Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Food Tinkerer

I’ve always been a tinkerer. When I was 10, my dad bought me my first wrench set and not being a tinkerer himself enrolled his 4th grade son in his first ever college class--Small Gasoline Engine Repair (i.e. lawn mowers). I vividly remember sitting in the parking lot of the hardware store looking at the bolts on the car door and then looking down at my wrench set smiling. My dad smiled back, caught himself encouraging his tinkering son and then sternly said: "I better not find this car door on the garage floor when I get home".

Food is one of my lifelong passions. Naturally, passions collide and I have applied tinkering to food in recent years. What I have learned in my tinkering is you shouldn't mess with the ingredients too much or else food ceases to be food and becomes . . a Twinkie. But that doesn't mean I can't tinker with the devices that make food. Last year, I decided to build by own smoker after being inspired by an episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats. I went out and bought two terra cotta pots, a dorm room stove (hot plate) and some wood chips. The first thing I realized was that the stove had an auto-shutoff if it gets too hot (which a wise tinkerer probably installed to prevent dorm room fires). As I sat tinkering with the stove's safety device in what I refer to as my "workspace", my wife nearly ran me over pulling her car into what she refers to as the "garage". After nearly killing me, she got scolded me for almost killing myself via electrocution. I reassured her by simply explaining I had electrocuted myself many times before and lived to tell the tale.

A few clipped wires and a dimmer switch later, voila! a working smoker that has since churned out some amazing smoked white fish and pork loin.

As a tinkerer, I am always innovating. Next week – what are the terra cotta pots being used for now. Any guesses?

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