Cooking Utensils: the Truth Behind the Hype

Using the most suitable cooking utensils can make the difference between a wonderfully planned gastronomic banquet and an awkwardly made excuse-for-food. Or so the celebrity chefs who are sponsored by the major kitchenware companies would have us believe. The question we novice chefs have to ask is, ‘Do the correct tools genuinely make all the difference?’ ‘Does the way you chop, slice, dice and dish out your meat and two veg physically affect the flavour?’

Okay, granted, if you lack the appropriate utensils, it may be tricky to drain your pasta without picking up a couple of third degree burns, and you might find those curly radishes to top your salad bowl difficult to pull off, but is there really an optimal shape and size for food intended for the human mouth? To get a short answer to this question, we need to take a look at Chinese cuisine.

Chinese recipes emphasize the importance of presentation. Eating is a sensory experience. If the food looks, smells and even sounds good (think of sizzling woks wheeled to your table in a good restaurant) we’re salivating even before the first morsel gets anywhere near our mouths. Chinese chefs have long understood that your senses are connected. Your senses all lead to the same place – your brain. And it’s your brain that makes the final assessment. As innumerable sponsored-up-to-their-eyeballs master chefs will fall over each other to inform you, the way you prepare your veggies and present your dishes will have an enormous affect on the way your meal will taste The other definitive feature of Chinese cooking is the way the vegetables and meat are cut. There are strict rules concerning the size and shape of the food on the plate. Each dish should be easy to handle – it should invite you to pick it up… but then again you’ll have to use chopsticks.

Cooking utensils, it would seem, really can transform a mundane meal into a feast… if you know how to use them. Owning the appropriate set of knives to chop and cut, nip and tuck, is one thing; owning the skills to use them is another. However, to develop your technique, you need to own the utensils in the first place. You have to start somewhere, and leafing through a kitchenware brochure at the behest of some celebrity chef or other is as good a place to start as any – the best place to start is from the recipe. After all, the recipe is what you are interested in, and what you and your family is going to end up eating.

What makes a cook into a master chef? The salient factor is their ability to shower their creations with loving care and attention, as anyone who has read an Isabelle Allende novel will testify. Once you have your tools and skills, the possibilities for experimentation and gastronomic exploration are boundless. And you can bet there is a specially designed set of cooking utensils to cope with any culinary creation you might dream up. For the majority of us, one appliance can be adapted to manage a diverse range kitchen tasks, but for the experts there is a specific tool for each and every kitchen task.

This apparently trivial distinction between the two ways of thinking about cooking can have a profound affect on your meals. Take an onion, for example. According to the experts, it should be sliced a particular way to enhance the flavour, although, as we have learnt from the Chinese, the visual result is at least as big a factor in determining how the food will taste. Viewed in this way, slicing the onion ‘after the book’ becomes as important as, say, the amount of oil you add to the pan. It would seem that using the right kitchen utensil in the chef’s domain is imperative. In short, prepping your ingredients by following someone’s mealtime master plan can transform the appearance and flavour of the final dish. Get this right and you are no longer a cook. You are a chef

Selecting The Best Utensil

Selecting the right set of cooking utensils is dependent on the content of each individual recipe. Suggestions for cooking utensils are very often presented within the cooking book or online recipe page and, traditionally, they are accompanied by clear instructions to enable you to choose the right utensil for the right job. Cooking utensils, it would seem, do have a central role to play. Your family is certain to enjoy the excellence of your cooking if it is prepared with skill and loving care, but if not, they may reach for an entirely different set of utensils.

There are many companies that produce fine cooking utensils, but on balance, it is better to start from the recipe book and build up a collection of what you need as needs arise before you start leafing through the pages of glossy catalogues.

