A Stroll Down Disposable Income Lane


Earlier this week, downtown Los Angeles was filled, even more than usual, with people concerned not so much with what we need but with what we want. From Saturday to Tuesday, an estimated 900 cookware manufacturers set out their wares at the Gourmet Products Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

As one strolls the aisles, it seems that perhaps nothing is as compelling as life’s little nonessentials. “It’s scary to walk this show,” says Marty Hiester, the host at the Kuchenprofi stall. “There’s a million things that you never knew existed but that you suddenly can’t live without.”

Kuchenprofi, it emerges, is German for “kitchen professional.” Newest out of Germany is, it emerges, an Italian innovation: a “spoon” that holds no liquid.


Rather, it’s a swirl of metal on a stick. Called a Parma cooking spoon, it’s for batter, not soup, Hiester explains. “You get a great turnout,” he says. “It’s almost like a whisk.”

I, for one, now need the Parma spoon. But I cannot buy Hiester’s. It’s the only one in the country. Others like it will not be in U.S. shops for at least a month.

If there is more than one way to shape a gadget, there are millions of ways to name it. A fabulously easy-to-work espresso machine from Saeco should have been called Idiot Proof. Instead, because of its cup heater and “decaf bypass,” it is called a Magic Deluxe.

Several stalls away, a gilded French-press coffee maker is called Versailles. Depressingly, the cheaper plastic model is called Liberte.

Yet elsewhere, an outfit called Cambridge Silver Smiths refers to its cutlery as everything but knives and forks. The patterns include Townhouse Satin, Odyssey Sand and a real teeth grinder in Bon Appetit Sand.

Over the top? Not next to the names from a new Martha Stewart-like purveyor of many things frilly. Tracy Porter calls her new etched cook pot line Kiss the Sky Blue.


When it came to naming the design of its blue speckled mixing bowls, Western Stoneware from Monmouth, Ill., admits that it has no talent for fancy turns of phrase. “We just called it Royal Splatter,” says company president James Hutchins.

“Trends and fads don’t do so well where we sell,” he says. “People will want the same darn stuff 10 years from now that they wanted 10 years ago.”

Timelessness works for Hutchins. His company is more than 100 years old, and he is still selling the same kind of mixing bowls our grandmothers used.

Junk, too, sells eternal. Fondue makers are back for those who don’t already have them in their attics. And for those dim romantic restaurants where you can’t see your food, there are pepper grinders with flashlights built into them.

Some stalls are simply swamped, and one is left with bizarre snippets. From behind a crowd at the Vita Mix stall comes the roar of a “turbo blender” and the claim of a demonstrator, “So, in that ice cream, you can’t tell that there are any carrots in there.”

But for many this week in Los Angeles, the theme is technology: what’s new, newer and newest. Oggi flour canisters come with silicone rather than rubber seals, stresses the rep. Revereware now comes with ergonomically designed handles.

A Rubbermaid company called Allegro has even reinvented the saucepan, making it square, venting the lids and affixing heat-proof handles with what it calls the “stay tight locking system” used by NASA.

Not to be outdone, over at the Cuisinart stall, demonstrators point out that the mixing bowls on its food processors are so strong that they are bullet-proof.

Now there’s a unique selling point.