My Loyal KitchenAid – Gone but not Forgotten

I burned through at least one - sometimes two - hand mixers annually for the first eight years of my marriage to my kids' dad.

It wasn't that I was a cooking roughneck, but I pushed my little hand mixers far beyond their capabilities to make things like bagels, play dough and pretzel dough.

Maybe that's why, after the birth of Joe, our last baby, my husband bought me a KitchenAid stand mixer.

kitchenaid mixer

Although at the time I thought the KitchenAid was too extravagant, before long it was my most valuable kitchen tool.

On average I used my KitchenAid at least three times a week, but of course there were peak usage times like the holidays, when the rhythmic whirring of my KitchenAid was nearly nonstop.

So let's say I used it three times a week. And  I know it's exactly 31 years old because Joe turned 31 on July 31. If my math's right, then conservatively speaking my 1984 KitchenAid has been used more than 4,836 times.

That glossy white stand mixer with its 5-qt. stainless bowl was a regular workhorse appliance. It stood by my side through the raising of three kids, a divorce, a marriage, and another divorce. I leaned extra hard on it when Josh was in Iraq, and I found myself mindlessly cooking at 3 a.m. to distract myself from the reality that my child was in combat. The KitchenAid saw me through catering my niece's wedding, which was the moment I knew professional catering was not my forte'.

It stood by me even after I strayed and brought in another mixer last year - bigger, stronger - named Hobart.

hobart april 2014I found the mammoth Hobart on Craigslist after I got this wild idea to become certified with Shasta County after the California Cottage Food Law passed two years ago. Wouldn't it be fun to sell some of my baked goods?

Times like this it would have been handy to be married, because any remotely logical husband would have talked me out of this crazy baking scheme.

baked goods

I became a slave to my baking passion as I tried my hand at baking mass quantities of things like coffee cakes, cookies and challah, which I sold at Oregon Street Antique Mall. I got a business license -- "Noni Doni's" -- and was operating a home-based baking business from my home faster than you can say sleep-deprived.

What made this venture such a supremely bad idea was that I already had a full-time business to run - you know, A News, this website upon which you're reading this column. At first, the orders flowed in, and people reserved items. Eventually, the novelty wore off, sales slowed, and sometimes even the people who reserved food wouldn't pick it up.

So I quit with the mass baking, but compromised and took on occasional catering gigs and private jobs, like a corporate order for 50 boxed coffee cakes as client gifts at Christmas.

I went back to using my trusty old KitchenAid for more reasonably sized cooking projects. So happy together.

But then about six months ago I bought my first attachment for my KitchenAid, one that allowed me to roll out and cut pasta, something I'd been doing by hand for decades. Oh my gosh, that KitchenAid pasta attachment made pasta-making so much easier. Did I notice my KitchenAid straining from time to time? Why yes, I did. But this was my loyal, no-fail KitchenAid. I knew he could handle the challenge. He'd never let me down before.

Then I discovered that I could use my pasta roller attachment to roll out flat bread dough. What a breeze! My KitchenAid strained and protested, and sometimes I could smell something - burned oil, or metal - as the KitchenAid struggled to keep up.

I pushed my KitchenAid beyond its comfort zone.

Within a day of Joe turning 31, my 31-year-old KitchenAid died in the middle of the molasses ginger cookie I've made in that mixer hundreds upon hundreds of times. I called Hokema's - the place where Mr. Hokema used to fix all kind of appliances - I learned that he's retired from that part of his job.

I could mail the super-heavy KitchenAid to KitchenAid headquarters and try to get it repaired, but there was no guarantee my machine was fixable. It was time for me to face the cruel truth. My KitchenAid's cooking days were over. Worse yet, I'm pretty sure I had a hand in its death.

That's as far as I got with this story. What else was there to say? I confess that I cried a little when my KitchenAid died, but my thoughts quickly turned to getting a replacement KitchenAid. I decided that my next one should be a larger version, because there are some recipes that I routinely double, or even quadruple, like the coffee cake and challah, and those dough batches nearly reached the top of my old KitchenAid's 5-qt. bowl, and threatened to creep up into the motor.

Son Joe and I Skyped that morning, and I told him about the death of my KitchenAid. He's a serious cook, and we talked about KitchenAids for a bit. I told him my next dream KitchenAid would be bigger than my original 5-quart mixer, and I would love one in fire-engine red, because I love red. Joe volunteered to look online to see if he could find some good prices for me.

That Joe. So thoughtful. Oh, as an aside, he asked me to be on the lookout for a package from Amazon because he'd ordered his wife's birthday presents and had them sent to my house so I could include them with my birthday box to her. Sure. No problem. I do that from time to time for him so he can order things he can't get in the Czech Republic.

