Days out diary - child friendly and family activities

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I recently had a "Free" dinner cooked by Saladmaster. It actually turned out to be a 2 hour long sales pitch to sell some very expensive waterless cookware, which just goes to prove there is no such thing as a free meal.

The hosts of the party had originally "won" a meal cooked in their own home as part of a free prize draw. After buying some of the Saladmaster waterless cooking cookware at that meal we were invited to a subsequent meal and in return the hosts were given a free salad slicer.

The demonstrator came in and setup their equipment. Then he presented a "questionnaire" to each of the couples. The questionaire was designed to lead up to the victim potential purchaser signing up to purchase the waterless cooking pans at the end of the demonstration and sales pitch (more later). The salesman then proceeded into a flip-chart presentation and "interactive" sales pitch. It was much like being back at primary school where the sales person was playing the role of teacher and asking questions where they have already suggested the "correct" answer or where the answer was "it is the pans that makes it so good". It was quite frankly insulting.

The demonstrator did some experiments, such as washing the flavour out of carrots to reduce the flavour and showing how some of the colour came out into the water. Some of his demonstrations and the info was common sense, but much was exaggerated or just complete rubbish.

The way that it was worded was aimed to leave you with the impression that unless using this new Salad-master waterless cookware you are putting yourself at risk of many diseases including cancer, heart disease, strokes etc. This was classic fear tactics in an attempt to influence the sale.

One of the examples was a paper on how dangerous microwave cooking is. Now there is some credit given on the Internet to some of these arguments, but there is too little supporting evidence either way and this appears to be more a case of jumping on a scare story than any real argument.

The one that really got to me was the implication that using Stainless Steel or Teflon coated pans could be a cause of illness and that the Saladmaster titanium pans would prevent that. This consisted of a taste test using a brand new (used once) Saladmaster waterless pan in comparison to old well-used stainless steel and teflon coated pans. Each of the pans was filled with boiling water and bicarbonate of soda added. There was a definite taste difference between the pans, but 1) how much of that was related to the age and use of the pans, and 2) how does taste prove that something is harmful (after all clotted cream tastes great, but it's not as healthy as raw potato).

There may be a small element of truth in teflon coating but only when cooking at high temperatures and there are alternatives that don't have the same properties, but the stainless steel seams to be a great exaggeration. Unless eating over four meals cooked in stainless steel pans per day (see this site explaining health effects of different cooking materials) then the quantity of metals absorbed into the food would be well below the safe limits. Further more I'm not convinced about the difference that Titainium has. According to the Saladmaster website they use 316Ti Titanium Stainless Steel which according to the Aalco metals data sheet contains only a small amount of titanium which is of benefit at temperatures over 800°C.

"Stainless steel grade 316Ti contains a small amount of titanium. Titanium content is typically only around 0.5%. The titanium atoms stabilise the structure of the 316 at temperatures over 800°C."

Personally I tend to cook at temperatures below 800°C, but I'll obviously consider Titanium when I next use molten aluminium as the primary ingredient in my cooking.

Despite these negative comments there are definitely some positive aspects to the waterless cooking and the meal that we had was very nice.

Flavour and vitamins are maintained within the food rather than being lost in the water, and obviously there is no added fat to the cooking.

There are however ways to get similar effects with conventional cooking - including roasting food (without added oil) and steaming or grilling (as per advice from the UK food standards agency).

One of the things that the demonstrator cooked was a chocolate cake with hidden vegetables. Obviously healthy for adults and as a way of getting vegetables into children. There is a separate line of thought that says children should be encouraged to appreciate vegetables rather than just hiding them in other foods (parents seek ways to make kids eat vegetables). There is certainly some "hidden vegetable" products appearing in supermarkets which can be bought as an alternative.

At the end of the demonstration and tasting we returned to the questionnaire and to work out "money savings" of buying these pans. This was worked on some theoretical maths that involved calculating a 25% saving on food costs. That 25% saving appears to be based on wasting less of your food, but there is no way something like this is going to create a large reduction in the amount I spend on food. It may be a bit more efficient in the use of food, but where a recipe requires 1/4 of a cabbage instead of 1/2 it just means I'll be throwing away 3/4 of the cabbage rather than 1/2.

The cost of the pans was over £100 for even the smallest item and over £1000 for a reasonable sized pan set. Although the pans seamed very good there was no way I could justify that amount of money on a pan set regardless of the maths that they suggested would save me £150 per month. Perhaps if you completely switched to these pans and always used the leftover ingredients in your next meal then there will be some saving, but it's not going to make a large saving on my eating.

There are certainly health benefits, but only if you completely changed the way of eating and diet. I believe that most of that could be changed without any fancy cookware.

At the end of the day I was very impressed with the cooking method and the quality of the pans, but not enough to pay the amount they were asking. The pressured hard sell technique spoilt what would have been a very nice meal.

Afterwards I searched the Internet and found cheaper alternatives. Overstock have this 18 piece waterless cookware set. Note that this is available for less than £200 (for some reason I get US pricing when accessing from the bookmark, but that maybe due to my non UK IP address I'm using at the moment), it showed pricing in UK when I first searched on the address.

The alternatives appear to be stainless steel rather than Titanium Stainless Steel, but as mentioned before I don't think that makes much difference. If I do buy some of these (I haven't decided yet) then I'll go for stainless steel and I'll have to risk being the first person in the world to die from stainless steel pan poisoning ;-)

Note: Salesman / person and Demonstrator is the same person, but those are the two roles that he performed. I have avoided referring to him as a chef as cooking the meal was secondary to the sales pitch.