Gourmet Housewares Show: Fun, and Funky

Weekend Edition food commentator Bonny Wolf gives listeners the details on her visit to a housewares show.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Retailers say about 20 percent of us will give mom housewares for Mother's Day today. If that sounds something like getting a vacuum cleaner from your husband as an anniversary present, you may not have been in a houseware store recently.

WEEKEND EDITION food commentator Bonnie Wolf went to the gourmet houseware show last week in Orlando and found that kitchen tools are now, not only functional, but fun and funky.

BONNIE WOLF: Hot pink, neon blue, electric orange. This is not your grandmother's spatula. It's still used for slipping pancakes, but it's better designed ergonomically correct and eco-friendly, and it's made of silicone. Apparently, anything can be made of silicone. It's dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe; rust free, non-stick, heat resistant and reusable. Plus, it's pretty. All those bright colors, all those cute shapes. Form follows function these days, but with a generous helping of whimsy.

One housewares company is a bunch of young designers from the Rhode Island School of Design and one from Savanna, who makes things like a red rubber high-heel that functions as a door stop, a spoon rest in a shape of a pillow, and doormats that look like manhole covers. What a fun job.

Another big kitchen color that's here is green, as in the environment. They're showing lots of bamboo because bamboo is an easily renewable material. One company makes surfing boards out of older wood scraps from a furniture mill. Another makes natural room fresheners without harsh chemicals.

Pink is a color of a heightened social conscience in today's kitchens. Several companies have lines of pink appliances and tools and donate a portion of that proceeds to breast cancer research.

Plain common sense is also on display this year. The award for best in show went to a young company that realized you don't need a $10-jar of cardamom when your recipe only calls for a quarter teaspoon. So they sell spices in one-teaspoon packages, brilliant. And I love the idea of a collapsible, silicone colander you can put in a drawer.

But the baby hasn't been thrown out with the dishwater. For every ergonomically engineered potato masher and electric temperature-controlled butter dish, there is still an old-fashioned meat grinder and a beautiful copper pot. Although, I was somewhat horrified to see a display of what looked like the contents of my kitchen drawers labeled: gadget antiques. And they were all colorful(ph).

HANSEN: Bonnie Wolf is author of "Talking With my Mouth Full," and contributing editor for Kitchen Window, NPR's online food column.

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HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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