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Published: Tuesday, 8/28/2012

Fred Waring’s biggest hit: the blender

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

So I’m reading this email with my eyes glazed over: The Waring Blender is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, blah, blah, blah, the first smoothies were created in a Waring Blender, blah, blah, blah, first invented by Fred Waring, blah, bl…

Hey, wait a second. Fred Waring? The Fred Waring? Fred Waring of “Memory Lane”? Of “Collegiate”? Of “Little White Lies”? Of “I Found a Million-Dollar Baby (In a Five-and-Ten-Cent Store)”?

In the 1920s and ’30s, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians ruled the Hit Parade, churning out hit after hit. They were kings of the radio, and had a long and profitable stint on television too. The band later turned to choral music (one of his early singers was Robert Shaw, who later gained fame as the leader of the Robert Shaw Chorale), but it was his popular music that earned him a place in American cultural history.

Well, that and inventing the blender. Even if he didn’t actually invent it, he just put up the money for it and he first introduced it at the 1937 National Restaurant Show. At the time, the device was called the Miracle Mixer, but it soon came to be known as the Waring Blendor.

That’s right: Blendor. It was a marketing thing.

The blenders (or blendors) were popular enough, but one suspects they really took off after World War II (production was stopped during the war) when the company invented an attachment that could crush ice. Before that, they were just used to blend things. Afterwards, they had a whole new application that changed at least one small portion of the culinary world: making frozen drinks. According to that email that had my eyes momentarily glazed, “the frozen daiquiri was invented by a partnership of Waring and Ron Rico rum.”

Here is my favorite fact about the Waring Blendor, even more favorite than the part about Fred Waring: In 1950, it was used by Jonas Salk — with an asceptic dispersal container attachment, whatever that is — to help develop the vaccine for polio.

The blender I have at home is not a Waring. In my defense, though, it was made in Ohio, and the person who got the idea to make it apparently saw it at that 1937 National Restaurant Show.

It’s a VitaMix, or actually a VitaPrep, which is made (in Ohio) by VitaMix. It may be expensive — technically, it is Far More Expensive Than Any Blender Has a Right to Cost — but I love it. I love it for 37,000 reasons.

On the one hand, it is just a blender. On the other hand, its blade reaches a top speed of 37,000 rpm. A chef friend of mine who used to be a spokesman for the company once told me, “You can use it to liquefy gravel.”

I have used the top speed only on rare occasions, and even then it was mostly just to see what would happen. It turns out most cooks don’t need 37,000 rpm. But if you ever need something pureed, it will really do the trick. At top speed, the blades turn so fast that they generate a lot of heat, so much so that the company suggests using it not only to make soup but to heat it up at the same time.

In other words, don’t try to use it to make a frozen daiquiri. You’ll end up with that less popular version, the melted daiquiri.

So, hats off to the blender on its 75th anniversary. It revolutionized American cooking, it invented an entire branch of cocktails, and gave a reason for the existence of Tiki bars. It even helped to cure polio.

The Waring company — which is now owned by the Conair hair-dryer company and which now spells it “blender” — is to be particularly congratulated for its innovation and success. As its Web site says, “With a 75-year history of manufacturing expertise and a strong heritage incorporating technology and innovation in design, Waring continues its tireless pursuit of multi-category dominance.”

Blah, blah, blah.



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