When we first moved into our own house in 2008, I thought it would be a good idea to have a computer in the kitchen. I’m not a super nerd but ironically, I do work in IT now, and I like using technology to make things easier, that’s the whole point, right? But due to cost and complexity, I never bothered with the original concept, until we renovated our kitchen last year.
I’ve used a variety of computer-like things from an Intel Stick which is like an HDMI dongle that runs full Windows OS, to a Roku box, to an Amazon Fire Stick. Each has its pros and cons, but it got me to thinking, one of these must be the right answer for a kitchenputer because I can just have a screen on the wall, keyboard, mouse, and that’s it. Basically I wanted a computer that didn’t take up (much) more room than the screen itself, but didn’t want to pay insane Mac prices.
Enter the Chromebox: it of course runs ChromeOS which is little more than a browser, but it has HDMI, multiple USB, stereo audio and SD card interfaces. Perfect, because other than our work computers, we don’t really have anything in the house aside from tablets. Via ebay, I essentially traded an old cell phone for a Chromebox, which I hooked up to a surplus screen I bought from work for $25. Having never used ChromeOS before, I soon realized I needed to login with a Google account. Not wanting to use my own account, I created [lastname]kitchen @ gmail.com. This was an accidental brilliant idea that I wish I could say I planned.
So now, whenever my wife or I come across a good recipe online, we just email it to that address. Then anytime we’re looking for a recipe, you just search in gmail and it comes right up. Favorite recipes we don’t want to lose if that one cooking blog disappears? Print as PDF and save to the Google Drive of that address. Friend or relative wants to share a recipe or have one of ours? Email it to/from there. Recipe from a book? Snap a pic and email it. Can’t remember what you need for a recipe while at the store? Look in that email account from my phone, and it won’t be lost among the 8 million emails in my personal account.
Then while you’re actually cooking, the screen is right there of course. I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looking at a recipe and needed to google something for clarification, or to look for a substitution. I like not having to pull out my phone for a quick thing like that. Couldn’t we use an ipad for this? Sure, but this whole setup cost me about $100. And the cheap wireless keyboard can be wiped down easily if it gets dirty (I did buy one of those silicone waterproof keyboards but HATED typing even a simple few words on it).
Of course you can also watch TV on the interwebz, so we can see the local news and weather, or watch a ski race (that’s another story, but just go with it) while we’re hanging out in the kitchen, which is a LOT of the time with our small kids being hungry approximately every 13 minutes. It’s also just a nice way to show the kids what’s happening with the weather, looking at radar, etc. instead of on a tiny cell phone screen.
My final step was to buy a $10 wall mount from amazon so it’s easier to reach the outlet behind the screen, and so you can move it out so it’s easier to see from other areas of the kitchen.
Sure, we still have a big ol’ shelf full of cookbooks, and we reference those on a semi-regular basis. There’s really no substitute for flipping through an interesting recipe book to discover something new, or using an encyclopedic reference like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, but for every day use, the kitchenputer coupled with a dedicated email address has been a brilliant addition to our kitchen.