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Does a Food Geek Need Equipment?


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#1 weinoo

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 02:54 PM

In another thread where a few of us are geeking out a bit about espresso making with Rancilio Silva, a discussion might be erupting about being a food geek and whether or not the equipment one uses helps define the term "geek" in this instance.

 

Are you a food geek?

 

Do you need equipment to be a food geek?

 

And...what does your equipment look like?


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#2 OliverB

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 03:43 PM

I think eventually equipment just gets into play, but you certainly don't need it. I had a stove and pots to start with, but would not want to give up my SousVide Demi, my pressure cookers, my Big Green Egg or my food dehydrator now :-)

I have not gotten into molecular things yet...


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#3 IndyRob

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:57 PM

I think that the word 'geek' has very broad connotations - from a pejorative to the more complementary form used in self identification. I guess it's the latter sense that we're talking about here.

I think that some food geeks might be people who've amassed a great deal of food knowledge but don't actually cook (much) themselves. Perhaps like a jaded restaurant critic - armed with copious notes about all manner of preparations previously encountered. A sort of foodie naturalist, I guess. Christopher Kimball - at least in his role as host of America's Test Kitchen - might be the poster boy of this sort of food geek.

But for the doers, I don't think that equipment is necessary, but will tend to turn up (as OliverB said). Sodium citrate, a handful of cheese, and a can of beer is all it really takes to get some geeky nachos, but any of us that do that sort of thing also have some favored hardware up our sleeves.

And I think that's where some further distinctions can be made. I propose the terms Enthusiast, Hacker, and Boffin.

The Enthusiast has the means and desire to understand and acquire as much of the technology as he desires and will employ it all exactly as designed. Most likely to become a serial product reviewer at Amazon.

I'll stand in for the Hacker, although probably best typified in the geek community by John Draper, AKA Captain Crunch, who discovered that a toy whistle found in boxes of Cap'n Crunch could lead him to a method of making free phone calls on AT&T's networks. It about how to make incredibly simple things work in unexpected ways. For me, in the last couple of weeks, it's been about making progress towards the world's fastest (good) grilled cheese sandwich....

Take a half a sheet of aluminum foil. Cut it in half. Brush one side of each half with melted butter. Place a slice of bread on each half. That was prep work. Put those in a zip-lock bag in the fridge (unbuttered sides facing and touching each other).

Now, to the sandwich - Put a pan on the stove on max heat. Grab a coated paper plate and drop a handful of shredded cheese on it. Put that in the microwave until melted - about 30 seconds. While that's going, grab your bread and lay the slices on the counter aluminum foil-side down. Take the paper plate out of the microwave and slide the melted cheese carefully onto one slice (some tomato slices are a nice addition here - sprinkle with kosher salt). Cover with the other slice (need I say aluminum foil side up?). Now, drop that bad boy into the heated pan for 10-15 seconds. Place your hand on top of the sandwich to secure it. Flip the pan over and up so the sandwich is left on your palm. Now drop the other side into the pan and remove the first piece of aluminum foil from the top. Wipe the cheese grease from the paper plate and (after another 10-15 seconds) de-pan (as before) the sandwich onto it - removing the second piece of foil. Throw the foil in the trash and (once cooled) the pan back into the cupboard (it was never dirtied).

That's a pretty geeky way of doing it, I think.

And now to the Boffin. Well, that would be Nathan Myrvold and his merry band, I think. They really represent the best of both approaches. The resources to try everything, but with no particular attachment to any of them. Just an edict to get results.

ETA: I'd gladly put my grilled cheese up against Nathan's. ;)

Edited by IndyRob, 20 February 2013 - 08:06 PM.


#4 Ttogull

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 08:25 PM

Re:indyrob

In my opinion, the largest set of "geeks" are self-proclaimed, those who buy a bunch of equipment hoping to be considered a true geek. Confusing cause with effect. See it in all walks of life. Yes, I'm a race car driver- I own 15 Ferraris, 2 Lambos, etc. Yes, I'm a trader, I have an ETrade account. As said above, tools do not make one a geek. But a true geek typically has a lot of tools, and uses each well.

#5 Katie Meadow

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 08:36 PM

Then there's the original geek, the Carnival Geek, the sideshow guy who specialized in the prep work for cooking a chicken.



