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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Idiotic Product: Centerpiece Gourmet

So I'm starting up the ‘Idiotic Product’ catchphrase on this new blog. I’m also starting the use of the ‘Buyer Beware’ tag so I can group together all of my collective "don't buy this product because if you do you're either an idiot or have evolved so far ahead of mankind that you can actually find a GOOD reason to purchase it and please let me know if this is the case" articles.

Anyway, my choice for today is the Centerpiece Gourmet, a product that turns foods into flowery centerpieces that can be eaten.

Quite the Idiotic Product!

Okay, before we start this - I'll admit that the concept seems like a good one. Straight out of an episode of Martha Stewart, it's a presentation of food that's appealing to the eyes as well. However, Martha has the brainpower to know that you can get the same result from just properly making food and presenting it on a platter where people will want to eat from it - not done with the methods used to make these edible monstrocities that will never look anything like they do on the box.

Because the pictures on the box aren't made with real food!

Just like the picture menu at a fast-food joint, that's not real food they're presenting to you. There's an entire industry out there responsible for making those photographical edibles that wind up on a menu. That's why the lettuce looks so green and crisp, the tomatoes ripe and juicy, and the meat so thick and bun so fresh and springy. They're NOT FOOD, and they also weren't handled by the 17-year-old fry cook or Javier at the grill, haphazardly getting your mediocre food to you at a better-than-mediocre pace. Following that path of logic, even if the food on the box were real, you're not Martha Stewart. You're (more than likely) the culinary equivalent of those fast-food employees, especially if you were dumb enough to buy the Centerpiece Gourmet. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t need a kit in order to make these things, right?

Now let's investigate how you make these "edible masterpieces".

According to the advertisement, the kit basically comes with things a competent chef might already have in the kitchen, like several knives, and a few rarer items that require a few skill levels in cooking, like a melon baller. Oh, and a wicker basket. Also, you get a bunch of special cookie-cutters. Not "special" in the sense that they do anything more than a normal cookie cutter, namely “cut things”, but in the sense that they're flower-shaped and you might not have those around, unless you've tried making these centerpieces yourself without the kit and you got so frustrated you shelled out the $25 and just got the kit as well.

Oh, and you get 100 wooden skewers.

So the theory behind it is that you take foods, use the cookie cutters to make flowery things and leaves and whatnot, then run them on skewers and arrange them in the wicker basket until it looks pretty and your guests can enjoy AND eat!

Well, let's start with the fact that while you may have bought this under the guide of "anyone can make these fantabulous things", you've got to have enough skill with a knife to slice fruits, vegetables and meats (whatever foods you're Centerpiece Gourmet-ing) thin enough to make the cookie-cutter shapes appear like they do on the box. I'm a beginner chef, so I am admittedly not too awesome with the thin-slicing, especially of hard meats and veggies. Knife accidents are very commonplace in the kitchen. So let's say that you're skilled enough to slice into that apple and cookie-cut a nice flower chunk from it, and arrange it on the skewer. Unless that kit’s instructions have bothered to mention to let the slice soak in lemon juice or lime juice - you've got a lovely browning flower that's growing more icky-looking by the minute. Cutting most fruit triggers an enzyme that, when exposed to air, turns the flesh that icky brown color, and an acid bath shuts down that enzymatic process.

Yes, it will get browner by the MINUTE. Unless you're at ninja-level with this system, the centerpieces they've got on the advertisement look like they took at LEAST an hour to accomplish, especially if you want it to look presentable. (Unless you’re combining the Japanese art of flower-arranging with edible centerpiece creation, you’ll likely need more than one solitary food-flower.) That's an hour that your food is not only out of the refrigerator, but being cut and perforated, skewered, and left to lazy about in open air. And with juicier fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe (which it looks like they used, if they had been real food), that's precious juice dripping out, not only out of the fruit and making them drier, but dripping onto the OTHER foods... Two of the worst pitfalls in the cooking business are “the danger zone” (temperatures where bacteria love to breed) and “cross-contamination” (foods getting into other foods).

Okay, so let's imagine that you're at ninja level and managed to prepare food that's NOT been left out in the open for more than an hour and have NOT been dripping or contaminating the other skewered foods. You've miraculously taken an assortment of fruits, veggies, meats and cheeses and actually managed to complete the unlikely masterpiece from the kit as depicted in pictures on the box/advertisements.

They're just going to eat it!

That's right. After all that work – there’s only two ways this goes down. They EAT the food and your masterpiece is ruined - or they DON'T eat the food because it "looks too good to eat" or "can't even tell it's not flowers" (because their noses have been lopped off and can't smell open-air cheese/meat) and all that food goes to WASTE.

And now that I've pretty much warned you of most of the flaws in the product itself, let me enlighten you on the advertisement's blatant disrespect for your intelligence.

You know how on some infomercials, they'll give you a bonus "extra tube" or "other extra device" or even an “entire extra set/system” and claim its value that you're getting FREE? Well on THIS product, they do claim you're getting something extra for free. The item you're getting extra is a "Professional Leaf Design Tool". That's right, if it weren't for their generous extra gift, your Centerpiece Gourmet with its skewers and cookie cutters would NOT have come with the LEAF-SHAPED cookie cutter! Have fun making flowery centerpieces of food without a leaf shape! Thank goodness we're giving you this bonus cookie cutter for FREE when you order our product! And be thankful we're giving it to you for free, because a leaf-shaped cookie cutter is apparently AN OVER $50 VALUE! It's just like the ones the PROFESSIONALS use!

In conclusion, don't be an idiot who bought this IDIOTIC PRODUCT.

Stick to cubes of food with toothpicks and a real centerpiece that nobody will eat. Your guests will thank you.

(Or be an idiot and buy this IDIOTIC PRODUCT for $24.99)

This post is also available at ThisIsBy.Us


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