$2269 for fast, lazy meals?
Updated: Jul 22, 2021
"Essentially, the Thermomix is a blender that also cooks and stirs your food at adjustable temperatures and speeds." Marguerite Preston - Wirecutter - New York Times
A few weeks ago Aldi was selling its knockoff on the Thermomix - Aldi on the right at $229.00 and Thermomix on the left at $2269.00. David thought I might be interested in the Aldi version. He saw it as a bargain - which I guess it was. And it was a sort of generous thought. Not sure his generosity would stretch to a Thermomix though. He knew that I had previously discarded the idea of the 'real thing' after a gourmet (and wealthy) friend had raved about hers. Now I confess I could afford the Thermomix - not something that is true, it seems to me, for the bulk of people who might well make good use of it - time and money poor, strugglers with no interest in cooking. Nevertheless I'm just not interested in a machine that can do everything - not that it can anyway. So I declined the Thermomix in the past, and the Aldi look alike now. However, out of interest I did look at comparison sites and found that they all thought the Thermomix was the best although the cheaper versions - there are others - were just not quite as good. The main thing it seemed to me was that they did not have as many recipes. Besides CHOICE, even though it admits the fault that caused that burning scandal a few years back that resulted in Thermomix paying million dollar fines, is now fixed - in spite of that they were still not entirely happy about its safety and can't recommend it because of it.
So coincidences - life is full of them. First of all, after the refusal of Aldi's take on the Thermomix, in last week's Guardian newsletter there was an article about the Thermomix cult. Yes cult because it's one of those things that has an ardent set of followers, which sort of grows out of how it's sold - like Tupperware by people who hold selling demonstrations in their homes. It's a kind of pyramid selling deal - no not kind of. It is. Which is another reason in my book not to buy, although the defenders of this kind of selling will say it's just housewives trying to earn some extra cash. Anyway owners are pretty messianic - I couldn't find any owners who owned up to being disappointed - and there are heaps of Thermomix blogs and Facebook pages out there. This comment from one of those users sums up the attitude I think - taken from The Guardian article.
“I think when you’re a proud Thermomix owner, you don’t deny owning one, you own a few Thermomix cookbooks, you follow the groups on social media, you’re sort of part of that community … I don’t think that community is a cult, I think it’s one of the most beautiful communities that has weirdly grown out of a kitchen gadget,” Priscilla Sutton (Thermomix owner)
But if you want to check it out go to the Thermomix website - not that it really tells you very much. And if you want to have a little smile about it look at a, now old, clip from The Katering Show in which the two Kates test out making risotto the traditional way and also in a Thermomix. And actually the Thermomix probably wins - but then the traditional way is somewhat exaggerated. It's mildly amusing though.
I'm really not sure who buys these things. I would have said people not interested in cooking but who have to feed their families, if it wasn't for my friend, who is a really good and interesting cook. The things that the advertising seems to push are that it can cook whole meals very quickly, that it is one machine that will replace several others and that it doesn't take up much space. It's all you need. Well it's not.
"The Thermomix is a generalist, not a specialist, so while it can do the job of other appliances, the machines you may already own can often do the job better." Marguerite Preston - Wirecutter - New York Times
Yes there are recipes for roasting meats and frying steaks, but I don't think they are probably very successful because it can't fry or caramelise. You get round that kind of cooking somehow but not that successfully. It can't slice. It just chops and not that evenly - you either get chunks or pulp according to one reviewer. I don't even think you can cook something slowly for hours. Most reviews seemed to say it would only cook for 1 hour, though I suspect the latest model can actually cook for longer. I also think that if, for example you were cooking a pasta you would have to cook the pasta separately - either in the Thermomix or on the cooktop, and if you did it in the Thermomix that would extend your cooking time. I saw one recipe that said it took 45 minutes to make carbonara - much longer than on your cooktop. It also can't make ice cream - if you want to. So I suspect that you would still need all those other machines for various other tasks so there goes your bench (or cupboard) space. It doesn't look to me like you could cook for a lot of people in it either.
Before I go on to my main beef about it all though, I was slightly appalled by this statement in the Guardian article from a prospective buyer:
"there’s no added preservatives. All that stuff you don’t want your children to eat – you can just cut it all out.”
How on earth does using a Thermomix cut out preservatives et al? But then I guess this might be somebody who buys premixed this and precooked that in her normal life because she doesn't like cooking. But it has to be said that Thermomix do make a big deal out of its use of fresh things whose provenance you know. Surely that's just a matter of shopping not cooking.
No it's not for me and I don't think it's for people like me who like to cook (and the two Kates make fun of that too). Kelsey Youngman of Food and Wine who tested it out came to the same conclusion:
"It seems built for a just a few niche audiences (all of whom, it’s important to note, must have a budget for luxury, high-end kitchen appliances): the curious and science-minded cook, the busy person who just wants to get dinner on the table, and perhaps the ones who can’t quite stir a pot for an hour but love time spent over the stove ...