How the Internet Affects Traditional Media

Traditional Publishing, REST IN PEACE

This is the headline that greets you when you land on a web page erected as a memorial to commemorate the decline of Traditional Media. A photograph of a man who seems to be in distress and who’s possibly just lost his job accompanies this headline. If this does not paint a bleak picture, go on to read the 548 headlines that all sing to the same tune as the following:

  • Bad Times: NYT Says Revenue Fell 13.9% Last Month

    – Forbes.com

  • Men’s monthly magazine Arena to cease printing after 22 years

    – Guardian.co.uk

  • Cosmopolitan UK publisher to cut 100 jobs

    – Guardian.co.uk

There’s even a website entitled Newspaper Death Watch that chronicles all the publishing and newspaper houses that close down. All rather morbid wouldn’t you say?

The Deadly Spell

Let’s take a quick look at Traditional Media and how the Internet cast it’s deadly spell.

Back in the old days, we’re talking 500 years ago; Gutenberg revolutionized the printing industry by inventing the printing press. This meant bibles could be produced at a fraction the time it used to. This also meant more copies in a shorter time and the Word of God got further reach in a shorter time. Newspaper houses and Magazine publishers still use a printing press today (well thank you captain obvious).

Much later, shortly after the advent of electricity, the world was blessed with another few media breakthroughs, namely radio then a few years later, television. Marketers and Advertising agencies had it all figured out as they devised Integrated Marketing Campaigns with astronomical budgets. Ah, the good old days. Well, much to the dismay of many of these agencies, this media landscape started to change.

Behold! Enter The WWW

At first a website was seen as a cute way to put your company brochure online and on top of that the disastrous dot bomb era created skepticism that labeled the Internet as a bad media and business channel.

Fortunately, since then the Internet has matured. Now, in countries where broadband has achieved high levels of household penetration, the web has become the consumer medium of choice.

Why? Because people can do research, shop online, watch videos and connect with friends all in the comfort of their own homes. People can choose what media they want to consume, where and when they choose too, especially with mobile connectivity. Marketers can no longer dictate what advertising messages people get subjected too.

Social Media, The New Black

Then there is the phenomenon of Social Media. It changed the media landscape forever. Social Media websites have allowed consumers to connect with friends, family, colleagues and peers in ways that were never imaginable a few decades ago.

Technology has empowered the consumer to become the Prosumer. Prosumers are consumers who produce content such as videos, photos and blogs that can be instantly distributed and shared amongst millions of people via social media platforms. This is also known as user-generated content or UCG.

Here is an interesting bit of trivia about the reach of Traditional Media vs. the Internet and Social Media.

Years it took to reach a market audience of 50 Million:

  • Radio – 38 Years
  • TV – 13 Years
  • The Internet – 4 Years
  • The iPod – 3 Years
  • Facebook – 2 Years

So How Does The Internet Affect Traditional Media?

The Internet has decreased the need for Traditional Media because it enabled consumers to join social societies within their neighborhoods, across their countries and internationally. It has empowered them to converse at their leisure, 24/7, with friends.

Considering all that’s been said, the demise of Traditional Media can largely be attributed to the following factors:

  1. Decline in readership: The distribution of free news and information on the web has led to the decline in readership for traditional publications.
  2. Decline in revenues: The decline in readership means advertisers will spend their money elsewhere and this leads to a decline in ad revenue.
  3. Real-time updates: Traditional Media can’t compete with instantly updated user-generated content that’s immediately available for the world to see.
  4. The rise of UGC websites: People have the freedom of unlimited real time commentary on content while Traditional Media is static and is a one-way communication tool.
  5. Online Audio/Video channels: People can choose what they want to watch and listen, when they want to and where without any advertising interrupting their experience.

Simply put. The Internet has revolutionized the way things get done today. It has revolutionized the way we do business, the way we communicate and has broken down the walls of Traditional Media.

A recent example is the decision by Unilever UK to fire Lowe, their Ad agency of 15 years, in favor of crowdsourcing – which means it has thrown the brand creative pitch open to agencies and basically any person who can think of an idea, worldwide. This is done on the Internet of course.

Traditional Media will still be around for a while, but the Internet is getting more and more integrated into our daily lives.

