Browsing the electronics aisle during the January sales, I hesitated in front of the food processors. For ages, I’ve had a number of recipes on file that sniffily declared that correct results could only be achieved using a food processor and warned of dire consequences if attempted with a blender, and cowed, I’d always reluctantly set them aside for that magical day when I did have the necessary equipment. Mentioning this to Him Indoors sent him immediately into research mode. I was leaning towards one of the micro or mini versions because I wasn’t sure if I’d find it useful enough to warrant the purchase of something larger and costlier, and I didn’t want something that would dominate the countertop. After much deliberation, he settled upon the Magimix Le Mini Plus as just the thing for us. The selling point of the Magimix, he explained, was not only the reliability of the brand but the after-sales support and the company’s comprehensive parts and replacements department. (I’ll overlook the implication that H.I. was factoring in my natural predisposition to break things, into his decision.)
Watching me assemble the unit and bemusedly answering my rapid-fire questions about it, he was suddenly struck by a question of his own. Brow slightly furrowed, he asked if I’d never used a food processor before. I had to admit that, unless the blender and handheld whisk counted as subspecies of the genre, no, I hadn’t. He pressed further, not comprehending how it was even possible in this day and age. I rocked back on my heels and considered the question. Of course Mum’s kitchen was always well stocked with gadgetry, and my brother Bud and I were always allowed free rein there, so long as we cleaned up after ourselves. She almost certainly had a food processor, I mused, so why didn’t I ever use it…and then the memory hit me.
It was one of those flashpoint moments in one’s memory. It was Christmas, and all of Gran’s children and grandchildren had converged upon her house. In the early hours of Christmas morning, Grandma was taken ill and quietly whisked off to hospital. So engrossed in our new toys and treats, selfish little brutes that we were, we didn’t even notice until preparations for dinner began in earnest. “Why isn’t Grandma making the turkey?” we asked sullenly, watching with undisguised disapproval the clearly inferior cooking techniques being demonstrated by whichever adult was stationed at the counter. They broke the news to us gently, but even so we weren’t terribly alarmed. The hospital held no fear for us. After all, Grandma had been there before; she’d stay for a while, but she would always get better and return home. It never occurred to us that anything different might be in order. Of course, I feel terrible about it to this very day, but Mum insists that the fact that the youngsters didn’t know that anything was amiss until very late in the day was a tribute to Grandma’s, and all of her co-conspirators’, determination that the children have as normal and happy a Christmas as possible. I do recall that the adults disappeared inexplicably in small groups during the day, and those that remained to care for the band of semi-feral children that we were staggered through the day as if on autopilot. Looking back on it with a renewed sense of understanding, the all-encompassing weariness they displayed that day could not have been easily explained away as a result of a late night or one too many eggnog. We were lucky, however, in that she did return home eventually, but that was to be our last Christmas with her.
The presents from Gran that year were extra-special, each family receiving an all-singing, all-dancing food mixer/processer/blender, as if Grandma herself knew that she didn’t have a lot of time left. To our childish eyes, it was a huge, alien sprawl which would have looked more at home in a space station. It was amazing – there were so many irresistably shiny bits and whirlygigs and doodaws – and far better than any of the dolls or Star Wars paraphenalia that Santa had brought us, but, because it proved to be the last gift my grandmother would give my parents, it quickly took on the patina of a shrine. My brother Bud and I, although we longed to see the great mechanical beast roar to life, were forbidden on pain of long, leisurely death to lay a finger upon it. We argued that Grandma would have wanted it to see use, but unsurprisingly, we were overruled. In truth, we were roundly ignored – there were no nods to domestic democracy in this decision.
To be fair to Mum and Dad, though, Bud had already earned a reputation for taking things apart and reducing them to unrecognisable piles of cogs, wheels and springs. He was like MacGyver’s evil twin – he could reduce anything mechanical to its most basic form using only a frayed shoelace, the splintered half of a wooden popsticle stick, and a wad of well-chewed bubblegum. It took a long time for Mum not to shudder involuntarily any time she stumbled upon a mysterious and out of context mechanical artefact in an unusual location. She’d freeze, her eyes wide and staring, and you knew that she was running over a mental catalogue of all household mechanical and electrical items and musing whether or not she’d seen them out in the open recently.
And that, in about the least succinct fashion possible, is why I grew up deprived of experience with a food processor. If only I’d had access to one sooner, I would have saved myself the countless self-inflicted cuts, gouges and abrasions that I suffered at the blades of our kitchen knives over the years. It’s true, it’s a legacy that’s followed me to present day. Whilst unwrapping presents after our wedding, for example, I held a gorgeous Henckels knife aloft for everyone to admire. My mother’s face contorted into a mask of panic and horror. “Who gave you THAT?? she asked in disbelief as she gingerly snatched it out of my hand. “Like giving a baby a loaded gun,” I heard her mutter as she made a note of the gift-giver.
Well, Mum, fear for my fingers no longer! This little beauty slices and dices, it shreds and juices, it grates and shaves, said Sam I Am! Never have I made coleslaw faster, and for the first time, there is no “secret ingredient” (read chunks of grated Nin-skin) added to the mixture. It doesn’t have a huge footprint, but with a 1.7L capacity, it’s no pushover either. It’s solidly built and, according to H.I., it runs very quietly. In terms of vegetable preparation, it’s my own personal little fold in time. I can’t believe that I’ve done without this miracle worker all my life. Yeah, yeah, I know. There are none so vocal as the converted. I’m probably so late to the party that everyone’s already gone home, and I’m going to get roped into helping with the aftermath clean-up.