13 April 2017
A blender – such a simple, yet complex kitchen technology. It switches on and off with the push of a single button. There are hundreds of different designs and add-ons you can get. It has evolved immensely since the beginning of time when all that was used to grind and mix food was a mortar and pestle. Look closely at the blender you have in your kitchen. Notice all of the different parts that work together to be able to blend the contents inside. Compare the blender in your kitchen to a friend or family member’s blender. What are the differences? Can one container hold more inside than the other? Does one of them have a higher speed or sharper blades? Many different variables work together to form the blender in your kitchen. Each of these different characteristics are capable of many types of mixing and grinding. The blender has come a long way since the mortar and pestle, which was an important part of our society. Humans have gone through countless designs of blending machines. There were rocks, cranks, and many others. It is amazing how much the ease of the new designs has contributed to the growing laziness of Americans as a whole. Sure, there are many exceptions to this stereotype. However, it is undeniable how much more lazy our culture is now than thousands of years ago. The blender has changed our society in numerous ways.
Long before you were born, or even your parents were born, people had to rely on different forms of technology than we have today. Humans were required to use manpower to mix food rather than being able to start it with the push of one button. First, came the mortar and pestle. These were often times made out of stone or clay. They are much rarer in current American culture but you can often still find them in other countries to make guacamole or other food. They are also used for many chemical and biologic experiments where grinding up powders, soil, and even bones was necessary. “The use of the mortar and pestle in the laboratory dates to the earliest attempts to understand and use the materials around us. Even now, it is difficult to imagine an alternative to crushing and grinding for the preparation of many samples.” (Yarbrough) Many people would never even consider using a mortar and pestle because it is commonly regarded to as what cavemen used to grind food; and who in their right mind would want to live like a caveman in our society? After this, people invented techniques that used cranks connected to a mixer that would mix the food as you turned the crank. Many different prototypes were designed with special add-ons as time went on. These special additions include a stirrer, a strainer, and a food processing unit. Eventually, we got to where we are today in the blender realm; just the push of a button. Every single type of electronic device has been improved at some point in time to make it easier to use. The goal of continually updating technology is so you ultimately don’t have to do any work yourself because the machines do it for you. This sounds like such a great idea. However, as our information ocean grows, so does our laziness. If we don’t have to do something physical, we won’t. As the blender has grown and developed over time, our cultural practices have become astonishingly worse. In fact, this is true of all technologies. Before there was a washing machine, people were forced to wash all their clothes by hand by scraping them against washing boards and then dry them by hanging them on lines in their backyard. Now, all you have to do is load them in the machine, push a few buttons, and voila, they are clean. It is crazy to see how improvements of technology have contributed to our cultural decline this dramatically.
Although the blender does have some drawbacks, it also has plenty of positive aspects as well. One huge bonus of having this modern, easy-to-use design, is that people of almost any age or capability can use it just as easily as a healthy adult. Many people that live in our society have disabilities that prohibit many different types of activities. Some people can’t walk, don’t have arms, or maybe can’t speak. A quote from a journal article titled, “Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and onset of disability in older persons” states, “Absence of disability or activity limitation is a major component of successful aging. Disability is defined as difficulty or dependency in carrying out activities necessary for independent living, including roles, tasks needed for self-care and household chores and other activities important for a person’s quality of life.” (Féart) With the ease of this technology, people with disabilities are able to blend food and have an easy way of cooking. This is helpful in order to sustain themselves rather than being forced to constantly rely on someone. This gives people a better sense of independence.
Another journal article performed a study using three people who all suffered from multiple diseases. These include congenital encephalopathy, and visual and intellectual disabilities. The study created a verbal instruction system to help them make food and drinks independently rather than having help from another person. “They included the preparation of cold pasta dishes, multi-flavor drinks, sandwiches, stuffed breads, yogurt desserts, and blended-fruit drinks. They included between 47 and 52 steps, which presented some individual variations/adaptations, based on the participants’ receptive communication skills and manual discrimination and dexterity.” (Lancioni) Each person was able to perform the tasks without many problems and successfully operated the blender and other technologies with little to no difficulty. Even if one has multiple disabilities, the advancement of technology has made ones’ level of independence astonishing. For safety reasons, children under the age of twelve should not be allowed to use this machinery, but anybody older than that should have no problem being able to operate it. As you age, you have a harder time completing everyday activities such as driving or making food. You also have a higher risk of getting diseases that could further lead to the diminishment of motor ability. Any sense of independence you have left will be grasped onto and begged to stay. These types of diseases make it much harder for older people to complete tasks that may be easy for a young adult such as turning a crank to blend some food. The ease of being able to push a button and blending food for you helps many different groups. So even though it may encourage laziness in some populations, it works to help elderly or disabled people who wish to rely on themselves rather than other people all the time.
