Apparently, We're All Idiots

Friday, April 9, 2010

I know that the art of cooking is lost on most people these days. We're all in a rush to get to soccer games and meetings. Putting together a meal in a busy time frame can be hard and sometimes it's easier to go with fast food or pre-packaged. I think we can all admit that frozen puff pastry is simply the quickest alternative for the busiest of home bakers (not that homemade isn't delightful when you find that glorious free afternoon after bending spacetime itself in order to relax).

This leads up to the ease of home cooking gadgets. No one will snub the glory of the stand mixer or blender, or, in my home, the ice cream machine. They've become such standard tools that we write out our recipes under the assumption that home cooks have them (and though this thought could segment to another post all together, stay with me on this one for a while longer).

These devices and items are supposed to aid the cook. They reduce stress, labor, and the amount of time needed to preform certain culinary tasks - whipping egg whites into stiff, glossy peaks only take three minutes in the Kitchen-Aid as opposed to the arm numbing task of whipping them by hand.

Convenience foods have their place as well. Phyllo dough supposedly take 5 years to learn to make correctly. However, when was the last time you had five years, when a five minute drive to the local market will do just fine?

But there's a point where convenience and efficiency crosses a line into stupidity and handicapping the average human being's ability to feed themselves. Sadly, modern marketing has pounced upon this notion and made it it's mission to convince you that you're an incapable twit who is easily vexed by the simplest tasks.

I recently saw some commercial for a fruit drink of some kind. A woman is sitting at her desk, bites into a peach, and the juice gets all over her. Then the narrator states, "Take the difficulty out of eating your fruit," and plugs the drink.

Difficulty? Eating fruit is difficult now? (Minus certain exceptions like coconut, of course.) How sad is that? That our society is so out of touch with how to eat food - never mind cooking it - that we're told that fresh food, even something as simple as eating a peach, is too difficult, bothersome, and trying for the everyday person.

We're talking about eating. The basic act of giving our bodies fuel. Is it THAT hard? We have to be instructed to easier methods?

With a peach I can just bite it. The juice container is tchnically heavier and I have to struggle with twisting a cap off it. I mean if we're gonna talk about how much work eating either one of these products is, the juice is a loser due to the cap acting as an extra step between picking it up and it being in my mouth.

From this commerical we can establish two things:

1. This woman is an idiot, and as she represents the average consumer, the company says we're idiots too.

2. Possible solutions. Cut up the peach. Eat it over a plate or napkin. There are plenty, tastier, more logical options than buying fruit juice and tossing yet another container into the trash.

As for the cooking, wow. I have no words. Actually, no, I have many.

One infomercial for some specialty pizza cooking oven thingy blew me away. The narrator prompted, "Do you have problems heating your frozen pizza and ensuring a crispy crust and melting texture?" Then it cut to a black and white video of a woman attempting to cram a frozen pizza the size of a Goodyear into a toaster. Her over-dramatized frustration was meant to connect with, apparently, my own everyday experiences of trying to fit whole pizzas into toasters (and that's nothing to say about my plight every time I try shoving bagels into zippo lighters).

People, seriously, if this is a major issue in your life then a fancy pizza cooker isn't going solve the massive intellectual bankruptcy that obviously hinders you on a daily basis.

Take the lady in this infomerical for the Egg Genie, a device that hard boils your eggs because you didn't graduate high school.

I understand not knowing how to boil an egg if you haven't cooked before, but this woman is all kinds of incompetent. Not only can she not figure out how to cook an egg through trial and error (i.e. "This egg is not done, I should boil the others longer."), she is also incapable of consulting a cookbook or the internet for help, or asking anyone on the street for advice on how to hard boil an egg. This is total ineptitude on a cosmic level. Where are her keepers and why have they let her alone to play with a stove!? Moving a pot of water is even a struggle for her, especially without her pillow padded helmet on. No, the modern adult needs a safety device for cooking a fucking egg.

I mean, Christ, we were trusted with Easy Bake Ovens as children! We could have burned ourselves! Parent supervision be damned, because that cakelette wasn't going to bake itself! Today moving a 2 quart pot of water is a trial, and we haven't even gotten to the knives or burners yet. At this rate we'll soon convince ourselves that eating and drinking all together is a trying inconvenience. Just pump a nutrient rich slurry directly into my stomach and get it over with.

So people, hard boil your eggs without devices. Eat your peaches and let that sticky juice dribble down your arms and onto a smartly laid out plate. Prove to the world your pregnant mom didn't do lines longer than the one outside the Matterhorn ride. We're capable of cooking and eating, no matter what TV says.

We're not idiots.


  1. To paraphrase, "But we are, Blanche--we are!" Frankly, I'm pretty sure that the success of 'Jersey Shore' sealed that particular deal.

