Culinary History (Part 28): Mixers and Food Processors
Sontheimer (1914-1988) was an engineer, inventor, and a lover of
French food. In 1971, he travelled to France with his wife,
searching for French culinary equipment which he could sell to
Americans. At a cookery show, he found the Robot-Coupe, an
incredible piece of technology which could blend, chop, dice, grate,
grind and slice. All in the same machine! Electric mixers had been
sold in America since the 1920’s, but they could only blend.
knew immediately what it could be used for – quenelles. A quenelle
is “pâte à choux,
cream, and a purée of raw fish, veal or chicken that is formed into
ovals or cylinders and poached in a seasonal liquid.” It is
extremely labour-intensive to make (even more than soufflés). The
chicken/fish paste needs to be pounded and sieved for ages, to make
it perfectly smooth. And then you have to mould the fragile mixture
into oval shapes, which is a very tricky job.
the Robot-Coupe could do all the work of pounding and sieving at the
push of a button. It had been invented in 1963 by Pierre Verdun, for
the restaurant business. It was a large, heavy drum with a rotating
blade inside it, and all you had to do was push start, stop, or
smaller version would be excellent for the home, Sontheimer realized.
He negotiated the rights to sell his own version of it in America,
and took about a dozen of them home to experiment on. It took over a
year, but in the end he worked out a model that would produce the
smoothest quenelles most easily. He called it the “Cuisinart”,
because he saw cooking as an art.
Cuisinart entered the market in 1973, for a price of $160 (nearly
$800 in today’s money). This was expensive, and sales didn’t go well
for the first few months. But after the Gourmet
magazine and the New York
Times gave it good
reviews, it took off.
Britain, another Robot-Coupe version was marketed under the
Magimix brand, also from 1973.
Magimix advertisement (1978).
1976, the Cuisinart’s price had risen to $190, but it was selling so
well that hardware stores couldn’t keep up with the demand. One
shop-owner noted that people who bought a Cuisnart from her often
returned to buy more kitchen utensils, “balloon whisks and copper
pots and then for whatever was needed once they were launched on a
new cooking venture.” Not only had it made cooking more easy, but
encouraged people to be more adventurous in the kitchen, even among
those who really weren’t much into cooking before.
or liquidizers, had been sold in America since the 1920’s. The first
one was invented by Stephen Poplawski in 1922, as a drink mixer for
the Arnold Electric Company. In 1937, there was the Waring Blendor.
It was based off the earlier miracle Mixer (which had had problems
with the jar’s seal, splattering milk all over the place). The
Waring Blendor was promoted by Fred Waring (a popular singer) and it
was an instant success, with a million being sold by 1954.
Waring Blendor (1937).
electric blenders work like this: A motor on the bottom, a glass
jar on top, and small rotating metal blades in the middle, connecting
them. A rubber washer is necessary to stop liquid from dripping on the
are limitations to it. Washing up the goblet is a problem, and so is
the small size of most blenders. The immersion blender, or stick
blender, was patented in 1950 in Switzerland, as the “Bamix”
(although it was seldom used in Britain/America until the 1980’s).
It solves both of these problems.
even the Bamix has limitations – a blender or mixer can grind, but
not chop. The blades are too small for that. Hence why the
Cuisinart was such a revolution in the kitchen.
electric food mixers were made to do more heavy-duty mixing and
blending. The first, an electric stand mixer, was invented by
Herbert Johnston in 1908 for the Hobart Manufacturing Company, which
specialized in motorized meat-grinders. The idea came to him while
watching a baker mixing bread-dough with a metal spoon, which seemed
ridiculous to him. The task would surely be done better with some
kind of motorized gadget.
first Hobart mixers were industrial and massive, with a dimension of
80 quarts (76 litres). In 1919, Hobart produced a smaller version
called the KitchenAid, weighing only 31kg, for restaurants. A
smaller version of that
was then produced for domestic use.
