Kitchens are getting smarter.
Some refrigerators can let you know when the door is open, or if the milk is past its sell-by date. They make ice at night during less expensive, off-peak energy hours. There are dishwashers that can contact a repairman.
It probably won't be long before you can become Facebook friends with your microwave.
The first microwave oven — the Radarange — weighed 750 pounds and was bought by a Cleveland restaurant in 1947 for $3,000. Later home models had a pull-out box for recipe cards. Paper recipe cards. So quaint.
Today, there are refrigerators with touch screens on the door that keep track of the food inside and suggest recipes to match. Imagine what you could do with pomegranate yogurt, wilted Tuscan kale and half a can of chickpeas.
Right now, it's all about the smart phone.
Warwick Stirling, Whirlpool's senior director of sustainability and connectivity, says consumers want to use their mobile phones to take back control of their hectic lives. Manufacturers are listening.
Ultimately, your phone will be a remote control for everything in your life that runs on electricity. You will be able to use it from other rooms of the house — or from other parts of the country. Some day, all your appliances will talk to each other through the smart grid. Then your dishwasher will know not to run because the electric car is charging. Meanwhile, you can go to the movies.
It's not happening fast. Whirlpool has just introduced a suite of smart appliances — but they're only available in Chicago. Stirling says to expect dramatic change in the next five years.
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers says all appliance makers are poised and ready to jump into the fray. Now, if only the dishwasher could load itself.
Bonny Wolf is managing editor of AmericanFoodRoots.com and editor of NPR's Kitchen Window.
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