A few days later it was Wednesday when friend Chris Carter and I were in full-on cooking mode for our monthly catering job - sans KitchenAid - and grandson Austin was over, because that's my grandkid day ("Wild Wednesday"). And I had a repairman over doing some stuff. So my house was in an even more heightened state of chaos than usual.

In the middle of all that calamity a United Parcel Service guy rang the doorbell. Sure enough, there was Joe's delivery. It was so heavy that I tried not to panic about how much it would cost for me to mail Marie's birthday gift to her, because I knew from experience that it costs nearly $130 to mail a 14-pound box to the Czech Republic.

This box easily weighed more than 30 pounds, so I opened the brown exterior box, curious as to what the heck Joe had ordered for Marie that weighed so much. When I looked inside, it took a few seconds before it registered that the delivery wasn't for Marie, but for me.


I burst into tears, which startled Austin, because he'd never seen me cry.

"Noni's happy! Those are happy tears!" Chris explained.

I immediately called Joe - that sneaky Pete - and he laughed when he heard my voice, still crying.

It turns out that Joe - who's A News's webmaster - had read my draft about my dearly departed KitchenAid, and he hatched an immediate plan to get a new KitchenAid for me, even before we'd Skyped. He contacted his brother and sister and asked if they'd pitch in, and they said instantly said yes.

So here I am. I am the owner of a gorgeous new 6-quart red KitchenAid that has a place of honor on my counter. Every time I look at it, I don't think of cooking, but of my three kids, and how loved I feel by them, and how touched I am to know they went together to buy me this incredible gift, and it wasn't my birthday, or Mother's Day or Christmas.

As per Joe's request, I christened my new KitchenAid by whipping up some molasses-ginger cookie dough, so I could mail some cookies to Joe in Marie's birthday box. This young, strong mixer was a breeze to use. It even sounded different from my elderly KitchenAid. No straining. No whining.

Clearly, this machine has stamina.

red kitchenaid

In the meantime, for some reason, I can't bring myself to throw away the old KitchenAid, even though I know it will never work again. For now, it sits on a shelf in the garage.

Also, I try not to think about the fact that if this KitchenAid lasts as long as my first one, I'll be 90 by the time it dies.

Who knows what new chapter I'll cook up for myself. But whatever it is, you can bet it will be delicious.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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33 Responses

  1. Matthew Grigsby says:

    I love this story so much.  You didn’t just receive a wonderful gift, you got a piece of your soul back.  Cooking is a part of who you are, and without the proper tools to work your magic, you would suffer greatly.  I’m glad you aren’t throwing out the old machine and I’m sure there are a hundred ideas out there on what to do with it.

  2. I love this story. I’ll bet Shelly could up-cycle your old Kitchen Aid into some kind of whimsical art piece.

    Wishing you and Big Red many glorious hours and years of mixing and memories.

  3. EasternCounty says:

    Wonderful story — and writing — Noni Doni.  And your new pasta attachment will work with your new KitchenAid, too.  It may replace your trusty manual pasta machine for in-town pasta, but you can’t take it camping!

  4. Cathy says:

    What a thoughtful son! Enjoy your new mixer!

  5. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    Did you make me cry? OF COURSE! (My husband used to insist that I would cry at a basketball game). But all that aside, when I got to the end of the blog, all I could hear in my head was Tennessee Ernie Ford singing, “BIG, BAD (JOHN) RED!”

    Somewhere toward the end of Psalms it talks about the price of a premium woman is above rubies and it also says her ” . .. children shall rise up and call her blessed.” Judging from your children’s actions I’d say your price is somewhere north of diamonds! Happy Mother’s Day . . . . year ’round!

  6. Barbara Stone says:

    So sweet! Congratulations on your new mixer and on having such thoughtful kids!

    • Thank you, and I do have thoughtful kids. That’s why I felt so touched.

    • EasternCounty says:

      Speaking of thoughtful kids, I spent a couple of hours with Phil who came to my house to upgrade my new laptop to Windows 10.  He is a treasure.  I certainly wish him well with school, but once he has that behind him, we’re going to lose his skill to parts unknown.  For that, I’m sad.

  7. KarenC says:

    Your KitchenAid story brought back memories of all the great ones you wrote years ago for the local newspaper.  I loved them all, and I love this one.  That red beast is a beauty, all right.  I know you and it will have many wonderful years together.  Keep cooking!

  8. Susan Weale says:

    There is a service shop in SF that repaired my mother’s 1940’s era Sunbeam Mixmaster that I grew up with.  Appliance Sales and Service,, 840 Folsom Street, SF, CA 94107. Tel: 415-777-5144. They repaired the fried out motor on my ancient machine in 2005 and it works great. Cost of repair and postage (back then) was $57.57.

