Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Stirring Tribute to My KitchenAid

YAY! A KitchenAid for Christmas!

I love my KitchenAid stand mixer and its 325-watt motor. I know some people who relegate their KitchenAid to a cabinet or out-of-the-way shelf until Christmastime, but mine stays out on the counter all year  — the urge to bake could (and does!) strike at any time, after all.

Considering that I moved out of my parents' home in my early 20s and I've been baking even before that, I really haven't had a KitchenAid for that long. My husband gave me one for Christmas in 2003 and I've been making up for lost time ever since.

My sister, Lisa, and I used to take turns stirring doughs that we had to make by hand because the hand mixer would get really hot if we gave it too big a job to do. We would get the dough started with the hand mixer — easily creaming butter and sugar or blending in eggs. But once the flour went in, forget it. Sometimes the hand mixer would smoke; sometimes the beaters would get stuck; and sometimes the dough would snake up the beaters and try to smother the moaning motor! As I say, it was useless after a point and we would then have to stir by hand. We took turns. We called the girls. We took breaks! 

"Remember how sore we used to get from all that mixing?" my sister asked, when she got a KitchenAid in 2002. "We would take turns, passing it back and forth as our arms and shoulders started aching." And since we nearly always doubled recipes (so we can share), it could be rather wearying.

I can imagine how delightful it must've been for those women of 1918 who received the the 5-quart KitchenAid prototype. They were the wives of factory execs at Hobart Corp., in Greenville, Ohio. After using the first home model of the stand mixer, one of the recipients said: "I don't care what you call it, but I know it's the best kitchen aid I've ever had." 

Before that, the stand mixer was an 80-quart, industrial behemoth that was standard equipment in large bakeries and all U.S. Navy ships. Engineer Herbert Johnson formulated the idea and designed the model H in 1914. Four years later, the home model was available in hardware stores for $189.50. That's nearly $3,000 in today's money, so I'll never complain about their current price tag again.

The KitchenAid comes with three standard mixing attachments: paddle, whisk and dough hook. So, even though I'm cuckoo for cookies, I have used this countertop workhorse for making pizza dough, cake batter, bread, frosting and even mashed potatoes on a family-gathering scale, among other things.

But I must admit, I have never removed the chrome mixer cap to use any of the specialty attachments. I knew there was a grinder and that appealed to me, because I like to make my own American-style breakfast sausage. But I had no idea the choice was so great: pasta cutter, ice-cream maker, citrus juicer, slicer, shredder, sausage stuffer, grain mill, ravioli maker, pasta shape press, and fruit and veg strainer.

These attachments could turn my humble but hard-working stand mixer into a food prep tool. And that was the selling point in 1936, when Egmont Arens designed the trimmed-down and lightweight K model, with its trademark bullet-shaped silhouette. It was available from door-to-door saleswomen and cost a more reasonable $55 (still more than $700 today). The KitchenAid stand mixer has changed very little since then. That means that attachments from that model onward are compatible with modern machines. Even the pea shucker connection from 1919 is said to work on today's model.

The cobalt-blue model.
Despite this continuity, in 1955, the white mixer with its 5-quart stainless steel bowl with ergonomic handle was offered in chrome, yellow, pink, green and copper at the Atlantic City Housewares Show. Now, you can get the iconic mixer in a palate of 25 colors that reads like a Crayola box of 64, including: blue willow, candy apple, anthracite grey, raspberry ice, liquid graphite and buttercup. There is also a pink version for breast cancer awareness. The White House pastry kitchen has three (one red, one white and one blue). And Julia Child's cobalt-blue model (same as mine!) resides at the Smithsonian.

That Greenville, Ohio, factory has manufactured tens of millions of KitchenAid mixers since 1919. I'm just glad they are available worldwide and that I got one for Christmas 10 years ago. I've had to replace the paddle attachment (which was easy and affordable) because my new dishwasher warped it. Otherwise, it's still going strong and I couldn't imagine baking without it. Maybe I'll mark this auspicious anniversary with the grain mill attachment so I can make my own flour for cookies ...

And the sausage grinder!

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