How Tech Can Help You Plan Your Next Family BBQ

Delicious ways to hook up with the family. Plus, 5 cool tech gadgets for family entertaining.

I built my family on the Internet, truly. I met my partner on Plenty of Fish, managed our wedding invitations by email and sifted through babynames online. Before our extended family descends for dinner in our Toronto home, as they do every Friday, there is a flurry of texts, phone calls and FaceTime messages.

Our connected devices are conduits for connecting us: smartphones, tablets and computers gather our recipes and menu plans and capture and share our memories. Streaming provides our music, and Google settles (most of) our debates.

In our family, it all comes down to the food. And in summertime, it’s the smoky flavour of a backyard BBQ that draws us together.

My partner, Mark is the charcoal grill master, his sister is our resident dessert queen, and I balance them out with lots of vegetables—a mix of freshly delivered produce from my online grocer and the riches from my own garden.

I love the challenge of assessing what we have, hopping online for ideas and letting the ingredients determine the dishes. Of course, no matter what we’ve planned, my mother-in-law always shows up with more food. My sister lives across the country, and joins us via FaceTime. It’s semi-organized chaos, but deliciously so.

Look at 5 cool gadgets for fun family entertaining

  1. Orange Chef Prep Pad takes your enthusiasm for nutritional facts to the next level. Connect the smart scale to the phone app and place ingredients on the pad to weigh them and assess nutritional content.
  2. Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Kitchen Edition is designed for foodies. It comes preloaded with cooking apps, a wireless Bluetooth meat thermometer and a year’s subscription to Saveur. And take note kitchen klutzes: You can actually submerge this miracle tablet in water and it still works.
  3. AppleTV Ok, it’s not a new thing, but we love how AppleTV’s AirPlay function allows us to stream videos and photos from our Apple devices to our living room TV. This way, everyone can view (adorable!) videos of my son on a big screen instead of crowding around a tiny phone screen. AppleTV is a home entertainment system, too, but if a single-function device is more your speed, there are lots of digital photo frames on the market to display slideshows of cute kid pics, food shots and whatever else you fancy.
  4. Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker packs a lot of volume into a tiny package. Ours replaced a unit more than 30 times its size. It’s compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled device; we grab the nearest phone, tablet or computer to stream music and podcasts while we cook and entertain.
  5. Whirlpool Interactive Kitchen of the Future 2.0 isn’t just a kitchen. It’s a command centre. Appliances communicate with each other and with you, offering recipe suggestions and reminders to use up those eggs that are about to expire. Touchscreens on your backsplash let you surf the Internet or video chat while you cook. Unfortunately for now, Whirlpool’s interactive kitchen is just a prototype. Hurry up future!

Perhaps this sounds familiar? Canadians spend more time online than any other nation—nearly half of that on mobile devices. We may still have a reputation as plaid-clad outdoor lovers, but in reality (or real time) the fabric that binds us is increasingly woven from fibre optic cables. We love our BBQs and the great outdoors—and we love sharing pictures of them online.

Like most kids of the ’80s and ’90s, I have embraced the advances that bring us together. As a child, I dreamed of a robot to do my chores and expected technology to take care of basic tasks. Instead, it has helped me find love and build a family. Our family traditions thrive, even as our methods of communicating them evolve.

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