    If you get the white one back in working order you could name it “Back Up”!

    Love your articles, Susan

    • I will absolutely check it out. Even with the new Big, Bad Red mixer, I would love to bring my old mixer back to life. 🙂

      • EasternCounty says:

        Since San Francisco — and its restaurants — is a great place to visit, it might be worth a trip there with “Back Up” (great double entendre, Susan Weale) riding shotgun to see about repairing it.  Shipping it would be less expensive, but partaking of some great food that someone else has prepared — and getting away from all this smoke! — might be worth the trip.

  9. Janet says:

    What a great story, I have tears in my eyes and  6 quarts of joy in my heart. I can relate on a shorter timeline as I just went  through another piece of plastic on my  Cuisinart, it’s only about 20 years old and it’s done a lot more than it should have.

  10. Honey says:

    After reading your kitchen arid story, I am sitting on my couch crying, as I would, at a 3 Kleenex movie. When I turned 50, almost 23 years ago,

    my three children got together and bought me the red Kitchenaid. I loved it, then, and I love it now. I too, use it nearly every day??


    • Honey, I can see we are kindred Big-Red-mixer spirits. Our kids will never know how much these gifts from the heart mean to us. Right there, sitting on my counter, is proof of their love for me. I’ll take it. 🙂

  11. Lisa Wiley says:

    Glad to hear you got a new toy Doni, VERY awesome of your kids!  LOVE my NEW Kitchen Aid….like yours (only silver in color) for the new house.   I even got a FREE ice cream maker attachment from Costco when I bought it!  I just need to get up the nerve to try out all of the pasta attachments….you might need to counsel me!  Much love to you & miss you ~ Lisa, Robert, Carsen & Summer

    PS – we changed our email

    • You had me at ice cream maker attachment. WHAT?!! Super cool.

      And any time you guys are passing through Redding, give me some notice and you can stay here and I’d happily show you how the pasta attachments work. They are my favorite new kitchen toys.

      Hugs to you all. I miss you, too! 🙂

      • Lisa Wiley says:

        Yes….ICE CREAM ATTACHMENT!  I will take a picture & text it to you over the weekend.  The bowl attachment goes into the freezer overnight or longer, make up your ice cream batter & pour it in right after you attach it to the mixer & let er rip on low.  I learned from the booklet that it’s more than just mixing up the ingredients for good, homemade ice cream…it’s the actual churning process that magically infuses everything together to transform it to a delectable dessert.  Thanks for your hospitality, yes I will let Robert know & next time we are coming through Redding, we’ll try to hook up.  Thanks Doni! ~ Lisa

      • EasternCounty says:

        The Chef’s Catalogue carries the ice cream attachment for Kitchen Aids in case you can’t find one elsewhere.  We have one of the Cuisinart compressor-type makers that doesn’t require freezing a bowl; otherwise I’d buy the Kitchen Aid maker.

  12. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    When I told my wife about your article, she reminded me that her mom still has a KitchenAid stand mixer that she bought in 1955. That made me curious about the company’s history. It’s fascinating.

    The Hobart Corporation first started development on stand mixers in 1914. The Hobart mixers became standard equipment on Navy ships in 1917, and that led to development of models made for the home. The first model to carry the KitchenAid name was a ten-quart model that came out in 1918.

    There are now a variety of KitchenAid products out there besides the stand mixer line. Some KitchenAid products are manufactured overseas. However, the stand mixers are still made in Greenville, Ohio, where they’ve been produced since 1946.

    Although I can’t seem to bake to save my butt, I really enjoyed this piece, Doni. Thanks.

  13. Ginny says:

    Bless your children, Doni.  They really do love you!  Nothing is as important as that, even the old and new mixers.  <smile>

    But, nevertheless, enjoy the mixer(s) for all they are worth!



  14. Kimberly R. says:

    Love this story, Doni! Your sweet Joe, and all your kids, are a beautiful reflection of you. Reading this has made my day!

  15. Monthe says:

    I stumbled across the story at 11:30 p.m.
    I have to get up at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow morning for work, however your story was so lovely that I could not stop reading it. I am so very happy for you and was so excited and moved when you got that red KitchenAid in the mail! You have wonderful children. Happy baking!

    PS. I’m 29 years old and just purchased my first KitchenAid (a ProLine 7quart) a few hours ago for my Christmas gift. 🙂 I have spent 3 months researching it and hope to have my machine as long as you had yours. (My mom has also had hers for 31 years.)

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