Manual Labor is a Good Workout, Or Why I Refuse to Buy a Mixer

I love my laptop. I love Netflix, the internet and my cell phone. But, I won't buy an electric mixer. Not even a handheld one. Whenever I have to mix, stir, whip, mash, or knead, I use a handy dandy fork, spatula, or pair of chopsticks. I love to knead dumpling stuffing with my hands. (Ooh, which reminds me... I'll have to post that recipe this summer.) And when my army of forks and chopsticks can't get the job done, I turn to my mortar and pestle. Yes, I actually own a mortar and a pestle. And no, I do not work in an apothecary.

Why is this? Why do I embrace some forms of technology but refuse an electric mixer? There are lots of good reasons. I'll give you six, in no particular order.

1. I'M FRUGAL. My forays into the culinary world began after college when I was living in NYC, waiting tables and doing other odd jobs. I subsisted on cereal, milk, crackers and fruit. When I actually made something of substance in my kitchen-the-size-of-an-elf-closet, I wasn't about to go out and buy fancy equipment. First, I didn't have the money. Second, I literally didn't have the space. So I made do with what I had, and I'm quite used to not having an electric mixer now.

2. IF MY GRANDMA COULD DO IT, SO CAN I. People didn't always have electric mixers. They used to have to do everything by hand. Well, if they can do it, so can I! I'm not going to buy a $200 "Fancy Ooh Ah Brand Name" mixer when I've got the equipment already attached to me. (I'm talking about my arms, folks.) Additionally, and this overlaps with Reason Number One, let me throw out an imperfect hypothetical. Say the average person bakes 4 desserts in a year and buys a $200 mixer. Not calculating tax into it, that means that one dessert cost that person at least $50 to make. That is ridiculous. In order to get what I subjectively think is a good return, you'd have to make at least 400 desserts to get your equipment costs down to $0.50 per dessert! You already own at least 4 forks, I'm presuming. Pick one up.

3. LESS DISHES = YAY! It doesn't hurt that less dishes means less water used. Hurray for a positive environmental side effect! I'd be lying though if I didn't admit that washing those freaking electric mixers is also a pain in the butt. Take a blender, for instance. My lord. There are all these funky parts that I have to disassemble and wash, not to mention the blades with their nooks and crannies. How annoying. That's at least 7 more dishes I have to wash! No thank you. I'd much rather wash a fork than disassemble machinery. I'm a cook, not a mechanic.

4. I'M GETTING READY FOR BATHING SUIT SEASON. Okay, that's not really true, but it could happen. Using your hands and your body is good for you. Any physical activity you can add to your day is good for you. This includes doing chores! By using your own manual labor, you burn calories and, depending on how committed you are to mashing those potatoes, you tone your arms and your abs. Now, I'm not pretending by a long shot that cooking replaces actually working out or exercise. (I can see K's eyes widen in disbelief right now... I'm always finding ways to wriggle out of exercising.) But it doesn't hurt. That's all I'm saying. You're going to relish that piece of cake even more when your right arm is burning from churning. (And if you're really concerned about eating too much dessert, s-h-a-r-e. Desserts are a wonderful, homemade, inexpensive present.)

5. FANCY EQUIPMENT DOES NOT A GOOD COOK MAKE. Nor does a big kitchen a good cook make. I'll let Mr. Mario Batali handle this one: "Only bad cooks blame the equipment. I can make almost any dish in my restaurants on four crummy electric burners with a regular oven—as can just about anyone else who cares to."

6. I CAN'T STAND CLUTTER. There are few things I'm attached to... my books, for instance. They are dear friends of mine. Gold earrings - it's a strange weakness I have. But otherwise, I like to clear my space of clutter. Six months ago, I donated three boxes chock full of stuff to Brown Elephant. With summer around the corner, I'm intending to donate even more. Just think about all the things you have in your home that you don't use or wouldn't even notice if they were missing. Get rid of it! It's good for your chi, and good feng shui. Besides, it's not good to be attached to things. True and long-lasting wealth and happiness come from intangible things. :)


  1. i'm still holding out on a stand up mixer. the price tag makes me sigh. but i do have an electric hand mixer that's been in the family for about 20 years now...

  2. Yvonne, I didn't know you blogged!!!!! I miss your funny, witty, practical chatter (I mean chatter as good, sensible transfer of knowledge, not as silly, mindless noise).
    I rescued a small bird, probably a scarlet tanager, w/ a broken wing yesterday, and didn't get any studying done so I'm nervous as heck about my evidence exam tomorrow. But I enjoyed reading your blog. I'll be in Chicago for about a week or so in May. Will you be around?

  3. I'll be in Chicago this summer, yep! Let's hang out! ^_^

  4. I love your blog! And I also love my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. I have had it for 6 years and use it, on average, 2 x per week. They last for about 30 years so I feel pretty solid about that investment. ;)Miss you.

  5. Wow, you guys are really getting utility out of your electric mixers! I'm happy to hear that. :)

  6. Yes, but Kitchen Aid mixers are so glorious...