Wednesday, May 9, 2012

When things break ...

I write a lot about food. Mostly recipes. But involved in the creation of that food is equipment. Pointy things and blendy things, and flame-producing things that help me transform the food into ... well, other forms of food.

Sometimes I talk about equipment that's new. Reviews of the new kitchen gadgets that have entered my life. But I've got other tools that I use a lot, but that I don't always mention by name. Like my KitchenAid stand mixer.

The running joke in this house is that if my husband comes home and I'm mysteriously missing, if he sees the stand mixer still on the counter he will know that I haven't run away permanently.

As much as I love and use (and possibly abuse) that mixer, there's more going on than just hardware and electronics. Behind every piece of equipment like that is a company. My theory is that you don't know how good a company is until something goes wrong. Can you fix it yourself? Are replacement parts available? Is the company easy to work with?

In another segment of my life, I repair computers, and people will tell me, "I love my [insert computer company name] computer. I've never had a problem with it." Well, of course you love it if you've never had a problem. But the real test is how many hand fulls of hair you will yank out in frustration when something goes wrong.

It's the same with kitchen products. Sure, some of them are cheap enough to be considered disposable. My toaster, for example, would probably not be worth fixing. But when a heating element burned out on my stove, you better believe we ordered a part.

My KitchenAid mixer is still going strong (although I have replaced little things like a knob that cracked) but we did have one major trauma.

That can't be good

A while back, I pulled the ice cream bowl for the mixer out of the freezer and noticed some blue goo on it. It was just on the outside, and my first thought was that something had spilled onto it. Not that I could think of anything blue in the freezer, but I was on a mission. I had to make ice cream for a post about avocado ice cream.

Then, when the mixer was running, I saw that the bowl was leaking that blue goo. Oh noooooo!

The blue stuff was the freezer liquid that was supposed to be enclosed in the bowl's walls. Not a lot had leaked out, so the bowl was still cold enough to make one last batch of ice cream. But I knew it was the end of that bowl.

That tragedy happened several months ago and it wasn't a huge problem at the time because I tend to only make ice cream in warm weather. I knew I had time to order a new bowl and have it delivered to my doorstep in plenty of time for the first ice cream for the critical hot-weather season.

I was in a social media sort of mood and I posted a photo on Flickr and tweeted it. I figured I'd get some sympathy from fellow foodies. The response I got was rather a shock. Someone from KitchenAid sent me a message to DM my address to them. And they sent me a BRAND NEW BOWL. Just like that. No questions about warranty or whether I had dropped the bowl off of a bridge. Just a quiet little message and a new bowl on my doorstep.

Now, that's good service.

The key is ...

The other device that's essential to my food blogging is my ASUS laptop. It's my lifeline to the Internet, the connection to the rest of the home network, my photo adjusting studio, and my mobile office. It's a few years old, and it's showing signs of wear.

E has worn through.  A few other keys aren't looking good.
Do you know what the most-used letter in the English language is? It's the letter "e" and I can prove that I use it more than any other letter. The E key on my keyboard started growing a little divot. Then there was a little hole. Then there was a big hole.

Then one night the hole was so big that it stopped working correctly. I was so annoyed that I yanked the key off. And then what? Sigh... What other key could I sacrifice that I don't use very much? I was thinking about the X or maybe Q.

But then I looked beyond the alphabet and spied a key between ALT and CTRL on the right side of the space bar. I don't think I ever pressed that key on purpose, and seldom by accident. I yanked that puppy off, put it where the E-key used to be and pushed down. It snapped into place and stayed there.

That was a relief. I moved the damaged E key to replace that unused key and I was back in business. I've seen plenty of laptops where replacing a key is a pain in the rear. And it was lucky that I had an extra key that I never use.

Every once in a while I covet an iPad, but so far I haven't wanted one enough to pull the trigger on a purchase. Do I need one? What do you think?

Mixing things up

Last on my list of things that need help is ... something that I'm not sure is broken. I picked up a Vitamix blender at a garage sale. It works. That is, the blade spins and it makes a nice roar and it does mean things to fruit.

But ... but ... I've heard so many amazing things about these blenders that I'm wondering if the motor is tired or the blade isn't working properly or if something else is amiss. It's not broken enough to say that it's useless, but if this is the best it can do ... well, it's just a blender. From everything I've read, it should be a LOT more than that.

My love of gadgetry makes me want to own the space shuttle of blenders, but I'm not sure which one that is. My garage sale purchase tells me that the Vitamix is one that will last for years. But does it really perform as well as advertized? The jury's still out on that one.

So tell me, what gadgets and companies do you love?