#6 Mjx

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 01:33 AM

I figure that part of being a geek is being willing, able, and tending to become unhealthily excited about MacGyvering equipment, from, you know, a pair of pantyhose and some duct tape or something, so I'd say being a food geek doesn't mean you need equipment, but it makes it fairly likely that you'll have it, whether you've made it yourself, or purchased it ready-made.

 

My fondness for minimalism is constantly at war with my appreciation of really well-made objects and beautifully functioning tools.

 

When I've lived on my own, I've been able to keep my 'equipment' down to a small pot, cup, bowl, dagger, spoon, and chopsticks.

Now, we have a good sized collection of equipment sitting in storage boxes, awaiting our having a kitchen again. Inevitably, some was unpacked, since life just sucked without it (the Silvia, the grinder), but things seem to have added themselves to the collection, despite the fact that there's almost no place to put them: a vacuum sealer, couple of silicone baking mats, an iSi whipper, an oval Dutch oven, chocolate moulds. My boyfriend has had a fondness for tools/things with buttons and switches of every description since before he was able to talk, and in the face of that, my ascetic half didn't stand a chance.

 

Not sure whether I'm a geek. Although 'geek' has pretty much lost any stigma it had a couple decades back, I wouldn't describe myself as a geek, since that's what the kids who also enjoyed punching me during recess called me, but pretty much everyone I know seems to describe me that way, so I guess..?

 

I just do things. Then wipe/scrape up the mess ;)


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#7 nickrey

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 04:48 AM

I'm in agreement with Michaela here. A geek understands the process so much they can put something together with sticky tape and string that will do a better job than lots of others using the latest equipment. That having been said, if they have the money, they'll have the shiniest, up to date, equipment that is there.

 

Equipment does not define the geek. But they will certainly be attracted to it.

 

What came first, the equipment or the geek? My money's on the geek; the equipment is simply a logical consequence.


Edited by nickrey, 21 February 2013 - 04:48 AM.

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#8 weinoo

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 04:55 AM

I'm in agreement with Michaela here. A geek understands the process so much they can put something together with sticky tape and string that will do a better job than lots of others using the latest equipment. That having been said, if they have the money, they'll have the shiniest, up to date, equipment that is there.

 

Equipment does not define the geek. But they will certainly be attracted to it.

 

What came first, the equipment or the geek? My money's on the geek; the equipment is simply a logical consequence.

 

I'll never forget the first time, oh so many years ago, that I made a coffee filter out of a plain white paper towel. The rest is history.


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#9 rotuts

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 06:42 AM

its not the equipment that makes a Geek, or maybe it is. I think its been said well by the folks above

 

maybe more equipment then necessary.

 

 

its the understanding of equipment and how to get the most out of it that makes a GeekyCook.  equipment is

 

carefully studied, then 

 

if it adds something to the cooking, its fine tuned to the point to get the Best Stuff on the Plate.

 

that being said, any knife will do if its the right size, used properly and is razor sharp. but that 'special' knife,

 

edge-pro'd that has that 

 

special place in the rack.   1 - 2.  not 20.

 

then there is the problem of being a "Theoretician"  knows a lot, has thought a lot about it, made a large number of

 

(fill in the blank dish)

 

then when the 'perfect one' is made, rarely if ever makes it again.  On to new projects!

 

maybe the geeks likes the stuff a little too much and focus on it too much rather than what that stuff can

 

make in skilled hands.

 

think engineer:  knows when the degree of 'significant imporvement' drops off and is no longer worth the

 

time, $$, and effort for 

 

so little extra return.

 

still  some things are things of beauty in themselves:

 

Quest M3:

 

https://www.google.c...iw=1212&bih=994

 

when my iRoast-2 dies, as its no longer made, and seems terminally ill from time to time,  Ill use the above.  there are roasters cheaper than this, but after about a 1 year 

 

'study'  Ill appreciate what this one does which the other ones don't.

 

Ill looking at mine now.  havent needed to plug it in yet.   and yes if the iRoast- 2 were still being made

 

  ($ 175) I would not have 

 

the M3 as a 'spare'  but you bet i knew all about it for several years.


Edited by rotuts, 21 February 2013 - 06:49 AM.