When I was a newly minted teenager, wrestling with unruly hairs in unfamiliar places, my mother gave me a gift that would steer the direction of my culinary life.
“Josh,” she said, “they had an amazing sale at Kroger”—our local southwestern-Ohio grocer. “I bought you a Cuisinart food processor.” Like one of Barker’s Beauties from The Price Is Right, she enthusiastically showed off the multipurpose food processor packing sharp chopping implements. I was blindsided by silence. Why’d she buy me a Cuisinart? We already owned one, which I used to blend stir-fry sauces composed of soy sauce, ginger, garlic and a splash of sesame oil.
Instead of saying “thank you,” I wondered why. “It’s not for now,” she said. “It’s for when you go to college.” At the time, I was still navigating the uncertain waters of middle school. I was more concerned with my first kiss, a moment that would have to wait till I was nearly 16, seated in a powder-blue Toyota Tercel while Taco Bell nachos congealed in my lap. Higher education was a distant thought, a barely comprehensible land filled with the sex-crazed characters and caricatures that populated the Revenge of the Nerds and Porky’s flicks I covertly watched. “Don’t worry,” my mom said, summoning my dad to escort the Cuisinart to the attic, “you’ll be happy you have it when the time comes.”
Years disappeared. I learned to shave those unruly hairs. I learned to kiss. I learned to slurp beer. I was accepted to Ohio University, where I majored in journalism with a minor in binge drinking. To kick off my junior year, I moved into my first apartment with two friends, one of whom became chronically depressed and, to cheer himself up, bought two ferrets that burrowed inside his bed’s box springs and defecated almost daily. But I’ll save that hygienic nightmare and the phrase “feces mountain” for another tale. For now, you need to know that I finally uncrated my Cuisinart. It was a mechanical marvel. With it I created hummus, curry paste, fresh tomato sauce, pesto—the rich agricultural bounty of southeastern Ohio meant that nearly any blended foodstuff was within my grasp. “You were right about the Cuisinart,” I told my mom, a tough sentence for me mutter. I hate being wrong. Moreover, I hate admitting to my mistakes. But more often than not, mothers know best.
I graduated from college. My Cuisinart followed me to my Astoria apartment, where cockroaches infested my espresso machine and I drank decomposing legs, antennas and compound eyes. Yet the bugs left my Cuisinart unmolested. Next I brought the tool to my Brooklyn abode. Here, it outlasted multiple start-and-stop romances and more than a dozen roommates. Outside of a car, it’s strange to think of a machine as a constant in your life. We inhabit a disposable society in which shinier gadgets and gewgaws appear every year, as certain as the gathering wrinkles on my forehead. Our computers and phones only cycle through several seasons before they’re destined for a dumpster.
Not my Cuisinart. It accompanied me through thick and thin, smoothing out any rough stuff that passed through its path. Surprisingly, faithfulness meant nothing to my fiancé. “I’m putting a new Cuisinart on our wedding registry,” she told me last month. Since I find shopping as relaxing as a proctology exam, I tasked her to pick out new pots, pans and forks to replace our dinged kitchenware. But I had no designs on ditching my Cuisinart. “It still works great!” I said, bringing the machine into our bedroom. “The plastic is yellow and stained,” she pointed out. “Character. That’s called character.”
America is no country for old Cuisinarts. Last week, the UPS man delivered a brand-new replacement, one that’s part of the “brushed metal series”— whatever that means. We placed the newfangled contraption atop the counter. Then I was enlisted with eliminating our outdated redundancy. Murdering it seemed cruel, a mercy kill despite a strong heartbeat. Tearing off a length of red duct tape, I affixed a sign to the machine. Still works great, it read. Bedbug free, I added, in case anyone feared bloodsuckers lurking beneath the blade. I brought the machine outside my front gate and left it there, the sign flapping in the summer breeze. When I returned downstairs an hour later the Cuisinart had vanished, living to chop another day.