An important aspect of every type of technology is the environmental footprint that it has. Luckily, the blender has a relatively low impact due to the durability of each one. Usually blenders last at least ten years and many last even longer than that. Scott Tennant, the Director of Communications at Vitamix – a very popular blender company, is unable to share much information regarding the average number of blenders sold versus replacement parts because the information is propriety and constitutes valuable competitive intelligence. Mr. Tennant has said, however, that Vitamix blenders are known for durability and are meant to last decades so they can be passed down from generation to generation. Because these blenders last for so long, less materials are needed to construct them thus leading to less material wasted and sitting in a landfill. Maintaining our planet should be one of our primary focuses. Once a blender has officially broken down, you can break it up into pieces and recycle the useful parts and discard the leftovers. You can take the glass to a glass recycling center and take the blades to a metal scrap center. Just by doing these two things every 15 years, you could drastically help limit the environmental impact of the blender. The leftover pieces will go to a landfill and sit there for many, many years. Chances are, it will never decompose and if it does, it will take thousands of years. Even a simple plastic water bottle takes 450 years and some can take over 1000 years! Because of the durability, you rarely need to buy a new blender thus leading to less unpaid or subsistence level workers. A company called Rock The Bike sells bikes that blend as you pedal around. They said, “Our dream is to help spread the spirit of the bike into the broader culture by organizing, entertaining, inspiring, educating, and inventing new ways to get the message out there.” (About) One of the designs is called the Fender Blender Pro. It is a stationary blending bike. It combines fun, fitness, nourishment and sustainability. These bikes are often used for fundraisers, festivals, schools, and many kinds of other events. You save energy by pedaling rather than plugging it into a wall. This is a huge leap toward fighting against the growing lethargy of our society all the while saving energy.
The blender has been exhibited in many ways throughout time. One of these ways is in ghost culture. Often times you hear scary stories about random technologies suddenly turning on with no explanation. One story, from Steilacoom, Washington, describes a restaurant that was having a similar issue. It described, “The most annoying effect of the spirit’s presence is the havoc it plays with gadgets in the bar. Televisions, blenders, sound systems, lights – all switch on and off by themselves and change channels or gears when no one is around.” The article continues, “One evening after the bartender had locked up and was going to his car he turned to see the lights flare back on in the building and he thought he saw someone moving around in the restaurant.” (E.R. Rogers) Incidents like these are left highly up to speculation since there is no hard evidence that ghosts do in fact exist. Many other details of the story lead to the conclusion that the restaurant is haunted but there is no way to prove this. Another short story is about a deceased woman in Roche Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington, who refuses to leave the resort alone. “Lights go on and off. Doors open and close. The blender turns itself on. The usual ghostly pranks.” (The Governess) How could we possibly explain how these occurrences are happening other than the presence of a ghost or other spiritual being? It surely is not turning on by itself. The blender has also been used in horror stories. There is a story about a boy who had ten large growths on his hands. No doctor could figure out what it was or how to heal them. He took matters into his own hands by putting his hand inside a blender and turning it on so the blades would grind off the growths. Not only is this gross but also quite disturbing. Stories like this one instill fear in people about an object that shouldn’t have any associated fear. They think it is possible to shove your hand in a blender and get it cut off in one clean swipe. Even though this is outside of the realm of possibility due to modern safety measures, the fear is still hidden away deep inside their brain.
Not only are ghosts adamant in cultural sources but also in academic research. A peer-reviewed journal article titled Catching Ghosts, illustrates a real-life experience with a ghost. The author was attempting to create a children’s books about ghosts all the while experiencing some odd happenings herself. She illustrated, “…I remember looking down at the pavement and being struck by something I felt I had never properly noticed before: the blackness intensity, darkness, and depthlessness of the shadows that were cast by me and others upon the cement.” (Haseley) She continued, “…there was a whole world of darkness that had always been there that I had never properly taken notice of, that I had been naively stepping past with oblivion.” (Haseley) Many strange occurrences had been happening without her paying any attention to it. People often block out what they do not want to be real, including ghosts. A good way to block this out is through humor. Joe Cartoon created an animated, interactive game where a frog is swimming in a blender. He continues to dare you to speed up the blender. One of his many phrases include, “Like I said, no balls, wuss.” (Cartoon) He continues to call you a pansy, a dumbass, and a jerk. The frog’s sayings have been changed throughout time and are much less profane now. After a while, the frog gets dizzy and wants you to stop. But at this point, you’re tempted to keep pushing forward. Ultimately, you get to the tenth speed and the frog gets blended up almost immediately. Many people think this is a fun game. Of course, no one would actually do this in real life because of the cruelty. Harsh jokes such as this one are a great distraction but they also instill fear in people. Is it really possible to blend a frog up? What other things could you blend? A story called Fee Fie Foe Fum by Ray Bradbury tells a tale of a grandma who was terrified of the garbage disposal. Everyone believed that you could shove anything down it and the machine would chomp it right up and make it disappear. The grandma referred to it as a lion. The story illustrated, “It fed, it ate, it made grinding, smacking noises wit hungry mouth and vicious hidden teeth. It whirled, it groaned…It was an ancient hunger which, unfed, waited, crouched, metal entrail upon metal entrail, little flailing propellers of razor-screw all bright with lust.” (Bradbury 68) It is safe to infer that the message is the garbage disposal can consume anything, or anyone. This relates back to the blender because it has many of the same characteristics. The metal propellers, the grinding of food, the loud noises as it consumes the contents; the main difference is the garbage disposal has pipes that carry away the chopped contents while the contents remain in the blender. Therefore many people are afraid of the blender, because it can consume anything.
