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Suburban Island

The Mad Mixer
Wednesday, Apr. 09, 2003, 8:13 p.m.

Question: Where’s the frosting?

What I Learned: Mixer blades belong in mixing bowls.

Only at my house could making a batch of brownies turn into a dramatic event.

My daughter kicked off the brownie extravaganza by her need for icing. There was no icing in the house. I know because I looked on every shelf and behind every can and jar in the face of my daughter’s rising insistence that no brownie could be baked in our house that evening without being graced with icing and lots of it too.

At some point, I decided that I would make icing with my youngest kid. What fun, you might say. And it was fun at first. I pulled down a vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook, which sadly was brand new when I bought it. I found an icing recipe that used only 4 ingredients: confectioner sugar, milk, cream cheese, and vanilla – all of which we had in the house, which was my main recipe selection criterion. At some point the electric hand mixer – an avocado green electric mixer that I have had for about 20 years – was pulled out from its drawer and plugged in. This mixer has seen a lot of action – mostly in the service of making boxed brownie mixes. This was its first shot at anything from scratch and maybe this explains the events that follow.

My son was doing the actual mixing because running the mixer is kind of a fun thing after all. I was doing some directing because – well, because I’m a mom and it’s part of my mom gig.

I believe that there are two main styles of directing – with hand movements and without hand movements. I also believe that there are two main styles of mixer management – turn it on when soundly in the bowl or turn it on when hovering over the bowl. When you get a hand waver and a mixer hoverer all bets are off as to the outcome.

In this case the outcome was sudden and dramatic and suppressed one’s desire for making icing for many days to come – perhaps for years.

As mixer was switched on and hands gave flourishing directions, I found my finger suddenly caught in the steel vise of a hand-held mixer. This crazy green machine had some serious power and it had captured my fingers in its steel grip. I couldn’t have been more surprised if a lobster had popped up out of a kitchen cabinet and latched onto my hand. I do believe that my son was even more surprised than me at this strange turn of events.

Once my finger was wedged in that thing, there was no releasing it. It was pretty freaky actually as all those things you read about household accidents run through your head simultaneously. Remember that one about sticking your hand in a washer when it’s going and getting tangle in the clothes – there goes a whole arm. So here I am with a finger in peril, which is better than the whole arm but still I am very attached to my fingers and want to remain so.

I am thinking about maybe some broken fingers and I am sure the kid is thinking that this mixer had become a mad finger chopper on the rampage. He is trying to turn the mixer off and I am holding the steel mixer blades with my other hand so that they won’t keep turning. It’s feeling pretty dicey – if you’ll excuse the pun. Finally, the kid yanked out the plug, getting a little shock for good measure. That will teach him to help me on a kitchen project.

I think I traumatized my kid. I hope he wasn’t destined to become a great chef because this episode might put a dent in his plans. Finally, after we were both convinced that my fingers would live on and they were not bent, broken, fractured, or twisted around in some bizarre way, I convinced him (and myself) that the icing must be made or we would be intimidated by icing-making and mixing in general for life.

Back in the kitchen, the green mixer lay innocently on the counter as if nothing had occurred. I considered tossing the thing out but it was just doing its job after all. A little wiser and a little more careful in carrying out our task we finished up the homemade icing and put the brownies in the oven. The icing had been made with a healthier respect for innocuous old green hand-mixers and other ordinary looking appliances with dire intentions or simple steadfast insistence on doing its duty.

Brownies and icing have never tasted that good or an ordinary cooking event been so great an adventure as the night we made the cream cheese icing from scratch. However, next time, I’m going to remember to buy an extra can of icing and that Betty Crocker Cookbook is going up on the top shelf so I’ll have to think long and hard before I pull it down for another foray into the world of cooking without boxes and mixes.

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