Feeling Blue

If you’ve stopped here very often, you’re aware that I don’t cook.  That is to say I do cook, but I do it badly and inelegantly and only out of necessity and rarely with joy. Someone said to me once that she dusted her cooktop and I crossed my fingers behind my back that I would get there eventually.

But I love to bake.  While I make the same ten recipes for dinner in a pretty regular rotation, I’m fearless when I bake.  Cakes, cookies, pies, tarts.  When I cook, I often realize I’ve skipped steps or left out ingredients. When I bake, I’ll sift, grate, blanch, peel or candy with care.

I had not used a Kitchenaid mixer until about ten years ago.  I grew up with a hand mixer (my mother was a terrible cook and baker, so we’ve evolved a little.) With it, I made cookies and brownies and cream puffs that looked like swans.  As an adult I did the same and could not see the appeal of this behemoth of the kitchen counter.  I thought it was another affectation of cooking like an egg separator or a mat with concentric circles that tells you how far you need to roll the dough for your piecrust.

I was wrong.  Once I lived with a Kitchenaid, I understood that it was one of the few devices that make the process better.  Whether whipping or mixing, it was well worth the exercise of lugging it from under the island onto the counter.

When I moved, the Kitchenaid did not come with me and I was without one for about nine months.  I told myself it was a needless expense.  I told myself I could live without it.  I told myself that I had been happy with a hand mixer before and I could be happy with one again.

What I found was that I stopped baking.  I tried a couple of times, but my rhythm was off.  I can see now that it was a combination of a few things.  Baking and cooking are physical acts.  The way we move about the kitchen is a dance.  If you watch a practiced cook or baker, you can see that it is like ballet.  As with anything, routine helps us find our grace there.  It takes a while in a new space for our fingers to find the spatula without looking.  It takes a while to open only one drawer in search of the knife.  It takes a while to know that the oven heats at a ridiculously slow pace and runs just a couple of degrees hot.

I realized, too, that once we know better, it is difficult to go back.  So I decided to invest in a mixer.  The previous Kitchenaid, which I did not choose, was white.  If I had chosen it, it would have been white.  Or maybe black. I read and hear funny things in my life that snap into my brain like Legos.  Advice on style or living can come from any random place and become part of my canon.  I was a child when I saw the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie. In it Mary Tyler Moore’s character, while discussing cars, says that machines should only be black or white. For whatever reason, as I lay on my stomach on orange shag carpet with my chin in my hand, I thought that sounded right.  Not just sensible, but chic, though I didn’t know that word at the time.

When I went to buy my mixer, I planned on black or white. I do not get a thrill from cooking stores, as some people do, and my main objective is to get what I need and get out as quickly as I can.  But the day I went to buy my mixer, I could not leave the spot at the back of the store where they were displayed.  I had gone to determine which size I needed, but was enchanted by their shiny, candy colors.  I knew already that he would live on the counter; I did not want to bother with the charade of hiding him.  Suddenly, the question was not if there would be color, but what color it would be.  I considered red, which is a color that I love, but there was simply too much jump.  It was, unsurprisingly, the turquoisey-not-quite-robin’s-egg blue that I could not shake. Even after learning that it was on back-order – I would have to wait a little longer – nothing else would do.

In this particular case, my instincts were good.  The turquoisey-not-quite-robin’s-egg blue makes me smile every morning as he greets me.  And I am baking again.  My middle son is a baker, too, and we made cinnamon rolls for the first time Thanksgiving morning.  He told me yesterday that he wants to try lemon poppyseed muffins, though he’s never had lemon poppyseed muffins, he likes the idea of them.  It seems silly to say that a mixer changed my life for the better, but in a very small way, it did.

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19 thoughts on “Feeling Blue

  1. I have my grandmother's stand mixer ( in boring tasteful white ) but when I had to buy my own blender, I went bold and got harvest gold. Don't ask me why; It makes me smile whenever I'm making a smoothie, milkshake, or soup. I think I had grand visions of making lots of margaritas but really, at the end of the day I'm not a big drinker at home other than the glass of wine.
    Also so glad to hear you quote TMM!! One of my favorite movies of all time and very formative for me personally in childhood. I quote that line ALL THE TIME – seriously! I've never heard anyone else mention it so this really made my day. "Millie, Machines, like gloves, should be either black or white!"

  2. Patricia I can see how much joy it is already bringing to you and your boys. It is also quite an artful sculpture for your countertop. Love the color!

    The Arts by Karena

  3. The perfect foil for your charcoal kitchen. You might enjoy Dana Cowin's new cookbook "Mastering Mistakes in My Kitchen." It seems the editor at Food & Wine is a not natural cook and she asks 65 great chefs to help her make great do overs.

    ps My tip for cinnamon rolls: don't over bake. If you like soft bottoms, pour a layer (light) of half & half over the baking sheet before baking. Look forward to hearing about those lemon poppy seed muffins.

