a hepatitis yellow color, which was once very popular and known as harvest gold. It has eight speeds, which, for me, is four too many. The newer blenders can pulverize roots, rocks and, in extreme cases, even fruitcakes within seconds. Our blender, after 10 or 12 attempts, is able grind nuts like a squirrel without teeth. On the upside, our blender has a particularly charming feature the new ones don't - chocolate syrup that's dripped down the side. I like to think of it as a designer touch.

One of the niftiest new appliances, and I don't know why I didn't think of this myself, is a coffee pot that brews directly into two stainless steel travel mugs so you can pick up your cup of morning java as you fly out the door. This would be a great addition to our kitchen counter, but on days when my husband's schedule doesn't jibe with mine, the only way I can tell he's left for the office is by the coffee splashes he leaves on the floor as he sprints toward the garage. It may not be sophisticated or intimate communication, it might even be on a Hansel and Gretel level, but it works for us. Coffee brewing directly into the travel mug is a great idea, but I have to put my marriage first.

Not all of the new appliances have outfoxed me. A company called Metrokane is introducing an adorable little chrome ice machine. You open the top, drop in ice cubes, crank the handle and out rolls shaved ice. No muss, no fuss, no computer chip. They're billing it as a retro.

No wonder I liked it.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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05/25/01 Cyborgs for Better or Worse
05/18/01 The death of Common Sense

© 2001, Lori Borgman