Punchinello’s Chronicles

July 9, 2010

How America Became a Super Power

It’s been a busy summer, so far. I see I haven’t posted since May! Enh…that’s okay, the world continues to circle the drain and nothing new is happening. Well, nothing new in the world “out there.” In my own little ghetto paradise, things have been interesting. I’m getting into Chinese restaurant cooking, and a bit of Greek cooking. I’ll post some cool stuff on that in a bit. But along the way, I’m seeing what America used to do, and what we do these days.

I happen to be a bit obsessive, and that ended up putting me on a quest. See…I like to cook, and deep-fried chicken is a favorite. Being who I am, I foolishly thought I’d find out a bit more about the details of hot oil and frying. (For those of you who believe deep-fried food is bad for you, go read something else. You’re wrong!)

Many of us know that the two basic frying temperatures are 350° and 375° (Fahrenheit, for those of you in the UK). For curiosity sake, I bought an inexpensive metal thermometer designed to measure hot oil or candy. Holy Potato Salad! I found out my oil was around 300 degrees! I was using a Fry Daddy Jr., and just “assumed” that the heating element would keep the oil at the proper temps. Sadly, it doesn’t.

The next step in the quest was to use various frying pans. I tried cast iron, an iron dutch oven, a steel fry pan, and a steel saucier with a heavy bottom. None of them really worked at all. I’d get the oil up to around 350, put in some chicken and BLAM!…the temp first spiked to 400, then fell back to 300-325 and stayed there.

Time for Google! I did much looking, much reading, and much learning. It turns out that the typical consumer home kitchen stove doesn’t put out much energy. That would be British Thermal Units or BTUs. Not enough to keep oil at the desired levels, at any rate. Additionally, most small appliance frying devices also have trouble keeping the oil at the right temps.

Along the way I ran across a reference to an old Sunbeam deep fryer. It was built with a heavy-duty 1500 watt element, heavy cast aluminum, and could go from 250 – 400 degrees. So I looked it up. Know when it was manufactured? 1954! Two years after I was borned!

Two other fryers got a lot of discussion, one from Emeril and one from George Forman. As I read the various reviews, I came to believe that at $145 or thereabouts, neither of these was a good deal. Especially since I could get the Sunbeam on eBay for $35!

All quests follow a basic set of events. They begin with adventure and excitement, then the seeker meets friends and helpers in a marketplace. There comes a banding together, they move forward, and soon encounter the Slough of Despond. This is where the quest seems impossible, life is depressing, problems abound, and obstacles seem insurmountable.

That’s how I felt. I’d met my friends and helpers in the Google forums, and now the problem of 350-degree oil seemed insurmountable. I’d thought of buying a portable propane burner, which has the BTUs necessary, but works with an open flame. Not so good in an apartment. Then I’d thought of using magic, but I’m not skilled in The Arts. I tried praying, but no miracles occurred. And so…the Slough of Despond.

Much soul searching took place, and I came to the conclusion that I would have to try the old Sunbeam. I would gamble my fortunes on a 40-yearold home appliance, toss my fates to the winds, and seek the mythical land of 350-degree frying oil. I ordered the machine. Actually, my lady consort ordered it because she felt that if I moped long enough she would have to shoot me in the face, thereby subjecting herself to a possible homicide investigation.

It arrived within a week, in exactly the condition pictured. We plugged it in and it got a bit hot, so I assumed it worked. Now for the Great Test. Once again assuming that the gods and the Universe are benevolent (all writings to the contrary), we formulated some special chicken batter and put a couple of inches worth of oil in the fryer.

Holy Chicken Livers! This machine is astounding! First of all, the oil heated up to the 350° very quickly (10 minutes instead of 15). A little light was glowing, and when it went out, the oil was at the set temperature. I knew this because I had my handy-dandy thermometer in the oil.

I then put in about 4 bigass chicken wings, lathered up in seriously tasty better and watched what would happen. With some trepidation, I might add! Lo and behold, the oil began to slide down and lost about 40 degrees right away. Then, with a rumble of thunder, flashing lightning and the sound of angels singing on high…the Sunbeam Miracle Heating Element kicked in! KAPOW! The oil immediately went back up to my set temperature. And stayed there!

