By John Carruthers
For better or worse, crowdfunding platforms have given consumers a bigger hand than ever in the development of new products. If it weren’t for crowdfunding and breathless food porn articles about perfect eggs, we might not have an affordable at-home sous vide circulator. In some cases, small farmers are using the crowdfunding to experiment with new and rediscovered agricultural techniques and distribution logistics. Some aspiring restaurateurs have become actual restaurateurs because a bunch of strangers gave them money for theoretical rewards. These are all generally good things.
Then we have this piece of shit:
That is the flatev Artisan Tortilla Maker. What you’re looking at is essentially a Keurig for tortillas (I am not even the fiftieth person to say that, but it’s accurate because Keurigs are terrible). Disposable one-at-a-time pods make tortillas at home. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear some marketing-speak straight from the source.
flatev is fresh tortillas at the touch of a button.
In less time than it takes you to toast a slice of bread, flatev transforms a recyclable pod of fresh dough into a hot and delicious tortilla.
What happens in the magic box?
The freshest little ball of dough jumps out of the recyclable pod and into the baking system, ready to be a tortilla. After seconds of baking, your tortilla slides into the warmer and waits for you to enjoy the aromatic perfection.
Let’s run down what’s wrong with all that:
Idiot Thing #1: Pricing
They cost about 79 cents per pod, per the Kickstarter back-and-forth. You can see where this is getting problematic – at a dozen (we’re hearty eaters in the Midwest) you’re down $9.48 before you make a single taco. Yes, we’re lucky to have so many tortilla factories in Chicago (I can grab a pack of El Milagro corn tortillas for 39 cents), but I think you’d have to go to Barrow, Alaska to match that particular clown-pants pricing. And I’m not entirely sure, but I have it on good authority that the price of tortillas contributes directly to the troubling prevalence of clinical depression and alcoholism in that region.
The dough pods last for 6 weeks, and you can only buy them through flatev. Have fun with that.
And the machine itself? The retail price (at least according to their Kickstarter) is $437. So that first dozen tortillas are actually going to cost you $37.20 apiece. Spend years of your life at the wheel of this thing and maybe, just maybe, you can get down to under a dollar per tortilla.
Actually, I just figured out how long. You’re not going to like it. You’ll need to make 2,185 tortillas over more than 54.6 hours (3,277.5 minutes) just to bring it to 99 cents per tortilla. Which, I’ll remind you, is still a really dumb price. To even get there, the 2,185 tortilla pods are going to cost you around $1,726.15. Of course, that doesn’t include any kind of bulk pricing you may or may not get. How silly of me.
Shhh. You’ll never realize these fantastic tortilla savings if you keep stopping to cry.
Idiot Thing #2: It’s Sloooowwwww
This doesn’t sound like a huge weakness, but each tortilla takes 90 seconds, according to various writeups. And you can only make one at a time. So it’s going to be at least 18 minutes if you want a dozen tortillas. I hope you didn’t have too many people coming over. Everyone just wants one taco, right? In the time it takes to flatev a dozen tortillas, you can make three dozen corn tortillas with Maseca. In the time it takes to flatev three dozen of these, you can reclaim Mexico from the wicked Ponce De Leon and his Spanish overlords. By the time it takes to flatev five dozen, Stockholm Syndrome probably has you and you’re robbing banks with the founders like a carnitas-scented Patty Hearst.
Idiot Thing #3: “Artisan”
Here’s a woman making tortillas by hand in a Mexico City market:
I stole this image from: Gregory Bull, AP
You notice what she doesn’t have? A plastic-bodied Roomba pooping out tortillas. We can argue all day about the meaning (or meaninglessness) of the term “artisan.” But even in a time when words have completely lost their meaning and where I once paid $14 dollars for a slice of artisan toast because a Michelin-starred chef was making it, I think we can all agree that inserting a pod and pushing a button like George Jetson doesn’t indicate “artisan.” That’s like buying the maker of Hot Pockets and renaming it the Brooklyn Calzone Works.
You can’t market something as both “artisan” and a “magic box.” I mean, you can, but it makes you sound like a maniac. You know what the “magic box” was for in the old days, when “artisan” was a professional classification and not a descriptor for $8 baguettes and mustache wax? It was for burning witches.
Idiot Thing #4: Marketingspeakakke
Since we’ve covered the topic of artisan, let’s see how many more infuriatingly nebulous terms have been crammed in to court that essential moron dollar:
“No Junk Additives”
“Zero Food Waste”
“ancient culinary tradition”
“premium quality corn”
It’s like the world’s worst game of Portland Bingo.
Lest you think I’m raging hard against the Brooklynization of the food narrative, I want to point out that my beloved hometown of Chicago has a product I hate on nearly the same level. BEHOLD!
OH COME ON
Warm tortillas. Six at a time. Only $99.
I quit. I’m gonna go get a hot dog.