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.

The American Jobs Act, Unemployment Discrimination and Employment Brand

Online recruiting organizations: Are you ready to stop hiding from candidates? You should be. Your brand depends on it.

With The American Job Act currently before Congress, employers would be subject to EEOC discrimination claims if they fail to hire an unemployed candidate based on the fact that they are not currently employed. The notion was hatched as a backlash against the perception that employers do not want to hire unemployed workers.

That’s a specific law with a specific target, but if you peel the layers back, it’s the first salvo fired out of frustration from a country full of candidates that are tired of being treated badly by the people, systems and processes that have grown up around recruiting in the last 10 years.

I get it. Recruiting organizations are under siege by way too many qualified candidates for the positions they have. More importantly, they’re under siege by way too many completely UNqualified candidates.

While not considering candidates that are unemployed may cut your candidate pool down to a manageable size, it’s not smart from a branding standpoint. Unless your employment brand is cold and cutthroat, you should embrace all candidates. You should treat them with respect and you should engage as many of them as possible.

Everyone wants a fair shot. That’s just part of being human. And when sweeping generalizations like “we don’t consider unemployed candidates” take hold, or faceless applicant tracking systems process bits and bytes and spit out rejection emails (often delayed to appear like the candidate was considered by a human), then the appearance of a fair shot disappears.

Candidates are customers. Candidates are voters. Candidates are individuals capable of expressing their frustration to large numbers of other individuals through social networking.

Here is and actual tweet I came across the day after writing this article: “@jimcramer FYI you herd it here first, Taleo is keeping the unemployed… unemployed.”

Obviously, not everyone is qualified. And every recruiter has tales of resume spammers and unqualified, unprepared candidates sucking their time. But the fact is, if you appear not to care about candidates, then your brand suffers. And now with an entire nation who is totally focused on getting people placed in jobs, delivering bad candidate experiences is asking for more Federal regulations governing how you interact with candidates.

There is a quietly growing awareness in the industry that candidate satisfaction matters. There is a faint notion growing that engaging candidates and trying to ensure that they are communicated with and treated with respect and reverence, will actually result in a more effective recruiting process.

There are tools available that allow organizations to engage candidates and solicit feedback throughout the recruiting process. Companies can now listen to how candidates feel about their recruiting process from beginning to end, track satisfaction and fine tune practices to make them as effective as possible.They sit on top of a company’s career site pages and asks candidates what they think, in real time and with appropriately times follow up surveys.

Without fail, candidates regularly comment “Thank you for asking my opinion.” So when I say treating candidates with respect helps your employment brand, I speak from experience. Your “Best Place to Work” badge is fine, but it just lays there. Asking a candidate what they think about how they’ve been treated? That shifts the earth a little bit and provides evidence that you have a great place to work.

Plus it provides a goldmine of ideas about how to better interact with candidates, tweak your career site and make your online recruiting efforts more effective for passive candidates. The one’s who already have jobs. The one’s you were targeting that got the White House involved in messing with your business in the first place.

Learn to Speak Spanish Through Online Programs

The Spanish language is becoming increasingly more important to speak and understand. More than 420 million people speak Spanish, including those who speak it as a second or third language. Approximately 17 million of those are in the United States, making speaking Spanish more than just a passing fad. Fortunately, there are many online resources geared towards helping people learn how to speak Spanish.

Learn Conversational Spanish

The website, studyspanish.com, provides people with the opportunity to learn conversational Spanish. Although this program will not help you achieve fluency, by reading the lessons and repeating sounds and phrases with the audio attachments, you can be well on your way to carrying on a conversation. Sample beginning lessons are available online, and students can add to their knowledge with the purchase of CDs.

Courses, Tutors and Games in Spanish

Websites like 123teachme.com provide grammar, vocabulary, verb conjugations and sounds, like the other websites, but they also incorporated games and quizzes. These games and quizzes use vocabulary and phrases to test students knowledge and memory. People using this site can also work with Spanish tutors, people who know the language fluently, to get one-on-one help and accelerate the learning process.

Use Videos on Google and YouTube

Videos are available on YouTube and Google, and allow Spanish students to hear how the words are said, including accents and emphasis, but also see how they're said. Some of these videos use visual aids, displaying words and their pronunciation, like a book and audio tape would do, while others use people. The videos are for the beginning and advanced learners, depending upon the individuals needs and desires.

Learn Practical Spanish

Websites like e-spanol.hu/en outline the basics of Spanish, including grammar, vocabulary and expressions. This website provides games, quizzes, tests, word practices, audio videos and transcripts for students to test their knowledge and maximize they're Spanish skills.

Master Words and Phrases

For the beginning and advanced Spanish speakers, or students who simply want a larger vocabulary, websites like learn-spanish.co.il/ are ideal. This website lectures specific words and phrases that can make your Spanish more descriptive and detailed, including words relating to travel, color, shapes, sports, animals, food and clothing. However, this website does not include an audio, but only a simple visual of the words.

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…