Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Not Just Any Ol' Mixer Will Do

I was stirring creamer and sugar into my coffee one morning when it suddenly struck me how nobody (to my knowledge) has ever made money selling electric coffee stirrers. You know, something like an electric toothbrush, only instead of a brush on the end, it would have a spoon. Here’s my version of an electric coffee stirrer, below.

That got me to thinking about mixers. All mixers, of course, are not built the same – since they all mix up different substances, of whatever kind. Yes, the actual act of mixing may be the same, but the tools we use to do the mixing differ greatly. Sometimes, we even have more than one kind of mixer for the same material.

Take food mixers, for example. There is the hand mixer, which is used to mix up, say, cake batter or dough. But there is also a stand mixer, which is set on your countertop or table, for mixing the same said batter or dough. The difference, you ask? Stand mixers are more expensive, but deliver a much better finished product. Also, when you’re kneading dough, you’ll appreciate the machine doing all the work once the dough starts to get real thick and dense. When looking to buy a stand mixer, be sure to get one with “planetary action”, so-named because the rotating beater itself moves around the bowl, much like a planet spins on its axis as it orbits the sun.

One day, far into the future, I predict stand mixers will have an important role to play in the A.I.-machine takeover of the earth.

Staying in the kitchen, we sometimes need to chop, hack, and mix together various fruits and vegetables to create our culinary masterpieces. This was once a tedious chore - but no more! The food processor has changed the way we manage our time in the kitchen. Coming out in the early 1970s, food processors come in many varieties, and they help us in chopping, slicing, and mixing fruits, veggies, nuts, or meat. I don't personally own a food processor (although I do own a hand mixer that has never been outside of the box - see below). The fact is, us non-cookers generally don't spend our money on such appliances. We do all of our food processing after we've eaten.


Juicers are a very specific breed of mixer. Their sole purpose is to make juice. That's it. (Hence the name.) Because of this limitation, I think they're a rip-off. Now, I'm not talking about citrus juicers (see mine, pictured above). I understand we need a tool that will separate the juice of citrus fruits from the rind and seeds. I'm talking about these hulking appliances that mulch, mince, and chop-chop-chop anything that grows from the ground into some kind of soupy-goopy liquid so you can (if you want to, I guess) drink it. How gross. Check out the one pictured below. I think it looks like a robotic weapon from Star Wars: You top-load a laser shell, and then a death ray shoots out the barrel.

Personally, I have no use for such monstrosities. I'd just toss my goodies into a blender and whip 'em up, then pass the concoction through a strainer, if need be. Better yet, there's always the Big Y.

And what of the venerable blender? That multi-purpose mixing tool that has been around for what seems like ages. They used to do just about all the things that all the other kitchen prep-appliances now do for us. But nowadays, we mostly use them for making frozen margaritas. I still use my old blender as a general-purpose kitchen tool, though. It's a Waring Futura II 7-speed model, and I've had it for about twenty years. The blades are kind of dull, but it can still make a milkshake.

Speaking of blenders, one of my favorite Joe Cartoons is Frog in a Blender. (Just follow the prompts and watch the blood fly!)


Of course we need to mix and mash up a lot of other things besides food, and for these non-edible materials we have a larger set of tools to choose from: mixers (again), mulchers, and chippers. Construction companies and landscapers find these tools necessary to get their work done, but homeowners sometimes find these tools convenient (and cool) to have around, too. Portable cement mixers are handy to have around if you own more than one home or you own rental property. Otherwise, though, most people simply get by with a wheel barrel and hoe. Mulchers are good to have if you have a large garden or field of vegetables. You can use either straw or your neighbor's leaves that fall into your yard each year as mulching material. And then of course we have the renowned wood chipper. Nothing sounds as efficiently grisly at getting the job done as one of these babies when they're put in action. Hearing those blades rip into and obliterate sticks and branches like so many toothpicks - and knowing they'd do the same to our bones - is enough to make a thinking person take a step back after slapping the "ON" switch. We do this also, I suppose, because we all know that wood chippers have been known to be used for more sinister purposes, too. Workers at a California egg farm found them particularly useful in getting rid of a few thousand live chickens. And for some reason, murderers have been known to occasionally use them after performing their fell deeds on humans. I've always thought that strange, though, since then the killer has to get rid of not only the remains, but also anything soiled by the mess - and also the wood chipper itself. (Modern forensics makes trying to clean away the evidence a futile effort.) It would seem to make more sense just to bury the body. But then, murder is a senseless act, so...


Finally, there are certainly many other kinds of mixers out there - drink mixers, sound mixers, gas mixers (medical), fuel mixers, and so on into infinity. We'll always invent more mixers, I'm sure, as soon as we discover more stuff that looks, tastes, or works better when mixed with other stuff. After all, where would we be without our wooden spoons and wire whisks? The world would be a different place. Imagine baked potatoes for dinner on Monday. Then baked potatoes for dinner on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, more baked potatoes for dinner. Of course, there would be no wedding cakes or brownies. No ice cream. The Soviet Union would have won the Cold War. A googol other things would have overtaken us, as well, I imagine.

Think about that the next time you're stirring your morning coffee.

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