From "Ina Hillebrandt, The Appliance Years"
Those of you who know me may recall the days, a bit ago, when I dedicated my life to selecting, and then purchasing new appliances for my kitchen. Those were rarified times. I’d get up in the morning, brew coffee on my brand new Gevalia brushed steel coffeemaker, waltz over to the computer, and start the day’s search for the very best blender and food processor I could find, in brushed steel to match the lovely coffeemaker, at the best prices of course.
It all started when I took my customary neighborhood two mile walk one Sunday morning. As I rounded the bend on the homeward stretch, I saw what can only be described as Stuff. Laid out handsomely at the mouth of the driveway of its large apartment complex, it was Stuff nonetheless. What caught my eye specifically was a small Pakistani rug with a bit of my favorite color, peacock blue, woven into its pattern. Perfect, I thought, for an elegant doormat I’d been thinking I needed. As I approached the rug, I also saw other items spread out along the sides of the driveway that piqued my interest. But before even considering these, I asked a young woman who seemed to be one of the sale’s hosts, “How much for this rug?” “One dollar,” she told me. Thrilled, I immediately said, “Sold!” Occasionally I am quite decisive.
With this super purchase under my belt, I began to roam, eagle-eyed, about the various items on display. There was a set of 7 foot tall pine bookcases, another Item I’d been thinking I needed to house the overflow of books at my place, a waffle iron/grill for my daughter, several attractive wooden planters, and some lovely baskets. Total cost: about $45! But the prize was something I’d never seen before. A sleek, sophisticated brushed steel blender and food processor, all in one unit! With about a zillion tantalizing attachments fit into the curved base. The design was by Italian masters, wonderful, a kind of swooping S curve with the blender on one end and food processor on the other. “Does this work?” I asked the lady who was the seller of this unique cooking instrument. “Of course!” she assured me. The price? Are you sitting down? $10.00. I could hardly believe my luck. I had a blender, but it was vintage ‘80s and a gold color, as was my food processor, which I kept in a cabinet and never used. But here everything would be in one place, taking up little counter space vs. that required by two separate pieces, beautiful to look at in the bargain, and the requisite brushed steel. “I’ll take it!” I said happily. Given I had a lot of little things to cart back to my place, the blender/food processor/planter/bookcase seller offered to loan me her wheelbarrow, which was perfect. I was to bring it back when I returned for the bookcases. One of the fellows on hand would walk them the block and a half to my place using a hand cart when he was free later, with me guiding him.
As soon as I got home with the smaller goodies, I couldn’t resist. The blender/processor were a bit bespotted by food particles, and I couldn’t wait to get the whole thing cleaned up so I could try it out. A half hour and a few cuts later (those blades were indeed sharp), everything sparkled. I plugged the unit in, and pushed the on button for the blender. Silence. Same for the food processor. I rearranged both units, thinking I’d perhaps not got them on snugly enough or in quite the right spot. Pushed the buttons, one at a time again. Nothing.
Well, I thought, maybe there’s a trick to it. Thinking logistically, I hurriedly emptied a beat up bookcase I planned to toss now that I had the new one, packed up the fancy appliance, put it into the wheelbarrow and back to the sale I went. Coming up to the previous owner, I said, “Not to worry! You gave me such good prices on everything I wouldn’t dream of returning this, but I can’t seem to get the blender thingie to turn on. Can you show me how you put it together? Maybe I’m doing something wrong.” The lady smiled and showed me how to do it, which looked to be the same procedure I had followed. “Well,” I said, “I’ll take it back home and try again. Thanks so much!” Ever hopeful, I escorted the shelf-pusher back to my place, we put the bookcases where I wanted them, took the unit I’d emptied earlier to the curb to be picked up by anyone who wanted it. Then, bidding adieu to the nice man, I hastily went back inside. And back to the Italian. Which, once reassembled, again failed to work. Frustrated, I went online to see if I could find out anything further about getting this one to work, or maybe purchase a new one if the price were right. It was then I found that 9 out of 10 people who had bought one of these hated it and would never recommend it. Turns out there was a trick to making it work, but it wasn’t foolproof, and even if the reviewers got it to go on, the motors would burn out within a year and you could not get them fixed.
Rats! I thought. A few other words came to mind. However, not one to remain defeated, I began my search for the perfect all-in-one. It became clear pretty fast that there was no such thing. At one store, the Cuisinart people told me there was a reason no one else makes a blender and food processor together in one unit, with two separate stands aboard – they don’t work! Yes, there were compromise units, with smaller pitchers that tried to accommodate both types of cooking needs on one stand. But if you got one of these, you sacrificed capacity, flexibility or power. After two full weeks of daily checking, I finally found a great buy on a huge Kitchen Aid food processor. Not brushed steel, it had a shiny stainless base, but it would look good with the coffeemaker, and was top of the line in terms of performance. The real splurge would be the blender. A gorgeous Breville. European design, most powerful motor, it was just simply the most beautiful appliance I’d ever seen. So, I shopped and shopped for the best price. Finally, when it went on sale for almost $100 less than its usual price I raced to the store to grab one.
And ever since purchasing the beauty, I never tired of looking at it. The lid has a loop for a handle, giving it a distinctive appearance, and the base is a beautiful tall pedestal of brushed steel. It zoomed into action when called upon to perform, quickly whipping up guacamole, morning smoothies and other sauces and mixes. A few weeks ago I started to experiment with blender ice cream. Using crushed ice, frozen fruit chunks and skim milk, plus vanilla and Stevia, I could create delicious yet low fat and calorie-trimmed treats for myself, and then a group of friends at a dinner. However, the blender was not happy. She began to argue with me until one night when I was whomping up a chocolate cake batter to pour over pears in a fluted baking dish, she started smoking. I turned her off of course, and took out the batter, blending it with a spatula as best I could. The cake? Perfect. The Breville? Dead. Even after resting, she would not start again. I felt totally bereft, and betrayed.
So, I got a new baby -- the Ninja. With three blades at different levels on the removable stem, it promised to be an even better performer than the Breville, which though I loved her dearly, was a bit of a pain to work with -- heavy (glass vs. plastic pitcher on the Ninja), and you always had to take off the bottom, which screws and unscrews in directions opposite those in the U.S., a thing I always had to think about. And whatever was under the blade at the bottom would be hard to scrape out. The Ninja’s bottom is easy to get to so there should be less waste, I figured.
At the counter when trading in the European work-of-art-cum-blender, I told the sales rep how sad I was at its passing. He asked if I’d thought of just trying a different Breville. Maybe you got a bad one, he suggested. After all, isn’t the Breville the very best on the market? He said I should try the Ninja if I really wanted to, then feel free to bring it back if not satisfied, and try another Breville. After a few days, I find the Ninja’s a snap to use. It fits on its base easily, is light to pick up and take apart for cleaning. That’s very neat. And while it isn’t as elegant, it’s OK to look at. But ya know what? There are tiny ice particles that don’t quite get exploded by the Ninja…
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