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Peterson: Please don't let my mixer die

Published: Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 11:22 p.m. CDT

Honestly, I can’t say how long I’ve had my avocado green Sunbeam Mixmaster, but it is a sturdy family heirloom. And I swear it about shocked me the other day.

But it didn’t; it just stopped mixing. And I did what every repair-on-the-fly baker would do: I jostled the cord at the base of the handheld machine, and it started up again. It stopped again, and I yanked lightly on the cord, and it was mixing the pecan pie ingredients again.

I thought about being shocked, but then quickly figured I was holding a solid plastic handle that would protect me. If anything, it would spark and smoke and give me a start, but I wouldn’t be electrocuted. Not hardly.

The Mixmaster was my mom’s, and she must have given it to me when I was a young bachelor in the late 1970s or early 1980s, but my memory fails me. Certainly, I’ve had it for more than 30 years, and it probably had a good 10 years on it then.

But it was the perfect size for a single guy; not so much for a mother with four children still at home. But it is the ideal size for a cake mix.

It’s about 7 inches long and 3 inches across, and the body covering the motor – avocado on top, black on the bottom – is 2 inches deep. It has three settings, not including off: fold-blend, stir-mix and beat-whip, giving you all the terms you require for cookbook baking terminology. The beaters slip into the front of the mixer, and are easily removed when you press the raised ejector button. The white cord trails out the back end. The cord wraps around the body of the mixer for easy storage; it takes up little or no space in the cupboard.

It is a simple, sleek design, perfect for simple, small mixes.

Every time I use it, I think of Mom and how she used it for years before giving it to me. At least I hope she gave it to me, and it’s not something I filched from the cupboard on a weekend home from school. Sometimes, my memory of these stories don’t match the real history. I could have a hot mixer.

The Internet is a great invention – thank you, Al Gore – and I found a model of the Sunbeam Mixmaster online very similar to the one I have. The only difference is the style of the front end. The one online is more square, the ejector button isn’t raised, and it has a front grill, which to me, would be a cleaning mess.

“This is an adorable working, vintage Sunbeam hand mixer in avocado green ... It’s super cute and working just as it did back in the day ... They just don’t make them like this anymore,” according to the Etsy website. It sells for $25.

I had never considered my mixer to be “vintage,” which is a much kinder term than “old and still hanging on.” Every time I use it – in addition to thinking of Mom – I wonder whether it is going to hold out for one last mix even though it has given me no reason to doubt it. Until this week, when I was making a pecan pie, and it stopped twice on me in mid-mix.

The first time it stopped, my heart nearly stopped: This was it, I thought. It doesn’t work anymore. It finally gave out, and I should have seen it coming. That’s when I jostled the cord, and it started right back up. The second time it happened, I was not nearly as startled and afraid sparks would start flying.

It made it through a second pecan pie without incident, and its next test is a pumpkin pie. I’m more confident in tugging on the cord should it give pause in mixing.

But I did consciously notice for the first time four screws that hold the motor housing together. They’ve been there all along, but they weren’t something that entered my consciousness as something to be noted.

Now they take on importance. This is the invitation to repair what might be a broken wire inside the base of the mixer. I’m thinking: This should be easy enough to fix. In and out. Just like that. Good as new. Or vintage.

But I’m not an electrician, and I’m afraid all the guts will fall out were I to disassemble the mixer, and I’d never be able to put them back in place, and I will have ruined a vintage, avocado, heirloom handheld Mixmaster.

I fully intend to hand this down to my children; I had never given it a thought that it would stop working. To assure it another 40 years, I may need to take it to a professional tinkerer. But first I have another pie to bake.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at dickpeterson76@gmail.com.

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