The original good mixer: How the Magimix changed for ever the way we cook
The Magimix has been chopping, slicing and puréeing for 40 years. Sophie Morris, proud owner of a vintage model, reports.
My Magimix food processor is older than I am. I'd wager it looks it, too: it has the unmistakeably retro hue of something born of the Seventies, and it's been in the same kitchen as I have for as long as I can remember. My mother gave it to me when she graduated to a new, and rather better, model, and although I've replaced the bowl, it's been slicing, dicing, chopping and puréeing for well over three decades.
Neal Jones, the chief executive of Magimix UK, estimates that my 2800S machine is about 35 years old, but the brand celebrates its 40th birthday this year. That's 40 years of transforming the laborious job of chopping cabbages for coleslaw into a simple task, and turning the time-intensive process of preparing pastry into, give or take, a matter of minutes.
It is no accident that the Magimix food processor appeared on the market in the early Seventies and thrilled consumers from the outset. Most women cooked for the family back then, while more and more women worked full-time, too. Ready meals, takeaways and meals out weren't quite the quotidian events they are today, and technological advances – helping hands – in the kitchen were extremely welcome.
When, in 1975, The New York Times named Magimix the "French revolution of the 20th-century", its global potential was recognised. It was invented by Pierre Verdun, a catering equipment salesman and the uncle of the current group managing director, Edouard de Jenlis. "He saw the amount of time his clients were spending chopping, shredding and cutting ingredients," explains Jenlis. Verdun created the first incarnation, the Robot Coupe, which developed into the Magimix in the Sixties.
It was created, says Jenlis, "to meet consumers' needs and to make life simpler for cooks." Today the Magimix range includes a wide range of kitchen gadgets, from the various food processors through to blenders, kettles, toasters, juicers and ice-cream makers. Jones is not so keen on the term "gadget", however, because he thinks it does the product a disservice. "There are lots of so-called 'gadgets' that have come to market and have been a success over a limited period, such as the toasted-sandwich maker, but the success of the food processor hasn't gone away because it will always help in the kitchen."
Its durability is a huge asset. Most Magimix food processors come with a 12-year guarantee for the motor, but a 20-year guarantee will be introduced with the brand-new all-singing, all-dancing model, which launches next month to celebrate the anniversary. These are not cheap appliances: you'll find mini versions from £139.95 and the Magimix 5200XL Premium will be on the market for £369.99. You could get a good telly for that money, but do you think you'll be happy to be watching the same box in 20 years' time?
A food processor is considered more of a home cook's piece of equipment, dreamt up to help us manage cheffy things in our own kitchens, but professional chefs such as Mark Sargeant, of Rocksalt in Folkestone, are often advocates of the Magimix, too. "The machine becomes an extension of your everyday kitchen life and brings professional techniques into the home kitchen," says Sargeant. "I always know it will get the job done."
Sargeant likes making mayonnaise in his. Edouard de Jenlis recommends a mix of salmon and cheese, or chocolate mousse. Jones points out that it makes whipping cream a doddle.
Lucy Cufflin, owner of the food business Lucy's Food and author of a book of the same name, confesses to use hers "all the time – every day in fact, making home-made pesto, soup, pastry, cakes, tiffin and cauliflower and pea purée."
For my mother, with me and my sisters as the beneficiaries, it meant that making a pie, tart, crumble or fresh soup was a possibility after a day at work.
Given everything the newer models are capable of, I realise I am probably far too conservative in how I use my Magimix: it brings pastry together far more efficiently than my hands do, and does a fair amount of onion-chopping and soup-blending. For the photographer I make a favourite gazpacho recipe, which would be far too much hassle without this particular mother's little helper, but the new launch comes with a dough hook, which Magimix added in a few years ago, recognising that baking bread was becoming more popular.
The bake-your-own-bread phenomenon is arguably connected to some primal need to reconnect with making foods from scratch and using your own hands to do so. If you fit this description, a dough hook isn't for you, but for everyone else it speeds up the bread-making process. Food processors also produce notoriously sticky and gloopy mashed potato, so a mash and purée kit has been added to the new Magimix model to try and correct this. It also comes with an egg whisk, citrus press and various other attachments.
All this makes Verdun's original processor, a bowl with a rotating blade in its base, seem almost primitive. Yet the blade is the only attachment I have, and I'm very happy with it.
Of course Magimix is not the only brand of food processor available, but it was the first to appear on the British market, in 1974, followed by Kenwood in 1979. Both are available in a wide range of colours now, so we have the choice of buying a shade to complement the rest of the kitchen, and putting it on display instead of hiding it in a cupboard.
This gives away another major development in our relationship with our kitchen and its accoutrements. While it is true that in the Seventies many a proud cook would be showing off her latest technological appliances to friends, the sense that you should play down the extra help you were getting still hung around.
Delia Smith has said that a food processor is not an essential piece of kitchen equipment, because everything it does you can do by hand. What it does is save you the time and energy expended on countless straightforward kitchen tasks. Delia is of the right era for food processors: they emerged at the same time as she was instructing housewives and working mothers about all the best shortcuts and "cheats" in the kitchen, and with greater spending power, technological advances and fewer available hours for preparing food, home cooks were literally tooling up.
For all their glossy updates, food processors are not fashionable; they are a fairly homely appliance, and lend their owners none of the specialist foodie flair a home smoker, say, or a coffee roaster, offers. The food processor reached its tipping point long, long ago. What is remarkable is that it has held on to its popularity, instead of plummeting into the graveyard of overhyped kitchen appliances along with so many of its fellow inventions.
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