Think about this. You could do without the Mail & Guardian or the MensHealth Mag for quite some time, perhaps live quite happily without it? But you just dare cut that ADSL connection…

Personal Branding For Real Estate Agents – Stretching Your Marketing Dollar With Buzz

The aim of personal branding for luxury real estate agents is to communicate, in a instant, the essence of your personality, your personal values ​​and why someone should do business with you instead of your competition. Successful communication occurs not only when your ideal clients recognize that you are someone they can trust, but also when they can easily convey to others why they chose you for the job in a few words. If you get the message right you can spark word-of-mouth advertising or viral marketing.

The right message triggers an emotional response by quickly establishing your professionalism and your likability. It also compels people to do business with you because it transmits your unique selling proposition, your promise of value to them, in a nutshell. The ultimate message, conveyed by a symbol, a slogan or an image creates buzz. It gets people talking about you.

Buzz marketing is the best way to stretch your marketing dollar. Did you ever see the commercials for Charmin toilet paper with the fictional grocer, Mr. Whipple? George Whipple told customers, "Please do not squeeze the Charmin!" in more than 500 commercials between 1964 and 1985. The promise of value of this product, softness , was conveyed in just five words, in seconds. But, it compelled customers to do just the opposite: to squeeze the product and buy it. Was this product actually softer than the competitor's product? Most likely it was not. But, it got people talking about Charmin not the competition.

Probably the most famous and most imitated product slogan is "Got Milk?" which positioned milk as the drink of choice with cookies, cakes, peanut butter, etc. This campaign was credited for reversing a 20 year slip in milk sales. It has been running since 1993 with no signs of tiring. With this slogan, they summarily dismissed all other potables and captured an indelible place in consumers' minds. According to the Got Milk? website, the campaign has over 90% awareness in the US In 2002, the ad was named one of the ten best commercials of all time by a USA Today poll.

The power of buzz in personal branding for real estate agents can save you a bundle in marketing costs. How can you create buzz and stretch your marketing dollars with a great slogan?

Baby Clothes Overstock and Clearance Items – Why Donating Makes Sense

Retail clothing storeowners inevitably face the same situation year after year – a surplus of last season's styles in some form or another. This is good news for the consumer, as prices on these items are typically slashed well below retail in order to make room for new products. But what to do with the clearance items that remain on the shelves well into the next season? Or what if there simply is not enough room to hang on to these items any longer once new products arrive? Storeowners who find them facing these questions may want to consider donating overstock and / or clearance items to a worthy charitable organization.

In many cases, making a sizeable donation will not only benefit the many people touched by the organization receiving your donation, it may make a positive impact on your bottom line by allowing your business a tax write-off at the end of the year. If you are considering making a sizeable donation, you may first want to contact your tax advisor to discuss how the donation would affect your tax scenario.

It is advisable to spend some time researching potential organizations prior to donating. There are seemlessly countless organizations out there that are willing to take donations of clothing and accessory items. When choosing an organization, make sure first and foremost that the organization is not-for-profit, as this ensures the potential tax-benefit of donating. It may be easier to locate large national organizations, but it is worth to research smaller local organizations as well. These local organizations often do not receive the level of exposure necessary to meet their demands at the same level as larger organizations. As is the case in so many situations, the internet is generally the best source of information for researching charitable organizations. In addition, consult your local phone book, and ask around. Chances are you already know someone who has some sort of connection to a local charity – use those connections!

Once you have selected a non-profit organization to receive your donation, it is important to obtain a single point-of-contact within the organization. This person can organize the receipt of your donation, which in many cases can be arranged to take place at your business or warehouse. It is a good idea to provide an itemized list of the donation, including wholesale value, to your point-of-contact at the time of the donation. This list will not only help to document inventory in your records, it will also be a helpful tool for the charity to reference while incorporating the donation items into their existing product supply. In turn, ask that they provide you with a "letter of receipt", acknowledging and referencing the value of the donation. This letter will provide documentation that will be needed to validate the tax write-off. Be sure to discuss the significance of this letter with your point-of-contact prior to making the donation, and follow-up soon as the donation is made to be sure the letter is generated in a timely manner.