A few months ago, one of my employers generously gave me a bonus after a particularly rough patch of work. I decided to use my new found cash to treat myself to a kitchen toy I’ve been wanting for years: a VitaMix blender.
You’ve probably heard of the VitaMix: it’s designed to be the best blender EVER, and it better be at £399. It’s probably overkill for most home kitchens, but people who own them love them. Just reading the reviews on Amazon is like taking a sneak peak at a smoothie-lover’s wet dream. “If I could marry it I would.” I mean, seriously?
I started thinking seriously about buying a VitaMix after I burned out two blenders within the space of a couple years. True, I had put it through the trenches: nut butter, almond milk, dry spices, and of course, endless cubes of ice and frozen fruit. And then there were the things I couldn’t do with my blender, namely, grind whole grains into flour for baking bread. I didn’t want to buy another cheap blender that would break in less than a year, so I decided to look upmarket for something a bit more powerful with an all-steel blade mechanism.
After a brief internal debate between the Vitamix and a Blendtec, I caved to the hero worshipers and settled on a VitaMix 5200, a 2+ horsepower blender that is so powerful it can actually heat water up to the boil. That means you can actually make hot soup in the VitaMix jug, which to me is just crazy. I confess, I haven’t tried this feature yet, but I have been putting the VitaMix to work for other concoctions. Here are my first impressions:
The VitaMix package has a certain As-Seen-On-TV quality (so does its website). The box is full of color and exclamation marks, and an overwhelming amount of VitaMix “shwag” – DVDs, recipes, binders, manuals. It was a little overwhelming. Is this really what my £399 paid for?
Then I took the VitaMix out of the box. This thing is huge. And heavy. I guess it should be – a blender this powerful needs a pretty big motor. But the question remains: will it blend?
I decided to break in the VitaMix by making raw almond butter, something I’d been pining for every since I ordered the thing. In went the almonds and away I went. Now, it’s not as if I flipped a switch and suddenly there was almond butter – it took some work. This is where I really appreciated the “unique tamper tool for extreme processing power” that basically lets me push and mix the blender contents as it blends without making contact with the blade. I also appreciated the variable speed – the raw nuts were putting the VitaMix to the test and I needed to keep it on a fairly low speed to avoid burning out the motor (wouldn’t that have been sad?).
In the end, I had almond butter, but it wasn’t the ultimate taste sensation I was hoping for. Sure, it blended the almonds into a very smooth paste, but it was thick and,as Tim put it, had “the consistency of plastic.”
Not what you want to spread on your toast.
I decided to blame the almonds and not the blender, and gave nut butter a second try, this time with a handful of roasted hazelnuts, another handful of roasted peanuts and a a spoonful of my almond plastic puree (I’ve gotta use this stuff up somehow). The result: pretty awesome, IMHO. The VitaMix pureed the butter in a snap, and the result was exactly what you want out of a nut butter: smooth, delicious, nutty, and not a hint of plastic.
Later research revealed that raw almond butter is a bit of a challenge: the raw almonds don’t have much oil in them, making them difficult to blend up into a nice smooth butter. Some people claim it can be done, but others swear you have to add oil to make it work. Either way I haven’t mastered it. Yet. But that’s a trial for another day.
I’ve made a few other things with the blender – mostly smoothies – and while I’m not disappointed with my purchase, I also haven’t become a super ga-ga VitaMix fangirl. Maybe I’m still getting to know the VitaMix – I certainly haven’t tested its limits. But I will say that I love being able to throw a bunch of ice in the blender and feeling totally confident that it will blend without burning out. I also LOVE the tamper tool. It’s genius.
One other hangup I feel compelled to mention – one of the reasons I hesitated to buy a VitaMix is that it seemed insane to me to spend so much on a blender. Does a blender really deserve such a central place in the kitchen? Do I need this to make good food?
As much as I don’t need a VitaMix, I also don’t need a food processor, a garlic press or a food mill. But at the same time, all of these tools are enabling. It’s sorta like having good walking shoes. Sure, you can walk in heels, but without a good pair of walking shoes, you might be discouraged from trying out something different or walking a little bit further. So I’m treating this VitaMix like a very expensive pair of walking shoes: it’s high quality, durable, should last me for ages, and it’ll enable me to try making new foods for myself that I would otherwise have to buy at the store.
Besides, a blender so powerful that it can boil liquid into soup? That’s kind of cool.