Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Piece of Crap

Have you ever been stuck with a piece of crap? Maybe it was a broken appliance or a pair of shoes, a piece of furniture or a gadget that couldn't be easily repaired. I have.

Nothing could be done with prematurely worn out sandals because the uppers weren't leather. "Pitch them!" I was told. But, they're still taking up closet space, awaiting the day that I will figure out a solution that a seasoned cobbler couldn't imagine.

At least crappy shoes can't kill you. Last spring while she was eating, my sister discovered a shard of plastic in a batch of lasagna she had just made, most of which she had given away to new parents. After frantic phone calls, texting and email messages that warned the young couple, we discovered the source of the plastic: A Hamilton food processor. Years ago I had the same issue with a Hamilton blender. A piece of plastic ended up in my Margarita.

My latest gripe concerns a fan that is impossible to clean.

Prompted by the heat wave, I finally made the time to get it out of storage. It was really dirty and needed a thorough cleaning, but I couldn't remove the grill due to ill-designed tabs that held the fan together.

Unable to believe that anyone would design such a thing, I asked the manufacturer for advice. They replied:
"If you are unable to get the fan apart with out damaging the tabs, you can clean it a different way. With our other models we suggest taking a can of compressed air and spraying it in the fan. This usually removes most of the dirt and dust."
In other words, someone would design a piece of crap on purpose.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vanishing Lunch Meat

This ad jumped out at me. First you see this:

Then you turn the page and you see:

Did you notice anything?

The trail of packaging left behind the vanishing lunch meat is a given; we are not supposed to notice it. It says so right there on the page. “Now you see it… Now you don’t.”

I don’t?

Is there any value in taking the time to notice the assumptions embedded in these kinds of messages before they wash over us like a morphine drip? For example, what do ads for kitchen garbage bags, a stopover for those invisible lunch meat packages, assume? Kitchen scraps are garbage. It follows that your kitchen garbage stinks (Buy the scented bags...). It's unsightly (There's a new "blackout" bag you can buy...) and it's messy (Good news! You can buy bags that are strong enough hold a piano...).

These ads wouldn't fly without a widely accepted assumption that kitchen compost is garbage. Without it, those pine fresh nylon-reenforced roles of plastic would join the Bacon Genie in the Hucksters Hall of Fame.
  • Hefty Blackout Bag Commercial - Video
  • "The Smell is in your kitchen" - Video
  • Hefty Ulta Flex Bags - Video
  • Hefty Steel-Sak Bags - Video
  • Jackie Chan Hefty Ad - Video
  • 9 News Colorado - Garbage Bag Face Off - Video
It's difficult to escape the Kitchen Compost is Garbage message. The other night, Brian and I were watching a documentary where a subject in the film pitched an overripe mango in the trashcan. Brian immediately looked to me for a reaction and he got it.

"Someday, we'll look at that and say, 'You're kidding? People did that?'"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Learning to Manage Food

Has our wealth completely killed the instinct to preserve and cherish the stuff that keeps us alive?

We waste an embarrassingly amount of food in our house. Brian brings home a carton of blueberries and I think, “Let’s be honest. Just put them in the compost pile.” Or, if the last leaf of lettuce ends up in my lunch with the last slice of bread, I make an announcement as if recognition were in order. Now I’m on the Daily Show telling the world, “Keep your herbs in a glass of water. Better yet, grow your own!”

In reality, we are far from model citizens. We waste a lot of food even though I’d rather admit to skipping out on my own wedding to shoot heroin and watch COPS than tell you that I wasted a carrot. Realizing that it takes two years to grow a pineapple sharpened my sensitivity to that vague uneasiness most of us feel deep in our gut when the apple in the crisper gets mushy. So, I’m trying to learn better food management skills.

As it turns out, storing the parsley in a vase of water resulted in a slimy gag-inducing concoction. And mistrusting the bread crumbs I dried for – stuffing? – I gave them to the sparrows after a full week of pretending that I was Julia Child. On the other hand, the bruised tomatoes made a decent salad dressing. So, John Stewart should be calling any minute.

What are your tips for food waste prevention?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What have you learned from the dirt?

The garden teaches patience and faith in small steps. It assures us that something is happening, even when it doesn’t feel like it. What have you learned from the dirt?