    I've seen this kind of discussion around the notion of 'Google makes us stupid', and your observations from a product-design standpoint are spot-on.

  2. Whenever these infomercials come on, it reminds me & my husband of the time we were picking up fruit to bring to a snowboarding session. A friend wanted bananas instead of apples, because (his exact words) "Apples are so hard to eat".

    Products like this were made FOR THAT GUY.

  3. THANK YOU. That juice commercial really is the worst.

  4. Additionally, I think the fact that the "idiots" in these ads are almost always women is important. Women watch a lot of TV, women should know how to cook/eat fruit but don't because they're stupid. That's another message I get from this collection of ads, and it, too, is offensive.

  5. I hate the commercial that implies eating fruit is too hard (some lady pulls a browned bent banana out of her purse) and the solution is to drink fruit juice With Real FRUIT BITS in it. Just eat some fruit damnit!

  6. Oh my gosh every time I see that juice commercial I want to punch something. It would be one thing if they compared the juice with "real fruit bits" to the processed crap that passes for juice these days - I love bottles that proclaim "contains 10% fruit juice" as if this is an achievement, as if we are too dumb to question what's in the other 90%! But instead that commercial goes in the opposite direction, and it's just so awful.

    The Egg Genie doesn't seem so bad to me, though. Obviously boiling eggs in a pot is not that hard, but the genie thinger is just an electric kettle with a plate over it to turn it into a steamer. Whether it's worth paying money for is another question, but the existence of it doesn't strike fear into my heart the way that damn juice commercial does.

  7. AMEN! After nearly two years in medical school I've decided that most of our health issues are related to the fact that hardly anyone cooks their own food. I wish there was a way to prescribe cooking lessons instead of pills!

  8. But Garrett, her nails are soooo pretty.......if I buy the Egg Genie, maybe my nails will look like that too! AND, I'll have the bonus of perfectly cooked eggs. I wanna have that!

  9. I just had a conversation today with someone at work about how food actually should take some time to both cook and eat. If it's too easy, it's probably devoid of anything worth eating.

    This commercial isn't QUITE as bad as the ones you posted/discussed (although I guess that's also debatable), but you might be able to appreciate the humor:
    I <3 this blog!

  11. Welcome to Costco, I love you.
    (Have you seen Idiocracy?)

    I am dumbfounded by the level of stupidity of the consumers portrayed even in the more "mainstream" commercials for garbage bags and paper towels.

    Bravo! loved this post.

  12. Ok, I get it. Eggs are damned hard to make. But she made Hollandaise sauce, and salad, and the filling for deviled eggs. Apparently, even an idiot who can't cook eggs, can make the other stuff. I don't even bother getting offended by those commercials. And people who buy into that probably are just as dumb as the target audience.

  13. Have you seen the movie WALL-E yet? It has a similar commentary on the direction humanity is taking towards making everything easier.

    I don't understand why people willingly make themselves so dependent on gadgets. I understand the want for ease and simplicity (I love my rice cooker!) but not knowing how to do a machine's job (especially one as simple as cooking an egg or rice) only adds what I would think is an undesired degree of helplessness to one's life. I thought part of the American Dream was to be independent?

  14. I love this rant. My sister is engaged and her future husband really wants to get an "egg-cracker" ( as a gift. My husband and I are fervently dissuading them against it. I really hate single-use gadgets in the kitchen in general (avocado slicers, lettuce knives, mango peelers...) but some of the crap they sell on infomercials are just ridiculous.

  15. Bravo! Everyone (and their bank accounts) would be so much healthier if we all cut the crap and took the time to cook real food.

  16. AMEN!! And, great post!

  17. I'm amazed at the stupidity of, many of the cooking devices on infomercials. Cooking is so really is. I mean the simple act of cooking a meal that is wholesome and good. It doesn't have to be fancy....simple food is good. Home-cooked food is the best.

  18. Well said. Let us further discuss the commercial that implies that, in order to get adequate fiber one must munch on whole, raw broccoli from waking 'til sleeping, or you can take a pill... No, just eat a balanced diet including fruits (not the quickie juice from your commercial), vegetables, and whole grains which you've cooked yourself... *sigh* Everyone's looking for a quick fix, easy solution.

  19. I didn't watch the commercials- I try to avoid misogynist advertising- but the egg cooker is a standard item here in Europe. I have one in my kitchen. It's not safe, either, and I wouldn't let my kids (6 and 3) near it because of the steam hazard (mine is smaller). i find it extremely handy to use.
    We also have a water cooker (the thing that looks like a coffeepot but fills with water and has an immersion coil heater in it). It's not because I don't know how to use a tea kettle (although I no longer own one) or how to boil eggs; it's that it is faster and easier to use these appliances. I also own a toaster even though (until I moved to an electric stove in my new apt- boo) I could have toasted things by the flame of my broiler.
    I also own and love my grapefruit spoons.

