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Bonkers or brilliant?

Iggy Fenech gives us a tour of the latest, coolest and most unreal kitchen gadgets and appliances available on the market today.

From the hearth in the middle of the room that served both as heating as well as fuel for cooking, to today’s über-modern spaces with state-of-the-art equipment, the kitchen has been at the core of family life for as long as man has had a home.

Its history is dotted with achievements and dates back to when Homo sapiens first mastered the art of lighting a fire. But will its future burn as bright?

Maybe, but as life becomes ever-faster, and women more emancipated from it, and its function less defined than ever before, the gadgets and appliances that we’ve come to associate with it are evolving to mirror our new relationship with our favourite room – and they’re not all wholly sane.

For old times’ sake

The kitchen has always come with an air of nostalgia. It reminds us of the recipes our parents would cook, the cookies we baked as children, and all the wonderful, random memories that we have in it. Undoubtedly, just like the 1970s and 1980s ushered in an era of ready-meals, the noughties brought with them a revival of the kitchens of old.

The herb garden, a staple in almost every home until the late 1930s, is something many of us had long forgotten about. At an age when supermarkets stock every herb – fresh or dried – under the sun, growing your own may seem like madness. Even so, there is something wonderfully primeval in picking some sprigs of thyme or plucking a few basil leaves straight off the plant and adding them to your cooking.

Of course, not everyone has a back garden these days, so in comes technology with ridiculously smart herb gardens that use minimal space on your kitchen counter to grow mint, rosemary, sage and any other herb you’d like to plant in them, using the magic of LED lights. The best part about these Smart Herb Gardens by Click & Grow is that they were a crowd-funded project, showcasing our communal love for the past.

This fondness for the olden days is also obvious in the latest trends for high-end appliances that look and feel vintage but which obviously incorporate modern technology into them to a T.

Meneghini’s La Ghiacciaia fridge is a direct descendant of the Edwardian icebox, the first versions of which were made out of metal and wood and insulated with hay and rabbit fur. It looks robust and feels like it belongs in a 1960s home, when everything had to feel and look like it would survive an atomic war.

The same can be said for the ESSE Range, which is practically a modern version of the range, the Victorian cooking-method of choice, which left many-a-scullery maid with back aches. Its brightly coloured enameling and classic cast iron construction ooze out a feeling of safety and homeliness that many are more than willing to buy into.

The Kitchen’s history is dotted with achievements, and dates back to when Homo sapiens first mastered the art of lighting a fire, but will its future burn as bright?

Back to the future

Juxtaposing our love for the old is our innate need to look ahead and to leave our own, distinct mark on the future of the kitchen.

The holy trinity of the kitchen (the sink, the stove and the fridge) has become so important to us that the whole kitchen is designed around it, aiming to cut down on time, labour and effort required to prepare a meal.

Yet, while new and innovative gadgets can be found topping our counters on a regular basis, the aforementioned trio of appliances seems dead-set to remain the kings of our kitchens. That, however, doesn’t mean that their shape, size, structure and efficiency haven’t changed.

Take the Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawer, for example. A fridge-freezer in essence, this chest of cooling drawers can be turned from fridge to freezer at the touch of a button, and has five different cooling settings that take it from freezer to wine cooler to pantry-mode in minutes.

It also makes it easier to sift through its contents thanks to its drawer-format that means your jar of Dijon mustard will never be hidden out of sight by the veg you stacked in front of it a week before for that stew that never materialised.

Technology has also found a way of reintroducing an energy war between cooking methods, but, while in late 19th and early 20th century that was fought between gas and electricity, this time round it’s infrared that is taking a stab at winning the golden throne.

The Nuwave Infrared Tabletop Oven is one such contender and, thanks to its triple-combo cooking power (convection, conduction, and infrared), its promise to shorten cooking time and remove the back-breaking job of cleaning the oven (it’s dishwasher proof!) might just make it the next big thing in our kitchens.

Coolest kids on the block?

The cool factor that first swept the kitchen in the 1950s with hostess trolleys and the Kenwood chefs, is back with utensils and other kitchen paraphernalia that may or may not make much sense; but which look and feel cool.

The only difference, unfortunately, is that while the Kenwood chef was an invention that changed lives, many of the things modernity is coming up with will one day be looked at in the same way we look back at the Edwardian electric tablecloth, which allowed you to connect lamps straight into it: as a crazy idea that should have never even been dreamt of.

But let’s be honest, here. Who can resist the quirkiness of the Pizza Scissors, which allow you to cut pizza as if it were a sheet of cardboard? And what about the Portable Toaster, a knife-shaped piece of equipment that allows you to toast bread on the go?

They might seem crazy, but they exist, and they make the most of our insatiable appetite for the new and innovative. And seeing as, in the past, this want for labour- and time-saving equipment gave us the refrigerator, the gas oven and the food processor, who knows what the future might have in store for us?

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