Well, I gotta tell you…! Those were some right fine chicken wings! The meat was nice and moist, the coating was crisp as you please, and they cooked just perfectly. Why? How come?

It’s because Back In The Old Days, we used to make things right! If the specs called for a 500-watt heating element, we made it with a 1500-watt element! Profit was there, but not outrageous! When we made things, we made them to last!

American manufacturing was known the world over. Forget the Germans, they’d just lost The War. Forget the Japanese, that was just cheap crap. Nope, if you wanted something built like a tank that would last hundreds of years, you bought something manufactured in America, by golly.

And it shows! This Sunbeam fryer is only one of many things I’m finding from the old days. We have a number of resale and secondhand stores around here, and they’re filled with treasures. It’s not about affordability, it’s about finding products that actually work! We wanted a cookie press “like Mom used to use,” and all we could find was cheap-ass plastic Chinese crap. Went to the secondhand shops and found one made of actual metal (aluminum).

How did this happen? How did we let everything fall apart? Why does NOTHING last anymore? It’s because people want cheaper and cheaper stuff. They’re so used to getting “the best” for the cheapest price, they’ll buy total crap.

Another thing is that “nobody will know the difference.” Right? So what if the stove you buy is made out of tin, would you care? Many people don’t even cook anymore. So what if the tools we use are made of cheap, flawed metal that breaks after the first useage? Nobody’ll know the difference.

Then there are the lawsuits. Wanna know why McDonald’s French fries became world famous? They were cooked in 75% canola oil, and 25% beef tallow (rendered beef fat). Some numbskull vegetarian ass-wipe decided that they wanted to eat at McDonalds, which IS KNOWN for HAMBURGERS, and got pissed because the potatoes were “poisoned” with animal fat! So they sued.

Now McDonald’s fries are just like the other mediocre fries, except they have “beef flavoring” in the oil. Is that what we want? Sure it is! Nobody’ll know the difference anyway.;

Buy a Singer sewing machine today, and you’ll end up with a piece of junk. Singer sold out long, long ago to some corporate entity. Bell & Howell cameras used to be superb, but the brand name was sold over and over, and now makes $4 pocket trinkets. Sunbeam was world-famous for quality appliances, but buy anything from the company today and it’ll fall apart tomorrow.

RCA televisions? GE electric bulbs? Cars? Planes? Construction equipment? Do you think they’re made here in the USA? Nope, of course not! Too expensive, not enough profit, and who’ll know the difference? Nobody.

Most people know that America gave away all its high-end manufacturing. We wanted to become a “service industry” country, and an “information” country. Well, that’s what we are, and everyone’s losing their jobs. Those jobs are gone forever. Even good old Hershey’s chocolate isn’t made in Pennsylvania anymore. Mexico.

Personally, I think it all started when the margarine people convinced students in the American school system that butter was bad for their health. It’s actually just the opposite, but who cares? Nobody cares about facts anymore. Nobody cares about truth. All anyone cares about is how reality “feels” at the moment. And butter being bad for you “feels” like the truth.

And what about competition? If you bought something and it sucked, you went to the competition and it was better (hopefully). Have you been to a shopping Designated Sector in your town lately? There isn’t any competition! Either you go to five stores all selling the same crap from the same overseas wholesalers, or there’s only one store left that sells “the stuff” you want.

Last-minute delivery, warehouse efficiency, robotics, publicly-held stock owners; all these have helped drive American business into the grave. Lawsuits for outrageous damages, an education system that wipes out competition and the overall entitlement mentality have done their part.

So here we are. A 40-yearold deep fryer not only wipes out ANY modern appliance, those modern fryers can’t even generate the high-end heat of the old unit. Probably because someone decided that 400° oil was far too dangerous! Like it’s any different from 350° oil if you spill it on your face!

But that’s okay. Nobody’ll know the difference. And for those who DO know the difference, they’ve already gone out and bought the last examples of quality American products. What’s ironic is that I paid a fraction of the cost of a modern, up-to-date, best-rated, brand-name fryer! And it’s the same over and over. The good stuff sells in “junk” shops, while the junk is selling in upscale retail centers.

Fortunately, nobody knows the difference anymore between quality and junk…!

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