The Ninja air fryer: More than a game changer...a life-changer?

Mike Christopherson
Mike Christopherson

Guilt. As a human emotional reaction, is it overrated or underrated? After all, if you engage in egregious behavior that harms others, are you less of a bad person or is the negative act you have performed less negative just because you feel a tinge of guilt afterward? And if you feel not a single shred of guilt over what you’ve done, does that make you an evil, diabolical individual?

These thoughts danced in my head last Saturday, as I stood in the kitchen with my wife and we devoured some of the best French fries we’ve eaten in years, gazing in amazement at each other between bites and dips in various condiments, as if we’d stumbled across the eighth wonder of the world. 

Meanwhile, that “wonder” sat perched on the counter, plugged into the wall, near the box we’d extricated it from earlier that day, a box that proclaimed in large letters near the top, “Guilt-Free Fried Food!”

Delicious, but it’ll kill you

Our oven/stovetop in the house I grew up in was equipped with a sunken, rectangular-shaped skillet, situated in the middle of the four burners.

My mom, with frequent assistance from my dad, did a lot of cooking, and often that sunken skillet was the most important culinary device in our kitchen. That’s saying something, considering that my parents purchased one of the first microwave ovens on the market, an Amana Radarange that weighed about 75 pounds and cost about as much as a decent used vehicle in those days. But when the pro-microwave folks slightly more than four decades ago managed to convince my parents that their Amana could actually cook a tasty Thanksgiving turkey, and a few hours later we sat down to enjoy what resembled a giant, gray rubbery egg with legs, the Amana’s limitations were obvious. It didn’t take long for another innovation to come along, when Tappan introduced a microwave that, the slogan promised, “Browns the Food.”

We had a cork-board bulletin board on the kitchen wall for various notes and reminders, but what I cared about most was my mom’s weekly supper list. On notebook paper, each week as she planned her latest grocery run, she’d come up with the next seven meals we’d be having for supper. As she crossed out each meal as it was prepared and eaten, day after day, week after week and month after month for years, she wouldn’t throw away the pieces of paper filled with previous meal lists. They served as valuable source material as she pondered yet another week of meals. Eventually, it took several large stick-pins to keep that heavy stack of paper from falling to the floor. 

Those meal lists could make or break my day. If I knew we were having something like tacos or homemade pizza or burritos for supper that night, you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face all day. But if I checked the list on the way out the door for school in the morning and saw that next up was salmon loaf with creamed peas poured over the top, I was an inconsolable, depressed wreck.

Many of the meals required the use of that sunken skillet, and on many occasions a key ingredient was cooking oil. Yes, often it was essentially a deep fryer. On the aforementioned taco nights, my dad worked magic with a pair of tongs as he bathed and shaped flour tortillas in hot oil until they were beautifully shaped taco shells, not too brittle, but not flimsy and rubbery, either. He was the king of taco night.

But, as we all know by now, you can’t gorge on deep-fried foods your whole life, or your whole life won’t be that whole, because you’ll die prematurely from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or a stroke.

I grew up and got married, and my wife and I, other than frequently incorporating olive oil into our cooking, have never deep-fried anything. We’ve baked fries on a cookie sheet in the oven and tried to ignore their dry, cardboard-y finish, but everyone knows nothing beats deep-fried.

So a couple years ago, we basically cut potatoes as a side dish from our diet. It’s meat or other protein sources, vegetables on the side, and rarely any starch or carbohydrates.

Then friends started imploring us with tremendous enthusiasm to buy an “Instant Pot” pressure-cooker to enhance our meal menu.

But we resisted.

Then friends started imploring us with even more tremendous enthusiasm to buy an “air fryer.” Specifically a Ninja-brand air-fryer.

We continued to resist, until our sons joined the growing chorus singing the praises of air-fryer technology.

So that’s what we unboxed the other day, and it’s what produced French fries so good we swore we could feel our arteries hardening.

Was there guilt? Yes, some. If only due to our incredible fortune over being alive in this particular moment in time.