    The concept of a peach being too messy, though, is just plain silly. Even in a country where pizza is always eaten with a fork and knife.

  20. I had the exact same reaction to that commercial. Not only did it take two hands for her to try to eat a peach but she then tries to answer the phone with her high-heeled covered feet! I'm not sure which is more insulting-the implied stupidity and incompetence of the average person or the suggestion that a processed drink with "fruit bits" has the same nutritional benefits as a piece of fruit.

  21. i think the most ironic thing about the egg genie commercial is that it depicts a woman who, like you said, never learned how to boil an egg.

    but, while mastering this simple basic task has somehow eluded her, she has managed to learn how to cook eggs benedict, egg salad sandwiches, and perfect deviled eggs. she may not be able to boil water and use a kitchen timer, but she's got other valuable knowledge that don't rely on such basic skills.

  22. I pretty much lost it around the bagel-zippo lighter part. As for the fixation on messy peaches - well, don't let the Texas State Board of Education get wind of that, or T.S. Eliot will end up banned from schools. ;)

  23. We're not all idiots, but I'm afraid some of us are. I have a sister who was whipping up pies, crepes and roasted chickens all through junior high and high school. Now in her forties, if it weren't for frozen foods at TJ's she'd be up a creek. Not sure when her brain was demagnetized, but it is a little scary. I think she would eat a peach, though, rather than a bottle of juice.

  24. thank god someone else has noticed the profound stupidity of a commercial depicting a woman who cannot manage to eat a piece of fruit.

  25. My husband and I have this conversation all the time. As if it was so difficult to complete the simplest tasks. I also loved the Snuggie commercials in which they implied that reaching out of the blanket to get the phone was a tremendous hassle.

  26. i so agree w/ your post. i have to turn the channel when that peach commerical comes on as i find it distrubing on so many levels. and at the same time it is so very sad 1) that so many in our culture don't know how to prepare food and what place that can have in nuturing oneself or one's family. 2) that so many don't know what real food tastes, smells nor feels like and what that richness can bring to our lives.

  27. I thought the peach juice dribbling all over the place was part of the pleasure of eating a peach...

  28. I saw that juice commercial yesterday and thought, "Seriously?!" A friend and I had a serious and lengthy conversation about how people have literally stopped using their brains. Thanks for blogging a rant that I've wanted to give for awhile.

  29. No, you can't cut up a peach... Knives sharp.
    I hope people don't assume everyone has a stand mixer, though - that's just depressing for me :(

  30. The peach commercial is extra stupid for the simple reason that the peaches you find today in many American supermarkets are such unripe little pucker bombs that the mess is simply not an issue. The juice may actually taste more like a real peach.

  31. There are so many needless wastes of plastic in the name of "convenience" that it grosses me out. Cooking is a skill that, to me, is as important as learning how to tie your shoes. It's a skill that will serve you, fuel you, and (hopefully) help you lead a long and healthy life. Marketing ploys that try to sell convenience just aid in short-changing people in an area of life that should be savored: cooking and eating!

    Great, hilarious, and astute post!

  32. This was hilarious to me!

    My husband and I paraphrase these idiotic commercials all the time. One of our favorites is where the woman is trying to chop onions but is really just haphazardly bashing the knife around on the cutting board. When we have to do really basic things we're always like "unrolling toilet paper is hard, difficult and dangerous..."

    Aside from how appalling it is that no one can seem to perform basic cooking functions anymore, I think these commercials kind of "reward" stupidity. They make it "okay" to be an adult and not know how to add. Or be a teenager who doesn't know her own birth date. I see this every day and it's maddening! It's never okay to be stupid!!!

  33. "Don't lug that heavy pot of water..."

    I am totally cheering on this blog post. In fact, my husband and I were talking about this kind of thing like, yesterday - except we were discussing how society has 'trained' us to view junk and processed foods as 'treats' and that we should 'treat' ourselves, often.

    I've become so disgusted with TV and not only the ads, but the actual programs too. Always laughing at the expense of someone else, everything is a contest, a race, you know?

    Anyway. Loved this post!!

  34. Everyone in my apartment is standing and applauding.
    Ok, so maybe I'm the only one here, but still...

  35. Great post! I totally agree with you on the stupidity of those infomercials.

    I don't have a TV or cable, so I'm spared from watching informercials, but I do like them because I get to laugh at the stupid things that people come up with because of their laziness!

  36. Just started reading your blog and thought you might get a kick out of this video. It is a compilation of idiots from TV commercials.


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