Whirled Peace

In the face of technology, one machine stands alone in a shining chrome rebellion.

I meant to text-message, “Welcome home, Brian! How was Paris?” I somehow sent, instead, this sweet thought: “Welcome caaaaaa.” Moments like that make me yearn for simplicity, for gadgets that don’t try to outwit me, for coffee that is not a double-soy-with-whip-mochaccino, for things that are solid, and real, and lasting. And my thoughts turn, naturally, to my blender.

My blender—I won’t say the brand, because I am not trying to sell you a blender, merely meditating upon it—represents all that is good in the world. It’s a classic chrome-and-glass design, a style that has changed little since it was introduced to the world in 1937. Dr. Jonas Salk reportedly used the same kind to help develop the polio vaccine. (And you thought he was in there making daiquiris.)

I love that my blender only has three parts—base, jar and top. I love that it was a wedding gift from my brother, who included a note comparing wedlock to a kitchen appliance. (“May your marriage combine different elements into something yummy.”) I love that, in a time of plastic over cash, and blogs over books, it seems durable enough to pass for an heirloom.

My blender and I even share some of the same characteristics: curvy, margarita loving and a little retro.

And, like me, it has a spiritual side.

illustration: Scott Thigpen

In Chinese philosophy, everything in the universe comes down to two opposing principles: yin and yang. My blender follows this principle, yang (creation, heat, dominance) when it’s on, yin (coolness, completion) when it’s off. In fact, much of the world is about duality. Hindus have Shiva, who dances for both creation and destruction. Christians have heaven and hell. Horror movies have good and evil. My blender? Motion and stillness. Noise and silence. On and off.

True, the 390-watt motor is so loud it sounds like a Cessna is about to taxi off the kitchen’s linoleum, but I prefer to think of the ruckus as an enthusiastic Om.

Most blenders are too fancy for me. There’s the cleverly named KitchenAid KTA-KPCB348PPM. There are brands offering five, six, 12 different speeds, all the better to crush, liquefy, emulsify, mix, chop and purée. The Cuisinart Smartpower Basics model has a boggling 18 speeds—are you driving it uphill?—and worse, is electronic. Its manufacturer notes it can “provide almost endless blending options.” I don’t need endless blending options; I just want a smoothie.

And I don’t think I’m alone. A recent Real Simple magazine article noted, “In the 1970s, the mighty food processor caused a stir, but today that cumbersome latecomer is often relegated to the nosebleed section of the kitchen cabinets.” Yeah, take that, you swappable-blade monstrosity.

In a kitchen where I am intimidated by my own espresso maker; in a home with iPods and downloads and cables connecting everything; in a world that swirls by at 90 mph; my blender gives me peaceful reassurance. It sits, gleaming on my countertop, a tribute to all that is easy. It is on. It is off.