Monday, February 3, 2014

High / Low: Mixers

Go high end.

A survey from this past holiday season reported that "roughly six-in-ten Americans say they plan to give homemade items, such as baked goods or crafts, as gifts this holiday season." The survey also found that this spanned income levels, with 61% of those earning $100,000 or more, and 59% of those earning under $30,000 making gifts.

It makes sense that at any income level one might want to make gifts -- either because she likes to, or because she wants to do something that feels more special than buying something the recipient can afford, or because she wants to save money.

Thinking about the reason behind making holiday gifts -- whether it's for monetary reasons or because one just like to make things -- always reminds me of the first Christmas I took on baking gifts for nearly everyone on my list. I cannot help but think of a mistake I made (a couple times) starting with that December.

That year, lacking a full-time job, I decided to bake presents. Having just gotten into baking, I had no experience with gingerbread, but decided it was festive and I should give it a try. 
I had no real kitchen tools, but I thought no problem I've got a whisk and able-bodied arms, so I stirred and stirred until I thought my arms would fall off.

Well! God bless all of my kind friends and family who politely never said a word, but those gingerbread men must have been terrible! Over-mixed and tough as can be. 
image from J.C Penny

After that arm-numbing experience, I decided I needed some kind of a mixer, so my mother gave me one of her hand mixers like the ones pictured above. But still, my arms felt like jelly after another baking project.

As I learned more about baking and discovered I enjoy it, I thought it was time to buy a real, electric mixer. I wanted a stand mixer, but with counter space and money both in short supply, I went for an electric hand mixer, like the one at right, instead. I thought it was a wise choice, since it is less expensive than a big stand-mixer. It still was a bit unruly, but it worked well enough, and took up a small amount of space in the cabinet.

But I still longed for the stand mixer's stability, so when my wife and I got married, I knew exactly what would be at the top of my registry requests: A stand mixer. My mother bought it for us, in a lovely French blue.

After years of using it, I now wish I had skipped the other less expensive versions and gone straight for this one. The ease of twisting a bowl and a beater into place, the simplicity of easily finding the right speed, and the piece of mind that comes with being able to watch the mix and take it out at exactly the right moment is absolutely worth it. Not to mention that it takes no time at all to bring the mixture to perfection.

image from KitchenAid

If I had it to do all over again, I would have saved up for this one all those years ago and saved myself an awful lot of time (and some sore arms!) over the years. It has certainly been worth the counter space it takes up, and the attachments to make fun things like ice cream take up less space and generally cost less than separate machines that do just one thing.

Classic, multi-functional kitchen tools are one of those items that are worth going high-end the first time, and saving time and money in the long run.

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