The modern, connected kitchen
I have this love-hate relationship with food and grocery shopping. You know, the intoxicating aroma of the fresh coffee grounds, the sensuous plumpness of the avocados, the sweet tangy scent of dill, the possible recipes just ripe for the making! That love of possibility, of feeling connected with the earth and my body. That kind of love of life only food can evoke. Then of course, the reality of my being an even less than amateur chef, who can barely stomach mushrooms hits and I can’t find my way through the dry good aisles. That, there, in the dry food aisles is where my hatred of grocery shopping really begins. But that, there, is also where the bright future of connected shopping will, and rather has already started to, happen.
Let me begin by saying that I recognize that very likely, in the next few years even, shopping for most groceries at a physical store will be a quaint activity. As services like FreshDirect and Peapod become more commonplace outside of cities, we’ll likely reserve the in-person trips for veggies and meat, things we need to feel with our own hands or see with our own eyes. But even those items might become tasks we outsource to quick, local delivery services like eBay Now or Google Shopping Express. But, even still, we’ll still need to shop, whether online or off.
With that, let me share how I shop, at most likely, how some of you do too no doubt. This is my usual path through a grocery store:
See all the overlap? All the back and forth? Yup, that’s me. First I find some dill. Sweet, soft dill. And I think, “ooh, let’s have salmon! What else goes with salmon?” Then I’ll think about a lemon something like couscous. I’ll grab a few more fresh items before being on my merry way to the seafood. There I grab the salmon, and notice the beautiful mussels and think “Moules frites! J’adore moules frites avec le vin blanc. Je les doit acheter!” And so, I go back to find some thyme. And so the shopping goes, even with a list I still find something new and delicious and need to double back. The digital age won’t help me much on that front, unless we go all Minority Report and the precogs tell me what I will make each night.
But like I said, my spontaneity is only part of the problem. Another challenge is knowing what I actually already have at home. We have a small pantry, as one does in Brooklyn. So chances are, whatever I think I have in stock, I likely don’t. But why should I guess at all. Why can’t my fridge tell me how much milk I have left? Or the pantry inform me that the cereal is about to expire?
This is my ideal kitchen:
In this future kitchen of mine, everything is connected. Food cartons become smart, carrying vital information like expiration dates or even food allergies. They’re equipped with scales so I know how much milk I have left. And my pantry becomes intelligent, with not only a list of what I have in stock, but also a constantly updated menu of possible recipes based on my entire kitchen inventory. A hub, perhaps like Nest, that keeps track of my kitchen like the best little iSousChef ever.
Imagine throwing a dinner party, and my kitchen asks my guests to vote for their favorite recipes or alert me to their food allergies. Imagine getting healthy recipes customized based on my wacky taste preferences. Imagine sharing your kitchen inventory with mom before she arrives with yet another jar of jam (Note, Jenny and Nancy: Please keep bringing jam!). Or even imagine that your local food kitchen comes by to pick up those cans of tuna fish you haven’t touched in a year and that you’re never going to touch.
And getting back to my shopping, oh how shopping in the connected age will be better. Carts will connect with our grocery list to guide us to the right aisle. Our phones will tell what it’s in season. We’ll share our lists with roommates or partners to divide and conquer. And of course, we’ll know what’s in stock at home.
This is possible. And it will happen soon, especially if Cisco can get its “internet of everything” campaign to become a reality. The connected home is happening, but I sure hope we get things started in the kitchen first. And when it does, I want one of these kitchens:
Photo credit: Toncelli Prisma kitchen design, found here.