Can Nintendo teach you how to cook?
Nintendo: It's not just for kids anymore. Or at least that's what Nintendo of America Inc. is banking on as it unveils a new interactive Game Boy-like device called Personal Trainer: Cooking. Using Nintendo DS technology, Personal Trainer: Cooking is basically a small gray hand-held box -- with a touch screen and voice recognition -- that stores more than 245 recipes from around the world.
Once you decide on a recipe (based on country of origin, cooking time, ingredients, calorie count, etc.), a little animated chef with a monotone electronic voice and a bushy mustache talks you through the steps to making the dish. Videos of the more difficult steps are available for viewing. There is also an interactive shopping list function that helps would-be chefs check off ingredients as they buy them.
The official website for this strange little device (although it is high-tech, it looks weirdly primitive -- maybe just because it's geared for novice chefs) has a video of two teens cooking crab cakes using their Personal Trainer. It's worth watching for its sheer awkwardness and unintentional tawdriness. The girls sit at a kitchen table giggling and wondering what they can make with crab meat. The Personal Trainer suggests crab cakes and the girls giggle their way through more than five painful minutes of footage as they wonder whether to pull crab meat from a shell using their fingers or a fork.
"I think a kid could do this," one of them announces as they sit down to eat. And watching this display, I think that's what all those Personal Trainers that end up under the tree this year will be used for in the end. I can't imagine a seasoned home cook relying on such a device, but I can see that home cook using it to engage his or her children in the cooking process.
A video game that adults can enjoy with children might be something to celebrate, but I'll stick to the fun of old-fashioned hand-me-down recipes on note cards.
-- Jessica Gelt