25 September 2008

Mr. Wren’s new toy

My husband has a new toy.

He called me one day recently from Costco and launched into a delighted description of an appliance which was being demonstrated just for him. I caught about every third word – something about "it juices and chops and makes healthy, nutritious drinks."

He's always been one for doing it yourself at home, as long as he isn't the one doing it. We have a big ol' dehydrator gathering dust in the pantry. He used it a few times, slicing and chopping fruits and veggies into dryable chunks. Then he discovered that washing the dried, leftover bits of whatever off the screened drying racks was a real pain in the arse. So ended Mr. Wren's dehydrating craze.

"They have one in white here, but it also comes in black. The guy says they can send us the black one, if we want. I thought I'd better ask."

We have a black fridge, a black stove, and a black dishwasher. White wouldn't fit in, so "Black would be better," I said. Black what, I should have asked, but I didn't.

"OK, bye! Love you!"

I promptly forgot the conversation. That is, until I started out the door a week later and nearly took a header over a great big box the mailperson had left on the welcome mat. I carted it inside. On the return address sticker: "Vita Mix."

Oh, right, I thought. It's that thing Mr. Wren was going on about last week. Hmmm. And I went on my way.

Well, the Vita Mix now takes up a goodly portion of the limited counter space in my kitchen, edging out my elegant, old, silver-based Oster blender (the kind they use to mix drinks in bars, but smaller). See, the Vita Mix is also a blender – but it's on steroids.

The base is a big, blocky black cube. Whoever designed these things had no sense of décor or aesthetics. It has various intimidating buttons and dials on the front. The top part is a gigantic pitcher-like thing, squared off, and holds enough to feed a horse, and there's a black plastic, bat-like thing which can be used to stuff food down into the thick, deadly, wicked-sharp blades at the bottom. Horror movies come to mind.

The evening after it arrived, Mr. Wren read carefully through all the literature that came with the Vita Mix. Then he made a elephant-sized smoothie. I was in my den, writing, trying not to let the sound of the aircraft engine roaring in the kitchen distract me. When he'd put things into the blender, the pitch would change. Think of a four-inch tree limb going into a chipper-shredder.

After a while, he stuck his head in the door. "You want some smoothie?"

I've learned over the years that if Mr. Wren is creating in the kitchen, and asks if I want some, it's a good idea to get a little more information before saying "yes." And that's even though I'm touched by his kindness for remembering me.

"What's in it?" I inquired, trying not to sound worried.

Like an excited schoolboy reciting the actuarial tables, he stood in the doorway, looked off into the far distance and said, "Three peaches, two bananas, half a zucchini, an avocado, garlic, rice protein powder, plain lowfat yogurt, half a head of cabbage, some nutmeg, black cracked pepper, wheat germ and flaxseed. And Splenda."

My mouth opened.

"Oh, and four carrots, that last cucumber and some ice." He smiled beatifically.

He'd lost me at the zucchini, but I didn't say so. I've become convinced that really, Mr. Wren doesn't have any real sense of taste. He can combine the strangest things and not be put off by the retch-inducing result in the least. And one of the things that delights him about his new monster blender is that it even liquifies peels, meaning that he doesn't need to worry about peeling things. It's perfect for the hungry man who's totally mastered the DVR and has, on any given day, 36 hours of prerecorded, no-commercial programming ready at a moment's notice. No w all he needs is an all-natural, liquid diet he can suck through a straw.

"Peels are full of great nutrients," he told me earnestly. "It's a shame we just toss them out."

"Wow," I said of the concoction he'd just described. I hoped he'd left the cap on the pitcher so it couldn't crawl out. "Thanks, but I'm still full from dinner," I said. "I think I'll pass this time."

"OK, but you don't know what you're missing," he said with a grin, and went back to the kitchen.

I saw him a few minutes later watching something on the TV, a huge glass of brownish-gray glop in his hand. In the kitchen, there was still enough of it in the pitcher to feed a herd of pigs. How in the world he was going to drink all of it, I had no idea. But I didn't want it sitting in the refrigerator for the next several days, either. The smell – which was already curling my nosehairs – would permeate everything in there.

Since then, I've learned to like Mr. Wren's Vita Mix a little more, but it's hard. It really does hog a lot of counter space. Still, with Mr. Wren gently directing me, I used it a couple of weeks ago to puree a big batch of roasted tomatoes and basil as pasta sauce and as a base for soups. The savory results now reside in the chest freezer for later this season. And Mr. Wren told me, solemnly, that you can actually make soup in the thing by leaving it on for an extended period of time. The sucker gets so hot the contents of the pitcher actually come to a boil, eliminating the need to turn on a stove or dirty a pot.

WoooooHoo! as the late, great Steve Irwin would say, if he still could. I just know he'd love Mr. Wren's Vita Mix. They could puree Dingo DooDoo with cinnamon for the gardens.

In the meantime, I've kept my dainty (yes, it looks dainty in comparison) old Oster blender on the opposite counter, ready for when I want to make a "girly-girl" smoothie. For the uninitiated, that's a smoothie that requires only some fruit, yogurt, ice, soy protein and little Splenda. My ol' Oster can be noisy too, but at least I don't need ear-protection to use it.



Bill Stankus said...

I'm not a cook but I do have a few kitchen beliefs.
1. Food yes, jet engine sounds no.
2. I don't eat peels.
3. I never buy kitchen gadgets from demonstrators. They're good at omissions.
4. Mixing more than four things is too confusing.
5. If I can't use the microwave I'm not interested.

Good story!

Lucy said...

LOL. He lost me at zucchini too! There will be no mixing of fruits and vegetables. Maybe raisins on a salad, but that's it. What that smoothie needed after the seond banana was some chocolate!

BTW, I also have a great big dehydrator gathering dust in the pantry. One day, when we're all dust, some future archeologists will develop elaborate cultural theories based on all of those dehydrators.

Sketch said...

Oh dear. The zuccini was a bit over the top, but if that was all he'd added, it might - might - have been doable. But garlic? Pepper? Avocado and cabbage?

Oh, dear ...

I suggest checking out cokctail recipes online and then having dad buy the ingredients in bulk on his Costco runs, so you can use that Vita Mix to prepare yourself properly for the jet-engined concoctions he comes up with. I'll help :D

Wil Robinson said...

Absolutely great writing. What a fun read.

BTW, I usedto mix celery with orange, apple, etc. fruit juice. You can't taste it and it's supposedto be good for you.