Where it suffers, for me, is in the very fact that it really does it all. I want to smell, taste, and interact with my food. I want to test a carrot for doneness, and be involved in the preparation of my food ..."
A sentiment reiterated by Veronica Hleborodova of Canstar Blue
"most of the complaints come from those who say it simply takes the joy out of cooking."
Not that there is always joy in cooking. I well remember the days when I was working 7 days a week and had two teenage sons. I would pick them up after a long day when my husband was away on business and I would succumb to buying take-away chicken and chips on the way home. Not that there is anything wrong with take-away every now and then. I also had picky sons so the breadth of the cooking repertoire was somewhat limited, but nevertheless it was really not that hard to throw something tasty together. But that's the other thing about the Thermomix - you can't use your Ottolenghi and Nigel Slater, Jamie, and Delia or even Donna Hay cookbooks any more can you? You are going to be restricted to the Thermomix and Thermomix follower recipes. Which I suspect are a whole lot less interesting. Besides you can't curl up with them and a cup of coffee on a wintry afternoon can you? You can probably make up your own things once you are used to how it all works, but that's not the same as a cookbook special thing.
And here is my second coincidence - the previous week The Guardian had asked several chefs for their ideas for a 15 minute meal. Which got me to thinking about fifteen minute meals. There are indeed thousands - although probably a 30 minute time-frame is possibly a bit more realistic. It's all in the planning really - in the sense that you have to have stuff in your pantry and fridge that can make the fresh vegetables, meat and fish that you might have just bought, delectable.
People have written whole books on the subject - Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food is a kind of bible on the subject really. He sums up his philosophy in his Introduction:
"Think of a piece of chicken brushed with aromatic herbs and lemon, then char-grilled and stuffed into a crisp roll slathered with garlic mayonnaise ... Whether it is Mrs David's immortal omelette and a glass of wine, a hot bacon sandwich when your return from the pub on a cold night, or a plate of pasta with slices of soft white goat's cheese and leaves of pungent fresh thyme, there is nothing like real, fast, food." Nigel Slater
Yes an omelette and a glass of wine - with a green salad on the side I think:
And another little coincidence - the ad I saw in front of the Katering Show was Adam Liaw responding to a request for his fast food suggestion, with sashimi. All you do is slice it he said.
Not for the poor though is it? You need really high quality fish. And perhaps you should provide some rice - which takes very little time or effort with a rice cooker.
The Guardian had several ideas:
Pasta sciu sciu - “Fry tomatoes, garlic and chilli in olive oil, throw in cooked pasta and toss. It’s delicious.” Jacob Kenedy
tossed cooked soba with chopped spring onions, crunchy veg or chargrilled broccoli and equal parts chilli oil, black rice vinegar and light soy sauce. Pippa Middleton
chicken scaloppine is also a winner: dust thinly sliced breast in flour, fry, then make a sauce with the pan juices, butter and lemon, add rosemary or parsley and serve on mash. You’ll need to chop those spuds small, though, to hit that 15-minute mark." Jacob Kenedy
Cooking en papillote [ie, in paper] is massively underrated when it comes to quick meals. It’s such a nifty trick, and you can use small whole fish, fillets or shellfish. Lay the seafood, veg, butter and seasoning on a sheet of greaseproof, splash with a little white wine, wrap and bake in a 200C (180C fan) oven for a complete meal in a bag. A favourite late-spring go-to is mackerel, olives, red onion, tomato, garlic and dried oregano. Rick Toogood (no washing up with this one either - and obviously applicable to a whole host of other things)
In my kitchen pasta is probably king, or a stir fry, or something quickly braised or fried. Nigel Slater seems to grill a lot. Steak Diane, which I should cook more often is an absolute stand-out quick meal. And actually it's not the meat, fish or vegetable main that takes the time - it's the sides isn't it? Although they also can be just a salad and some bread.
There are literally thousands of recipes on the net for 15 minute meals. All the big names have them - Jamie Oliver has a selection of 15 minute meals and he has a whole book of 30 minute ones, the Recipe Tin Eats lady has some as well, the BBC and so on. Then there's the supermarket magazines that alway have quick meals - admittedly some make use of those things with preservatives, but not all.
Anyway suffice to say - you don't need over $2000 to make a fifteen minute meal. If you want steak or sashimi you might have to splurge, but even so it's not a lot in comparison. And for the same money ($2000) you can buy a whole heap of other classy gadgets that will make your life easier. I do ponder on a spiraliser every now and then. And they are very cheap. Talking about that steak makes me think I might have another go at that next time I'm eating. In the meantime it's curried chicken tonight and that won't take long either.
I guess on the whole I probably spend an hour or so in the kitchen most nights, but that's because I enjoy cooking, and I'm slow, and I don't have a Thermomix. Perhaps. I forgot to say that the idea of learning to use it is pretty daunting anyway - although most of the review sites did say it was pretty easy.
Now what could I spend the $300 I didn't spend on the Aldi imitation Thermomix - or even the $2000 on the Thermomix that I sort of turned down a few years ago?