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26 October 2013

Ode to a blender...What the heck?

I was reading this very amusing and informative article in the Slate.

The topic? A blender...The author, Ms.Catherine Price, is going gaga over a blender with a brand name of Vitamix.

This is the article  I am talking about

Article about a blender? That too two pages? What the....?

My mother calls it a 'Mixie' (Not the article, the equipment. It is short for Mixer / Grinder). I tell her about this article. She is incredulous. Someone has written an article on Mixie? she wonders aloud. These Americans must be crazy. Give them a pen and they will write just about anything. 

Mom throws in a stereotype, just like that.

Not Mixie, mom, blender. The article is about a blender. I correct her.

Mixie, blender, 'shender'...What is the difference? After all it is only a Mixie.

No mom, not Mixie, blen....I give up.

She sees the pic of the blender. Oh, she says, fully comprehending what I am talking about. This is a 'Juicer'.

No, mom, not Juicer. Blender...I am exasperated.

Ok, mom condescendingly agrees. If that is what you want to call it.

She has all the reason to look down upon Vitamix. She has seen better and worse.

You see, grinding is in the blood of Indian women. You go to any part of the country, you will find three things common. One, a potato preparation, two, a mixed vegetable preparation and three, 'Mixie' (I will use the Indian term here).

Almost all the Indian preparation require you to grind a few things. These include Onion, Ginger, Garlic and Curry leaves, with coconut thrown in for good measure. It is not that the Indians coarse grind the mixture. Mixture has to become like a smoothie. The physical difference that separates Onion from Coconut must be eviscerated and they should blend into a 'Smooth' metaphysical existence.

The point is that the ingredients must be ground very smoothly preferably without water. 

We Indians believe that we are all a part of the whole and we are not separate from the whole. The Mixie applies this philosophy to the vegetables it comes in contact with. 

The American blenders, oh, those sensitive blenders, with their high quality stainless steel blades and the translucent body, are no match for the Mixie. I should know. I was in Colombia, South America for two years and every day I struggled to grind these stuff in the blender. The vegetables though living together refused to integrate with each other and preferred to retain their individuality.

Like some disfunctional family or something.

Indians have been grinding stuff from time immemorial. In South India, the place where I come from, our staple food is Dosa (Indian Salted Pancake) and Idli (Indian Rice and Lentil Dimsum). Unlike in West where people purchase pancake powder and mix it with eggs and water and stuff, we Indians prefer making the mixture the hard way.

First we sock Rice and Urad Dal (Black Gram) in the ratio of 3:1 (3 cups of rice to 1 cup of dal) in water for about two hours. Then we grind them separately to a fine paste (just like smoothie). Then we add salt and mix them together and keep for fermenting. The fermentation process takes about 8 hours. Once fermented, we keep the mix in a refrigerator and use it over a week to prepare Dosas or Idly. 

The key word is grinding. To grind rice and black gram will need a sturdy grinder, one which can grind the same in about 4 minutes. This is where Mixie comes in.

All the latest grinders serve two purposes. One is mixing and the other is grinding. So we go and buy a Mixer / Grinder. 

A mixer / grinder ('Mixie') is a Sine Qua Non in the armory of an Indian women. In our community (Tamil Brahmin), the Mixie is a part of the Dowry that a girl brings when she gets married. The others are Gold Ornaments, Silver vessels and Stainless steel vessels. The girl can come without the later. But god forbid a girl who comes to her husband's home without a 'Mixie'.

The author (Ms.Catherine Price) in the Slate article talks of the high level of noise that the Vitamix produces. Come to India. This country is famous for its sights and sounds. The Sound of Mixie running is the national sound of India at 6.30 AM. I don't know what is the decibel level of the 'Mixie' here. But judging by the fact that I can hear a Mixie running in a house 100 meters away....(the author trails off).

Indian women can grind anything in her mixie. Even Stones.

I am not joking. Many a times, the rice we purchase contain stones. No amount of careful filtering can remove them. So this also goes into the rice mix for the 'Mixie' to do a 'Smooth' job.

The most stressful situation for an Indian male in a house is when Mixie conks off. Once it conks off, there is frustration, irritation, blame throwing ('I told you to buy Prestige Mixie, you went and procured Jyoti Mixie, just because it was 50 rupees cheaper. I told you that Jyoti is not good quality') and hunger all around...

Most men can't stand the stress. Suggest our wives that we go without grinding for a few days and see the explosion in the house. ('Without grinding? We might as well eat Pizza Daily. What are you saying?')

So they (the husbands) go and buy an extra 'Mixie'. Most Indian houses have at least two Mixies. Our house has three. Just in case...

It is not that Indians have not been grinding in the Pre-Mixie days. After all Mixie is just a recent innovation. Before that we had what is known as 'Attu Kallu' and 'Ara Kallu', two types of grinding stones ('Kallu' means Stone and 'Attu' and 'Arai' are two different connotations of the word grind), one to grind Rice and Black Gram for Dosas and the other to grind masala (Onion, coconut, Ginger etc). In both these, one has to physically grind for about 30 minutes.

Attu Kallu

Ara Kallu
It is tough.

Again, I should know. In the guise of 'helping me build my muscles', my mother made me grind kilograms of Rice and tons of masala. In those 'all believing' days, I did a lot of grinding in the grinding stones, often for 30 minutes at a stretch, just so that the house members can eat their fluffy Dosas. As the eldest son, I bore the brunt and by the time  my brothers reached the 'Grinding' age, the mechanical machines, the 'Mixies' had arrived.

And the muscles never did.

Ms.Price purchased this blender for $489. A superior quality Indian Mixie will cost about Rs.6000, which is about $100 at the current exchange rate.

So, Ms.Price, pardon me for my amused indulgence at your article on Vitamix. 

Little doth you ken.

(PS: At various points in this article, I have mentioned my mom. Of course, all that communications is imaginary.Mom never stereotypes people. It is just my Artistic Liberty Speaking)

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