Enter the rice cooker

Black & Decker 6-cup-rice-cooker

Took the plunge into a sea of automatic rice cookers today with this Black & Decker 6-cup rice cooker, almost the smallest you can get (there’s a 3-cup, too), only $20 (on sale for 15!). It comes with a steamer basket, so you can steam veggies as well. And you can use it for things like soup, and reheating.

There’s a whole little universe of cool cookery devices, and they’re surprisingly inexpensive. Once you get rid of the idea of a central STOVE, a typical multiburner-plus-oven set-up, as a compulsory bit of living gear, things get interesting! There are all sorts of tabletop ovens, slow cookers, grills and griddles, electric woks, blenders and food processors. I’m sure there’s more.

As soon as I started focusing on these little devices as a primary means of cooking, the way I looked at food automatically changed. Thoughts naturally turned to individual ingredients, cooking methods, nutritional value, diet. You don’t want, don’t have space for, a whole clutter of equipment and things to wash up, and this thinking naturally extends to food itself. And you can only fit so much into a tiny fridge.

This is pretty exciting. Then again, maybe they ARE all just overspecialized gadgets, and I’ll end up embracing a simple pan or wok and a burner. It’s an experiment. More on my first rice cooker after I’ve actually used it for a while!

Super-fridge

Vestfrost Zhape ZZ324 M

Energy-efficient appliances: where to start? It’s a bit overwhelming at first. Began kind of randomly with fridge-freezer gear—preserving food by keeping it cold seems both essential and energy-expensive. The first promising company I run into is Vestfrost, a refrigeration specialist from Denmark. According to dealer literature, “these sleek and popular energy efficient refrigerators are suited for the off-grid home as well as the apartment dweller.” That sounds good! Their Zhape fridge+freezer line has a tiny fooprint of only 2’x2′ (60x60cm), burns about 1 kWh/day, and looks imposingly sleek. Freezer capacity is 3.7 cu ft (105l); the fridge is 7.7 cu ft (219l). Sounds great, but with all that high design and stainless steel, I’m wondering about the price tag! Ahh, US$1,400 (US$1,150 for white).

UPDATE 2016: Somewhere between then and now, this fine looking and well-regarded compact fridge seems to have been discontinued, while the manufacturer, Vestfrost, bought out by a Turkish company in 2008, still exists (focusing on biomedical, merchandising, and wine refrigeration, globally, as well as household appliances in Denmark, in case you wanted to know). Oh well…