According to inventor, Eric Zimmerman, “the world needs a new utensil.” No, he doesn’t think this is the next semi-useless kitchen gadget like the Hot-Diggity-Dogger or a panini maker. He believes this could be the next fork, knife or spoon—maybe a replacement for all three? I must not have the mind of an inventor, because I thought that life was just fine with the apparently outdated silverware. And I was skeptical about the need for Zimmerman’s invention, Trongs (“tri” plus “tongs”). But Eric reminds us that people were once resistant to the now-commonplace fork.
Trongs were invented and are currently marketed as a tool for eating ribs, wings, and other finger foods in the era of touchscreens, smartphones, and iPads. But I am the daughter of a chef who was recently quoted as saying her favorite utensil is her hands. And this girl, who doesn’t own a smartphone, has spent too long in Africa and India eating with her fingers. So, I’m kind of a hard sell on the “don’t get your hands dirty” marketing ploy. Still, I was intrigued.
The first time I saw Trongs in action was at this year’s Big Apple Barbecue in New York City (arguably one of the best summer events in the City). My Texan friend and barbecue connoisseur politely asked the nearby Trongs users, “What the heck are those?” Business cards were exchanged (the owner of these Trongs was a friend of Zimmerman’s), and a few months later I was sitting down to a big plate of wings with Trongs inventor, Eric Zimmerman.
I’ve got to be honest, I was only marginally better with Trongs than I am with chopsticks. But my hands were clean, that’s for sure, and they were easier to use with each passing wing. We talked about the benefits of Trongs: the ability to quickly answer the phone or text during a messy meal, and perhaps more importantly, the hygienic aspect of it–at least for the germophobic, among whom I do not count myself.
As we ate and talked, we discussed other uses for Trongs. This is where I think Zimmerman might really be on to something: in the food preparation department. We talked about their uses in food prep in restaurants, not only with hygiene in mind, but to prevent cross-contamination. With the growing number of people with severe food allergies and intolerances, restaurants and food providers can’t be too careful. I imagine Trongs at prep stations, color-coded for different foods. I also imagine their usefulness for my friend who can’t touch certain foods because of a skin allergy.
I also thought of another use: dredging. I hate when I dredge a chicken breast in an egg wash and then in breadcrumbs or flour, and my fingers are totally caked in a gummy mixture of the two. I will definitely be using Trongs then, but when it comes to wings, I think I’ll stick with my number one utensil: my hands.