February 2, 2009

The old gray KitchenAid, she ain't what she used to be

When Will and I got engaged, there was really only one thing I knew I HAD to register for, only one thing that I really REALLY wanted. A KitchenAid. Oh, sure, I wanted the dishes and silverware and vases and linens and pots that we picked out from the shelves of Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn. But the truth was we already had dishes and silverware and vases and linens and pots. They were ugly and second or third hand, but we did have things too cook with and eat off of and sleep on. And I did relish in finally having soft new sheets and a teapot that matched my plates, but I loved my Kitchen Aid.

Back then, there was not a KitchenAid in every kitchen, Cuisinart was probably the more prevalent brand. I had come to my passion for the stand mixer through the magic of television, through the magic of the Martha Stewart Show. This was back before she had to change her theme song under threat of a lawsuit,before she had branded her self on towels and pans and couches, before she went to prison for insider trading, before she reemerged with a new show and a new, meaner personality. It was even before she was identifiable by just her first name. We didn't say, "Did you see Martha today?" because people would think "Martha who? Washington? Gunn? Graham?"

But I knew her, and I knew about that KitchenAid. My grandfather somehow understood my intense desire for this bulky piece of gadgetry and bought it within weeks of my getting engaged so I could put it to work right away. And I did. I mixed and made and opened cans with the can-opening attachment. I loved it. I didn't care that it took up almost a third of my minuscule counter top. I didn't care that I could have used my beat up old hand mixer for everything I made in my KitchenAid. I loved it.

Over the years, the KitchenAid has served me well. Without really thinking, I chose the perfect color, e a nice, neutral, gun metal gray model and because of this it has sat on my counter through many incarnations of Kitchen Color Combinations. Chili pepper red, soft pale vermilion, school pencil yellow, it went with them all because it went with everything.

When we moved to Ireland for a time, it was one of three things that I stored at my parents house instead of in our storage unit. My Wedding Dress, my Christmas ornaments and my KitchenAid. The rest could rot if need be. I would miss it, but I could recover, not so with the KitchenAid. I missed it. Mixing by hand because I was too stubborn to buy anything less that my cherished stand mixer while we lived abroad. I pulled it out when we visited my parents to give it a workout.It was amongst the first things unpacked when we unloaded our long stored things at our new home in Portland, easy to pick out form the jumble of boxes for it heft and unbalance, one heavy mixer packed askew in a box of sheets and towels.

I use it almost every day still. My children know how to tilt back the head and add ingredients. Briton knows the whisk from the beater from the dough hook. My husband knows better that to touch it without permission and instruction. But she is starting to show her age. The pin that holds the head onto the body works itself loose every few uses and I have to bang it back in. The chrome and stainless parts are no longer shiny. The gun metal surface is discolored in spots with oily look brown patches that do not come off now matter what you scrub them with. And this weekend, when Evie and I left a thick coffee cake batter to mix, it thumped its way up to the edge of the counter, nearly falling off before I tuned around from the stove and caught it before it toppled.

I should call KitchenAid and find out what to do, but I'm afraid they will either tell me I have to send it in to be repaired, and live without it for weeks, or worse, tell me that it's time for it to be retired, to send it off to Stand Mixer Heaven, where they sit on shiny counter tops and mix nothing heavier than egg whites and Martha Stewart tucks them lovingly into bed each night. And I'm afraid I can't face either prospect. So I will keep on. Keep on banging the peg back in, keep on trying to scrub off the stains, keep on pushing it back as it mixes (and not keep on leaving it to mix while I do other things). The Old Gray KitchenAid may not be what she used to be, but she is MY old gray KitchenAid. And I love her, wonky pin and all.

*** Update***
I think she is mad that I told the world she's showing her age, poor thing. The day after I wrote this I was minding my own business mixing cookies when that little silver knob on the front flew off and hit me in the shoulder. Hell hath no fury like a KitchenAid embarrassed.