This writer’s wife loves to cook. Cakes, pies, bread, puddings, rolls and such items are, for her, merely a matter of a quick after-office juggle of utensils. This writer loves to eat cakes, pies, bread, puddings and such items.
It is a marriage made in culinary heaven. Except neither of us is exactly a maestro of domestic instrumentation. We have modest versions of most popular domestic items at home-ovens, mills, liquidizers, blenders, choppers-but are tremendously intimidated by their buttons and displays and settings and switches and dials.
Never at a loss: Think you’ll lose that important document? Scan it
A case in point is the combination fan oven and grill. Now ostensibly this device does only one thing: produce heat. In a perfect world you’d just shove your cake tin or breaded fish fillet into it, set a temperature, and sit back and sip on wine while the item attains culinary self-actualization.
This is what Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver do. I have observed very carefully. Especially Nigella.
But no, not our oven. Our oven has three dials on top which control—from left to right—time, temperature and cooking mode. The last one is the dial that befuddles us the most. All around the dial are position marks that make no human sense. This star-like symbol probably means fan oven mode. This odd dashed arc probably means...grill? So this dashed line on top of a fan means grill and fan at the same time, right?
Wrong. For two reasons. One, this is not the oven but the washing machine. Two, that is not fan and grill, but delicates and lingerie.
Chaos and mayhem ensued every time we tried to cook anything more complicated than an omelette.
So one afternoon I decided this had to stop. There had to be a way to quickly refer to the instruction manuals for these gadgets without having to go excavating in the storeroom.
I sat one weekend afternoon and downloaded as many instruction manuals as I could for the gadgets we have at home. Provided your devices are made by half-decent brands, you should have no trouble finding them. Most good ones put up, on the Internet, PDF versions of the literature that came with your product in the box.
These days I have a folder on my desktop called Household Records, inside which there is another folder called Manuals that contains all these files. This might seem like a mind-bogglingly geeky thing to do, but it has actually helped us tremendously. The missus discovered, for instance, that for months we’d been using the wrong oven setting to bake. No wonder the cakes were crusting up beautifully on the surface, but staying liquid on the inside.
Or suppose you’re wondering if you can blend your cooked broccoli straightaway into soup, or wait for it to cool first. No problem. Open your blender PDF, and search for “soup” or “warm liquid”. Kaboom. Soup. Mmm.
Since that afternoon I’ve started storing away all kinds of documents in the folder. Things like the meaning of those laundry instructions on clothes-“Cold wash, slow spin, drip dry, iron inside out, dispose in garbage, buy new piece”.
But I’ve also started doing something else even more useful. Recently I purchased a multi-purpose inkjet-printer-cum-scanner-cum-copier for office use. A tiny little thing from HP that works on Wi-Fi and also has slots in front for memory cards. You can print from, or scan to, these cards.
I was browsing some Internet fora while setting up the device when I noticed an interesting comment by a user. The user said he always left a large capacity memory card in one of the slots, and scanned almost any household document that was important and which he was sure he would eventually lose. Things like bills, certificates, bank PINs and passwords, receipts and so on.
Like him, this writer also has a propensity to lose things. For instance, right now, I have no idea where my wife is. Did I leave her at the supermarket? Quite possibly.
Nowadays I am a maniacal scanner of things. Anything that is sent home, from electricity meter readings to bank statements, immediately gets scanned on to a memory card. Later I take the files I need and import them into the Evernote application I have on my computer. This popular note-taking tool not only indexes these things, but also reads the text in images. And later you can access them on Evernote’s mobile apps. You could also dump files into DropBox folders and sync them across machines.
Three months from now if the blender breaks down, I know exactly when we bought it and if the warranty is valid.
I usually get a piece of lemon cake as reward.
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