My mom's hand mixer has been around for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember, I've called it Wally (I had a crush on the older Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver). Growing up, if Wally was on the kitchen counter, it meant Mom was preparing something delicious. And since Wally had two metal beaters, I was usually able to lick one if I played my cards right.
I still remember Mom whipping fresh cream for one of her apple pies. I'd stand behind her, hoping for one of the metal beaters with the tines full of cold cream. Or if she made cookies during a snowstorm, I'd lap up the sweet dough with soft butter, bits of granulated sugar, and hard chocolate chips.
As far as appliances go, Wally's not much to look at. He'd be out of place in a Williams-Sonoma catalogue next to the current crop of modern hand mixers with sleek angles and fancy attachments. His body is the color of dirty snow, and the boxy design has all the charm of a Soviet-era office building. Bits of challah dough have hardened on the white plastic handle. Or maybe it's pancake batter? Or cookie dough? Probably a mixture of all three.
You couldn't get more than three dollars for Wally at a yard sale. His yellowed cord is twisted beyond recognition. It's untamable. When you try to wind the cord around the body of the mixer for storage, it always unravels and flops around, like a toddler having a tantrum.
These days, I'm the one bringing Wally out of the cupboard and baking up treats at my parents' house. Over Thanksgiving, my niece (who's 5 and old enough to help out in the kitchen) and I tested Wally to see how much life was left in his tired old bones. The answer: quite a lot. In fact, he has a "power boost" setting that's pretty badass. It gives extra oomph to whipping egg whites, even if it gives off the faint aroma of smoke that lets me know that the power boost button is best for occasional pulsing, and not for any sort of sustained effort.
We cranked out cupcakes, cookies, and brownies. And this time, instead of cozying up to my mom's side begging for a beater, I was the one doling out beaters to my niece. Just as I imagine mine did so long ago, her eyes sparkled as soon as the she got her hands around one of Wally's beaters. And like me, she licked every last sugary chocolate streak clean.
To my delight, Wally has sparked her interest in baking. She has her own apron, replete with cupcake frosting smudges and dark dots of melted butter splatter. Last time my niece visited, I helped her take Wally for another spin. I even let her little finger push the power boost button. She giggled when the force kicked in and bits of flour flew in our faces.
Do you have a favorite appliance that feels like family?
(Image credits: zlikovec/Shutterstock; Emma Christensen; Kelli Foster)