A different type of harsh humor of blenders is exhibited through anti-jokes, which are basically jokes that are not a joke at all. It is just a surprising twist on a joke. Often times, these can be very inappropriate and inconsiderate to the subject of the joke. In a book written by Sigmund Freud called, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, he psychoanalyzes jokes and humor. There are three main parts to his book, the analytic part, the synthetic part, and the oretic part. Freud explains, “A joke is a judgement which produces a comic contrast; it has already played a silent part in caricature, but only in judgement does it attain its peculiar form and the free sphere of its unfolding.” (Freud) He then goes on to explain pleasure and how it relates to the unconscious. Freud also said, “Other more or less interrelated ideas which have been brought up as defining or describing jokes are: ‘a contrast of ideas’, ‘sense in nonsense’, bewilderment and illumination’.” (Freud) He is explaining that a joke is a link between two ideas that contrast each other in some way. This contrast is what gives the joke its humor. Here is a perfect example of this theory in anti-jokes: “What is black and white and red/read all over?” A proper answer would be: a newspaper. To make it an anti-joke, the answer could be: a penguin in a blender. These are very unnecessary cracks to try to get a couple laughs. Another anti-joke says, “How do you fit one hundred babies into a bucket?” The correct response is: a blender. This joke implies that it is alright to torture and ultimately kill babies to try and see if they do in fact, fit in a bucket. Jokes like these further instill fear into people that blenders are dangerous and are used for evil things when honestly, the only goal that blenders have is to grind and mix food or drink for your enjoyment. Freud does a great job of explaining how these jokes work and why they are thought of as funny.
In conclusion, blenders have impacted our society in astounding ways. Even though it seems like such an unimportant kitchen technology, there is much more significance to it than people realize. It has changed the lives of humans dramatically throughout time. While people still take it for granted, it is important to remember how people were obligated to grind everything by hand long ago because there was no electricity or easier way of mixing it. Now, you can make a smoothie with the touch of a single button. Although it has contributed to the inactivity of our society, it has also helped the elderly and disabled persons who want to have more independence rather than relying on someone to help them all of the time. Furthermore, blenders have played a huge part culturally in regard to ghost stories and anti-jokes. These cultural characteristics lead to more fear that blenders could be used for something else. However, there are many safety measures that prevent anybody from getting hurt. It has done all of these great things all the while maintaining a relatively low environmental footprint. For these reasons, everybody needs to appreciate the blender a little more deeply than they do.
“About.” Rock The Bike. N.p., n.d. Web 11 Apr. 2017.
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Cartoon, Joe. “Frog in a Blender.” JoeCartoon. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
Féart, Catherine, et al. “Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and Onset of Disability in Older Persons.”European Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 26, no. 9, 2011, pp. 747–756., www.jstor.org/stable/41474317.
Freud, Sigmund. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1986. Print.
“The Growths.” Scary Paranormal Stories & Short Horror Microfiction. N.p., 12 May 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.
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Lancioni, Giulio E., Nirbhay N Singh, Mark F. O’Reilly, Jeff Sigafoos, Doretta Oliva, Angela Smaldone, Maria L. La Martire, Gloria Alberti, and Francesca Scigliuzzo. “A verbal-instruction system to help persons with multiple disabilities perform complex food – and drink – preparation tasks independently.” Research in Developmental Disabilities 32.6 (2011): 2739-747. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.
MacDonald, Margaret Read, and Kathleen Merryman. “E.R. Rogers Restaurant, A Haunted Spot to Dine in Style.” Ghost Stories from the Pacific Northwest. N.p.: August House, 1995. 86-87. Print.
MacDonald, Margaret Read, and Kathryn Robinson. “The Governess of Roche Harbor Resort.” Ghost Stories from the Pacific Northwest. N.p.: August House, 1995. 84-85. Print.
Yarbrough, W.A., and Rustum Roy. “Extraordinary effects of mortar-and-pestle grinding on microstructure of sintered alumina gel.” Nature 322.6077 (1986): 347-49. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.