Great inventions don’t have to arise from ideas no one has ever had before. In fact, the most useful inventions often spring from needs that most people recognize. The true genius of great inventors lies in their ability to see problems to be solved when others only see a fact of life. Here are some of the inventions that changed the way people eat today, from Elizabeth Hawk’s cook stove to the temperature-controlled dishes of the future designed by Clay Alexander.
In 1867, Elizabeth Hawk changed baking forever. She did not invent the first cook stove—stoves had been around for millennia. She simply recognized a problem and improved the current stove design to address it. The problem was that cook stove temperatures were hard to regulate. Some portions of the oven would get very hot and burn food, while others would barely transfer any heat at all. Her innovation was to create a stove attachment called the “Auxiliary Air-Chamber for Stoves” that spread the heat of the cookfire evenly within its walls, for more uniform baking results.
Josephine Cochrane recognized another household problem twenty years later. Faced with the daunting, if privileged, problem of servants breaking too many pieces of china when they washed the dishes, Cochrane set out to devise a better system. When her husband died and left her in debt, she became more earnestly concerned with creating a device that could wash dishes and bring in income.
She built wire compartments sized to hold common household dishes that fit on a rotating wheel inside a metal container. She added water jets that were powered by a hand-cranked motor. The device worked, but was not successful as a household product until electric models became available.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
It is hard to imagine that the quintessential baked good didn’t even exist a hundred years ago. In 1938, Ruth Wakefield owned the Toll House Inn. The Inn had a popular restaurant and Ruth Wakefield’s problem was wanting to serve new and exciting foods. To this end, she added crushed pieces of chocolate to her drop cookie recipe, and a legend was born.
As Clay Alexander puts it, “I started Ember to solve a very simple problem: how to keep the coffee you love at the perfect temperature for as long as you like.” Coffee is sold at temperatures too hot for comfort and when it finally cools down, it just keeps losing heat. Clay Alexander created a temperature adjustable mug that cools coffee down to the drinker’s desired temperature and then keeps it there for hours.
But this is just the beginning of Alexander’s dining revolution. The next step: bringing the Ember mug’s technology to the dinner table. In a recent interview with Inc., Clay Alexander talked about his inspiration for the future of dining, “OK, this is the 21st century. Why are my eggs getting cold on my plate?” He modified his own dishes to keep his food hot until the last bite, and his company is working on mass producing elegant dining ware that does the same.
Author: claytonalexanderThis author has published 2 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.