Randi Kreiss

Can your stove talk to you?


I really needed to get on the Smart HQ website to get my new G.E. Café Series kitchen appliances online. Oh, you didn’t know? You must have internet-friendly ovens and cooktops these days. That way, you can put a meatloaf in the oven, go into the city for the day, use your phone to remotely turn on the oven and then turn it off remotely when the meatloaf is done.
Think of it. You can put a stew in your new microwave, which can nuke, bake, air fry or mow the lawn, cook it while you’re out and return to a prepared meal. Or a wildfire, but let’s not go there.
My old gas stove was dumb as an ox. Turn the knob, light the flame and simmer the soup. Could it tell time? Could it get automatic updates from the Wizard of Oz behind some screen at G.E.? Could it beep maniacally when the food was done? No, no and no. And get this: All my old refrigerator could do was keep food cold. My new one can make ice cubes of a particular shape, and make coffee in a gizmo set right into the front door.
Back to the Smart HQ app. You can do nothing without the app, so I downloaded it onto my phone, entered a username and a password. Then — I admit, with much trepidation — I approached my wall oven. I hit “WiFi enable,” as instructed, and everything went pretty much downhill from there.
My phone said it couldn’t connect to my oven, that I had to enter a new password. So I did. Then my phone said it had to verify my identity on another device, so it sent a code to my iPad, which was upstairs. I ran upstairs and right into my husband, who was running downstairs to verify his identity on his iPhone for a bank transaction.

I got my code, dashed back to the oven and signed on again to the app. This time it asked for “further verification.” Pictures appeared. It asked me to check off all the photos in the boxes containing traffic lights. The photos were tiny. And my reading glasses were in the car, so I ran outside, got the glasses, searched the photos on my phone for traffic lights, wondered what I did to deserve this and somehow got it right. Then I was asked to verify the obvious: that I am not a robot.
After three hours and 20 minutes, with a break for a cold salad, since I didn’t feel like cooking anything, I got the Smart HQ app downloaded onto my phone, and I got all my new appliances online. Instantly, the clocks on the stove, the wall oven, the microwave and refrigerator synchronized. Clearly, I was in some kind of technological G-spot.
When I eventually got the ovens and cooktop online, there was an authorization request asking that I give the G.E. Wizard of Oz the ability to turn my appliances off and on, update them remotely or fix a problem.
I signed.
I have a creepy feeling now that in our ongoing relationship, my microwave has the upper hand. It is, apparently, the hoo-ha upscale version of the plain vanilla microwave. This one can sense what food you have inside, determine the right time and temp and serve up your ribs just right. It doesn’t just zap. It can convection bake and air fry as well. It can proof your bread dough.
My dad always told me, “Don’t have machines that are smarter than you are,” but that was a moot point when I bought my first pencil sharpener.
What if my microwave goes rogue? I mean, I could be out for the day and the microwave could talk to the refrigerator and they could recruit the wall oven and I could come home to a full-blown coup d’état.
The wall oven, whom I call Hal, wants to know if I prefer to roast, bake, convention bake, convection roast or air fry? What it can’t do is cook a hamburger, which is what I happen to want to eat much of the time.
To give credit: These ovens will clean themselves with super-high heat or steam with the press of a few buttons. That’s impressive. My gas stove couldn’t do that. But then again, the big old ox was reliable as the day is long, all iron and heat and natural gas.
These new-fangled thingies answer to different gods, all digital and remote and dead on arrival without the right passwords.

Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.