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A Perfectly Cooked Egg Is Artistry, Not an Algorithm

How smart products undermine the simple joy of cooking

It didn’t happen overnight, but it was fast.

Just 50 years after the birth of the personal computer and 30 years since the internet sprang to life, our lives are now saturated with smart technology.

We work on computers, socialize through screens, and take our phones literally everywhere. We exercise with tech, bring it to dinner, and regale our friends with status updates on vacation. Dazzled by vivid screens and seduced by the mystery of features we’ve yet to try, we buy more. Across the world, an estimated one hundred twenty-seven new devices connect to the internet every second.

To say we’re utterly preoccupied with technology isn’t hyperbole. According to a Pew Research study last year, nearly 3 in 10 Americans say they are now online “almost constantly.” For 18-29-year-olds, the number is closer to 50%.

Even the one place we’re supposed to be able to unwind and unplug — home — has succumbed to tech.

While connectivity is good in many ways, the fact that we’re slowly losing the ability to ever disconnect is worrisome. Even the one place we’re supposed to be able to unwind and unplug — home — has succumbed to tech. So last year, when my brother-in-law bought me a “smart frying pan” as a sort-of-but-not-really gag gift for Christmas, warning bells went off in my head. The kitchen, I realized, is one of the last low-tech spaces in my life, one I’m not ready to sacrifice to the new gods of gadgetry.


A rare shot of a pristinely clean kitchen in Jeff’s New Jersey home. (Courtesy of Jeff Kennigseder)

On achy knees and in search of caffeine, I descend the stairs each morning and make my way to the kitchen. Well aware the majority of my day will involve technology (I work from home), I forsake all screens until I’ve at least had a chance to eat breakfast and fully wake up. I load the coffee maker, put news or music on the radio, and then decide which of several go-to breakfasts to prepare.

One of my favorites is a fried egg and toast. All I need are a few basic utensils, a toaster, and a frying pan over medium heat that I get hot and buttery before cracking an egg into it. As the radio chirps, I perform my sacred rituals and absorb the calming sensations of the morning kitchen. The coffee maker gurgles, the smell of toast rises, and the egg hisses as it hits the pan. An over-medium egg takes about three minutes per side to achieve slow-running yolky perfection.

My ears let me know if the pan is too warm, and my eyes tell me when to flip. A perfectly cooked egg is a work of art and is only achievable with total focus on what’s happening inside the pan.