  4. I love mine– I went with the sturdy black. I only wish I had the counter space to have it out all the time. Great to hear from you!

  5. Love your new mixer and the thought that as I bake I do a ballet. May your family enjoy all the goodies that develop from the new mixer. I would not have a kitchen without a kitchenaid mixer.

  6. It truly is amazing how a stand-mixer can change your life. My mother was like yours, Patricia, and I watched with envy as my sisters married Kitchenaid mixers. I had to wait for over 14 years of marriage until I had a kitchen large enough, just barely, to house one. Now my breast-cancer pink one sits out on the counter, and while I may go for a month or more without using, it stands ready to be my extra set of hands at a moment’s notice. Now if the rest of my family could follow suit . . . .

  7. Patricia, I am loving that blue! What a happy and inviting thing to see first thing every morning! Cooking can change your life—and your son's too.

  8. LOVE the color! When I broke down and bought my first KitchenAid mixer (having been using an ancient one from my father's old family home), the only color Service Mdse had was "vanilla". Since I was in the middle of baking and making sandwiches for a mother/daughter Xmas tea, I did not have time for a search! I do keep a cover on mine, so the color really doesn't matter.

    I'm a firm believer that evening wear for men and automobiles should ALWAYS be black!

  9. He is, indeed, handsome and sexy. I have wanted such a man in my life for a very long time. You are inspiring me to make the plunge!
    Have a wonderful Christmas baking with both of your men. xoxo

  10. I must preface this by saying I have the most fantastic life…great husband of 28 years, beautiful daughter…just so that you realize this story has a happy ending.
    My family owned a restaurant when I was growing up and for my high school graduation I received a restaurant grade Kitchenaid mixer. Simply and utterly the most amazing piece of engineering ever built. I loved it and despite its size and considerable weight I have taken it with me through every move. No matter the size of the kitchen it was always there.
    In my misspent youth I entered into a relationship which became abusive. One winter night I got up the courage to leave. And leave I did….no car, the clothes on my back…just my Kitchenaid mixer (with attachments). I walked to a police station a mile away and asked to use the phone to call my parents.
    I still have my Kitchenaid and will be making Christmas cookies with my granddaughter this weekend.

  11. Whoa. I'm sure this comment isn't what you expected but that new picture of you says: "And just look at what you're missing, Mister."

    When I saw the title "Feeling Blue", I thought, "Oh no…" Imagine my delight when I discovered the article really was about that demure little Kitchenaid mixer. Too damn cute.

    When my kids were growing up, it was always easier to talk with them during a task, she drying the dishes while I washed, or him drying off his car while I did the windows. There was no eye contact. I wondered if it's the same with you and the middle-son-baker. Whatever..enjoy.

    Keep writing, dear Mrs. Blandings—you with your knock-you-socks-off picture.

  12. Love my mixer, even if its boring white and has a bent knob for on and off switch. I did see a whole array of colors at the store this week, and immediately thought HOW FUN! You look GREAT in your new photo! Really great!

  13. Lovely almost-robin's-egg-blue mixer! My 30 year old white Kitchenaid at least has a red metal band across the mixer head but I satisfied my craving for those new colors by gifting them to my girls. Happy baking!

  14. Love the new mixer, and the story behind it. Although my household artifacts and my person reflect a longtime and fairly consistent ethos, don't we all wish we had hair like the old Tressie dolls– long or short with just a quick tug–and Kitchenmaid mixers and nail polish like mood rings, changeable with just the power of thought? Your new photo is terrific, and a much truer reflection of your own energy and spirit, love it too!

  15. I learned to bakes using my Mom's white 1951 KitchenAid stand mixer. I continue to bake all the time, but until last year, I just had a hand mixer, which did the job. A friend moved and gave me her unused super-duper black KitchenAid, but I have yet to take it out. It does seem silly to leave the Ferrari in the garage, while I drive the VW bug every day. This will prompt me to read the manual to see what I'm missing.

  16. I waited until I was 60 to finally buy my own KA mixer, after not inheriting my mother's, who did not buy hers until her 70's (my talented nephew got it). It changed my life, particularly at this time of holiday baking. My fabulous white cheddar-rosemary cheese straws are now a breeze (I'll send you the recipe if you'd like). I did get the boring white, but I purchased a reconditioned one on Overstock, because I'm old and cheap/frugal, and I figured it would outlast me.
    I must comment on your new photo. DAMN, WOMAN, YOU LOOK MARVELOUS!!!!!
    Happy Holiday to you and yours.

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