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Weights and measures

The kitchen has always been the scene of both spontaneity and careful weighing up. Back in the day we had balance scales with nests of heavy metal weights like filled-in cups. Very satisfying they were in a tactile way. Now, our exotic and exacting recipes (thanks Ottolenghi!) call for careful measurement of ingredients.

Last month, the Seattle Smart Kitchen Summit introduced me to an array of new ways to regulate our meals, bodies and wallets through what we buy and eat. The Quantified Self based on digital logging of our daily lives is an idea we have adopted widely. For some this can be seen as a technical version of weight management. To others it's a wider feeling of self-command, with a focus on gadgets. For many of us it's about the validation of health-supporting habits, with a move towards controlled eating rather than unbridled hedonism.

Quantified Self

A new measurement device I saw at the Smart Kitchen Summit made the move from farming to the human diet. A pocket spectrometer was developed by Dror Sharon at Consumer Physics, originally for farmers to evaluate precisely the nutritional content of animal feeds. Beamed at any of the foods we eat it provides an instant nutritional analysis, read on a smartphone. The snapshot can be broad in scope or highly detailed. Sharon pointed the spectrometer first at a whole pizza and then zoomed in on a small slice of capsicum topping for separate analyses. If you need to be sure what's in your food at a detailed nutritional level this provides powerful information.

 The SCiO spectrometer

Photo: The SCiO spectrometer

Alternatively, the Palo Alto company Habit has developed an elegant system to help adjust and sustain food habits for maximum health benefits. This involves home testing and app support and is based on your own biology. Particularly effective for weight control, it has a wide variety of other health and wellbeing applications. Learn more here.

Nutribullet have sharpened the precision of their home smoothie-making system with inbuilt scales through a collaboration with the Perfect Company - useful if you really care about the exact composition of your health-giving concoctions. This is actually very sensible as we now know that smoothies can be loaded with hidden calories. Information is key here in getting the balance right.

Kitchen island with chopping board

Smart fridges have tended to be viewed as white elephants, with consumers yet to be persuaded that they are worth the hefty price tag. Probably best not give up on the idea yet however as emerging shopping trends mean the fridge really is the main food storage space in the kitchen. This role is becoming more and more central as we choose fresh foods, juices and chilled meals, often bought daily. With Amazon's takeover of Wholefoods the link between the internet and what we eat has suddenly strengthened. Smart fridges are likely to become a kitchen portal between our private lives and the outside world with rumours that Amazon plans to bring its data-based marketing to your food deliveries. In spatial terms I believe fridges offer a so-far unused kitchen surface at eye level. On this could be mounted an electronic shopping tablet and also a visual window into the kitchens of friends and family - a screen for staying in touch via Skype, FaceTime etc. We might all end up staring at rather than into our fridges!


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