It’s not very often that you grow attached to a beat up old appliance. But this Black and Decker hand mixer has been with me so long, I think it’s taken on some greater significance.
Never mind that the cord has some live wires exposed in one spot where I apparently let it rest too long on something pretty hot. Never mind it only cost me $12.99 some 20 plus years ago. This little guy represents lots of what I love, what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained.
I distinctly remember when I bought this, and where. You see, I’d moved to Boston with the hopes of getting into law school and living on my own, in my very own apartment. I was Mary Tyler Moore, minus the beret. Only girls that came of age in the same general time period as I will know what that means, but suffice to say we had very few images of single women on their own. Even though she called her boss “Mr. Grant” and he called her “Mary” and she cried at the drop of a hat (or beret), she gave us some sort of idea that we could live on our own, have good job and nutty friends.
So I moved to Boston to become a lawyer and change the world. Or at least make a life. I’d found my first apartment with roommates in Chelsea. This was before Chelsea was cool. It was crazy and scary and at the very end of the subway line and then some. There was a bus from the subway line ("Maverick Station", appropriately enough) that dropped me off right in front of the beat down, walk-up where I rented a room.
The apartment was an old floor-through with two cheating, lying roommates (Christian Scientist lesbians whose family believed they shared the apartment and nothing more). Throw in some mice, an abusive family upstairs, and absentee yuppie landlords who refused to fix the smoke alarm that inexplicably, but regularly, jolted us out of bed at at 3 or 4 AM; and you can see I was thrilled to find my own place, in town, no mice.
It was an “alcove studio” which is real estate-speak for “large closet with kitchen”. Essentially, I had real kitchen (tiny, yet functional); and a single room with an alcove for the “office”. This consisted of a door placed over two file cabinets for a fine, large desk. The futon couch made the one room easy to convert from a living room to a bedroom and back again.
Furnishing the apartment was tough on the budget I had - but luckily there was a Tru Value hardware store around the corner. I love hardware stores. The promise of finding the right tool or practical solution to any household problem is so enticing. This one was the college town variety which was perfect for my needs. We were close enough to Boston College that when students were poised to invade, the Tru Value stocked up on cheap student-apartment types of things. Laundry baskets, bathroom organizers, hand mixers and irons. I think I was the only one to buy the latter two.
My insistence on a “real” kitchen was anchored in the fact that I cook. No matter there was no place to sit and eat (the steamer trunk coffee table in front of the folded up futon worked fine) - I was going to cook, even if I was starting law school. So the $12.99 price point of the Black and Decker hand mixer was just perfect. The mixer represented a “real” kitchen to me and meant I was really making a home for myself. Some inexpensive dishes at the Crate and Barrel outlet store rounded out the ensemble as I recall.
To this day, I can’t for the life of me figure out how Black and Decker can survive if it makes such cheap mixers that last this long. Haven’t they heard of planned obsolescence ? Don’t they want me to need a new mixer sometime in this century?
This little guy is lightweight, stores easily and has three speeds: Slow, Mix, and Whip, I think. Only mine has the late addition of “shock” mode, though. It has survived several boyfriends, law school, two bar exams, more jobs than I care to count over three distinct careers (or is it four?), and Thanksgivings each year since 1985.
It’s helped me whip egg whites for Pavlovas and cream for pumpkin pies (no Cool Whip has ever entered my kitchen.) I’ve mixed cake and cookie batters and who knows what else over the years. Every time I take it out, I make a mental note to watch the bare part of the cord, then I say a little prayer that it will work one more time. And it always does.
I’m not ready to buy a Kitchen Aid and have no room or budget for that, nor a Vitamix. Hell, I don’t even have budget to buy another hand mixer.
Mostly, I’m not ready to let go of the last vestige of my new independent life in Boston. I’m just not ready to relinquish that wonderful little hand mixer that seems to say to me each time I take it out, “You’re gonna make it, after all.”
[Cue beret toss.]
MTM Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
(adapted from Gourmet June 2009)
- 3/4 C all purpose flour
- 1/4 C whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter softened
- 2/3 C plus 1 1/2 TBSP sugar + grated orange zest, divided (turbinado is great for the topping sugar)
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp orange flower water (optional but really makes it sing)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 C well-shaken lowfat buttermilk
- 1 C fresh strawberries (if early like mine, add a little dusting of confectioner's sugar to sweeten)
- Preheat oven to 400, rack in middle. Butter and flour one 9" round cake pan.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, powder, salt.
- Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. (I used "mix" setting on the shockingly durable B&D hand mixer.)
- Add vanilla, egg and orange flower water.
- At low speed, mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating thirds. Just till combined.
- Spoon batter into prepared pan. Smooth top, add berries and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
- Bake until golden and tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
- Cool in pan 10 minutes, turn onto rack, cool to warm turn onto plate.