British answer to the KitchenAid was the Kenwood mixer, and it was
even better – midway between the KitchenAid in Cuisinart in
its usefulness in the kitchen. It was invented by Kenneth Wood (an
electrical engineer who had served in the RAF), and entered the
market in 1950. Wood combined various existing technologies to
create a machine that could do many things – a can-opener,
potato-peeler, spaghetti-maker (from Italy); a beater, juicer,
liquidizer, mincer (and others) – and called it the Kenwood Chef.
you bought all the attachments, then you could use the Kenwood to
extract, grind, knead, liquefy, mince, peel and whisk; it could also
open cans, and even make various pasta shapes. Its slogan was “Your
the Cuisinart was far better than the Kenwood, because you didn’t
need to buy a whole lot of attachments. All that was needed were the
basic double-bladed S-shaped blades, made of stainless steel. These
blades made it possible to liquefy, blend, pulverize, mix…all on
their own. Roy Andries de Groot, who wrote one of the earliest
food-processing recipe books, wrote that the processer was “virtually
the equivalent of having, as your constant kitchen helper, a skilled
chef armed with two super-sharp chef’s knives and a cutting board.”
It could “produce all the results achieved by a stone pestle and
mortar. It can tenderize tough ingredients by slashing and
reslashing their fibres, just as if they were pounded for an hour.”
Cuisinart did have attachments, but not to the extent of the Kenwood, and they were small.
There was a medium-sized serrated slicing disc (e.g. for slicing raw
vegetables & making coleslaw), and various grating discs. And you didn’t really need them, anyway - the S-blades did almost everything.
of the Kenwood’s attachments, on the other hand, were as bulky as the
equipment they were replacing. The liquidizer attachment, for
example, was nearly as big as a blender itself.
1983, Michael Barry (a British cook) said that previously, “only a
few brave and dedicated souls ever tried to make pâté at home”
because of the “exhausting process of cutting up, mincing, blending
and then cleaning up the equipment.” Now, it was normal and easy
to make pâté - “the processor has changed our way of life.”
Ordinary people could make the fancy dishes of haute cuisine and the
social elite (such as quenelles). An army of servants was no longer
backlash against the food processor started in 1975, the year the
Cuisinart was produced. A writer in The
Times said that it might
deprive future generations of the pleasure of cooking by hand –
even that the deprivation of tactile stimulation might leave us
requiring “group therapy”. Other
complaints followed: the food was robotic, and couldn’t taste as good
as if made by hand; it took the joy out of cooking; it turned
everything to mush.
was some truth to the last complaint. Not that the processor itself
was the problem, but that the recipes in the 70’s & 80’s
food-processor cookbooks were often written so that that was the
result. People puréed everything that could be puréed. Fancy
dishes became so much the norm that the novelty wore off.
restaurant dishes suffered from this problem. In those decades, the
obsession with the food-processor lead to an intense focus on smooth,
the preferences of cuisine swung back again, to more “robust” and
“provincial” cooking, which was a way of showing that it had been
made by hand. Soups and stews were more chunky, and the individual
ingredients were no longer blended together, but could be
differentiated when eating.
mortar & pestle also came back into fashion. Food writers got
nostalgic for the old way of life for the women who spent hours and
hours pounding food and singing (and getting arthritis, etc…) And
by this time, many peasants had switched to using processors, anyhow.
When Marlena Spieler travelled to Liguria (Italy) to see how the
peasants made pesto, they showed her their huge ancient mortar &
pestle, and then showed her how they made it nowadays: with a food
was the case especially in the Middle East, where by 1977, more food
processors were used (per capita) than anywhere else in the world.
One of the reasons was the dish kibbé, which can be raw or cooked.
The main ingredient is finely-pounded lamb, usually with bulgar
wheat, onion, green herbs, allspice and cinnamon.
Okay microbots being used for building and construction is awesome but imagine Hiro meeting a girl in a wheelchair, and all of a sudden a whole new use for these little guys comes into play.
You control these things with your brain like you do your limbs and now there’s hope for any amputee or paraplegic to be able to walk or run or even stand or have both arms again and just like that both Hamada brothers become names not only in the robotics world, but the medical world too, and Hiro completes Tadashi’s dream- to help a lot of people.
big hero 6 AU based on yuumei’s webcomic “knite”, in which you can’t see the stars in the sky of san fransokyo because of the pollution. the pollution also causes thousands of people to develop lung cancer — including hiro, who has always wanted to see the stars. tadashi teams up with a wasabi, honey, gogo, fred, and the robot he made for hiro, to create their own stars using kites. they soon gather enough volunteers and make enough kites to fill the the sky of san fransokyo with “stars”, making millions of people happy.