01 September 2008
Food: As Seen On TV
It’s 2:00 am. Perhaps you’re battling a little insomnia. Perhaps your newborn needs feeding. Perhaps you’re just getting home. The bright glow from the television beckons...
Palm trees. Dollar signs. Faux-Tuscan kitchen sets.
As bold typefaces flash across the screen outlining easy payment installments, you enter the world of the infomercial. If it's not a get-rich-quick system or some form of exercising / bodybuilding / appearance enhancing / weight loss solution, it’s the world’s newest cooking device.
As the wife of my former employer had quite an appetite for home shopping, a number of these fine products made their way onto my desk then into my kitchen on birthdays and holidays. Here's a look at a few of the food and cooking novelties...as seen on TV.
The Product: THE GT XPRESS 101
Endorsed By: Cathy Mitchell and her over sized press-on nails
The Gimmick: Fast Meals, Tasty Snacks and Delicious Desserts
Just pour your ingredients inside this newest incarnation of the George Foreman grill and in just minutes you'll have a piping hot meal with that rich burnt plastic smell!
Does it look well made on television? Rest assured, it isn’t. Teflon flakes become featured special ingredients in most of the 101 recipes. The two half-moon cooking pods are much smaller than they appear in the land of happy infomercial magic as well...and isn't it a little less than appetizing to have EVERYTHING come out as a compressed semi-circle? Maybe some find it comforting.
From brownies to omelets, it sure does cook your food fast though...reminding you that good things comes to those who wait.
The Product: THE PASTA EXPRESS
Endorsed By: the infamous Chef Tony (not really a chef)
The Gimmick: Cook, Strain and Drain
While the infomercial speaks of revolutionary insulation, the Pasta Express is nothing more than a big plastic tube. Besides being an overly tall and oddly shaped device that doesn’t fit very well in your cupboard, it does nothing. And how exactly is it a faster, express tool? Tired of waiting for water to boil, you say? You still have to boil the water! You are, in fact, adding a step as you have to boil the water in another pot or kettle then awkwardly pour the steaming hot liquid into the tube in order to make your gummy, half-cooked noodles.
I did try to use the device for other things. I made red drink in it a couple of times, but it doesn’t even work well as a pitcher because it lacks any kind of pouring spout.
The Product: THE S'MORES WIZARD
Endorsed By: the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man
The Gimmick: What could be more fun than making fresh, hot S'mores right in the convenience of your own home?
Despite the fact that the name wizard implies some sort of magical, supernatural S’More-making abilities…you essentially get a sterno candle with a metal grate. And in addition to the marshmallows, that high-quality coating on the metal grate likes to burn too!
It does arrive stocked for your first use, coming with stale graham crackers (half broken / half crumbled), rock hard marshmallows and white chocolate (not actual white chocolate, rather milk chocolate that’s turned powdery white from seasons spent on warehouse shelves). You can make your indoor S’Mores with a candle and much fresher ingredients instead, but it still isn’t the same without the campfire.
The Product: THE BIG CITY SLIDER STATION
Endorsed By: Billy Mays, his highly manicured beard and his famous overly excited yell-speak
The Gimmick: Scoop, Press and Cook
Making hamburgers on your stovetop in two minutes? Scooping ground beef directly from the package to the pan with no seasoning? Even before the mention of “veggie burgers” in the ad, I knew there was no need to own this product.
The Product: THE MAGIC BULLET
Endorsed By: ah yes, The Mick and Mimi Show (see below)
The Gimmick: Does any job in 10 seconds…or less.
If you google magic bullet, in addition to stumbling upon various JFK conspiracy theories, you’ll find an informercially-born product that is actually worth the three easy payments. As a cross between a blender and a food processor, the bullet has both a flat blade (for whipping and mincing) and a bent blade (for chopping fruit and veggies and crushing ice). It isn’t as heavy duty as your standard kitchen food processor and it walks too fine a line between chopping and pulverizing things like cheese, garlic, and onion – but it’s a good tool for making dips and spreads and an excellent tool for making margaritas, daiquiris, smoothies and the like. The design makes it pretty easy to use, store and wash, too.
Then, there's The Mick and Mimi Show. Defying all standard infomercial conventions, two cross-continental lovers invite an eclectic mix of friends over (including a blatant drunk and an overly made-up chain smoker) upon whom they casually push their wares:
The Product: SHAMWOW
Endorsed By: Vince
The Gimmick: You'll say WOW everytime.
This entire post was inspired by a recent late evening viewing of the ShamWOW! infomercial. I don't own a ShamWOW! but boy do I wish that I did. When flipping through the channels, I will stop and watch this infomercial every time that I see it because I'm mesmerized by Vince, the ShamWOW! spokesman. His left eye looks like it might pop out of his head if his ShamWOW! picks up one more ounce of cola. He looks eerily similar to Harvey Dent in the second portion of The Dark Knight. Why is he wearing a headpiece microphone? I don't know, but I feel the live excitement of that microphone. It's a shammy, it's a towel, it's a ShamWOW. Someday, perhaps I'll be able to report back on how this product works in the kitchen...
So, what have you tried?